After a long career in education, Doug and Debbie Prevette retired and began growing plants for sale. Prevette Family Farm in Northern Iredell County has since expanded, in addition to their nursery they also sell blueberries and blackberries.
What drew you to farming?
Doug: I grew up in Davie County. I worked with my grandparents on a tobacco farm, and worked for other people in the area. Even though the tobacco labor was very difficult, I learned to love to watch things grow. Those experiences taught me the value of where a dollar comes from and how things grow. That led me, along with working with youth, to become an agricultural teacher. I met my wife though education as well, she taught math in the local schools. We’ve worked together on establishing the farm, but we realize that I'm 60 years old. I call it therapy kind of jokingly, my wife calls it work, but we enjoy it together. We don't make a good bit of money yet, but it’s growing, it certainly has potential. Especially with the greenhouse, and the blueberries, and the blackberries. We did come to Iredell County because I taught at North Iredell most of my years, my wife being from this area as well, we’re living the good life here.
Growing up, working in tobacco, all those relationships to the rural life and agriculture is what I grew up with and what I kept in me. I had no desire to move to an urban area, living in this area and seeing my students grow up, that’s what I consider success.
You mentioned concerns with your age as it pertains to the future of the farm, what legacy would you like to leave in that regard?
Doug: We have two sons and right now they're not too interested in this kind of work. One’s an engineer and the other is in the international guard as a pilot. They like living in the rural area, but I don't see them coming back to the farm. One of my employees though, I can see either taking over here for me, or moving the plant business to her house. She has three boys and a husband very capable of doing this, and she has a great interest in it. That would be a legacy that’s just fine with me, if someone who works for me could take over and that become their livelihood. An equally important legacy for me, I do take some time to go to mission trips, and I've done some agricultural projects in Guatemala and Cuba. I hope to go to some other areas of the world and assist in some things like…we did some irrigation in Cuba, some advising on healthy plants in Guatemala, those are some of the most fulfilling things to me.
How would you describe the agricultural identity of Iredell County?
Doug: I think Iredell County has always been a leader in agriculture, and that’s one reason why it appealed to me to move to Iredell County. I've seen it change from many smaller dairies to just a few larger dairies. I see the beef industry still being fairly important, but I've seen the plant business continuing to grow. There are some specialized fruit and vegetable producers that are springing up.
What would you consider the hardest part of farming and most rewarding?
Doug: The most rewarding part is being in nature, seeing the results. The tolls of your labor, sowing your seed, preparing your land, watching it grow. The most rewarding is not the money in my hand, because there'll never be enough of that if you consider your time and everything. It’s the reward of seeing the children that come out and get excited about the flowers or the berries on the vines. It’s all very rewarding to us.
The hardest part of what I do, you have the time of year where you're spending instead of receiving. During the fall and winter you don't have the income coming in. You're spending on the greenhouse gas, you're spending on seeds and soil and all your supplies. You're doing some of the hard work during that time, such as pruning, doing all of your seed sowing or propagating, and podding, without seeing any income coming in. So you've really gotta budget yourself during the year, and then you've gotta really hustle during the marketing season too. With the plants, we sell here but I also carry plants to Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market, go to a couple festivals.
The blueberries are selling themselves now, with our farm listing with NCDA, people are finding us and coming out here. The physical labor doesn't bother me at all, not yet. But it’s just a matter of planning, you never know what the future’s gonna be. You've got to be able to adapt and diversify. That’s why we have the plants and the berries.
Do you have a quote or mantra that drives you day in and day out?
Doug: The first one I can think of is Abraham Lincoln, who said: “A man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.” Of course if you're pursuing where your heart is, then you're going to be happy. There’s certainly the difficulties that I already talked about with farm life, but if you look at it with the attitude that you're where you want to be, or in my case, I like to think that I'm where God has placed me and trying to live according to his will, then you can’t be more happy than that.
Why do you think it’s important for your community to buy locally grown food?
Doug: Part of it is supporting your local economy, but when they purchase from me they'll have many questions. Shade or sun? What the temperature tolerances are, how to plant, how far apart to plant. I can tell them about the cultural requirements of the plants, and exactly what I've done if there’s any questions about pest control.
If you buy something off the shelf, you do not know when it was harvested and how it’s handled, how far it’s come and so forth. Many people go buy for pricing or convenience, but when you come to the farm that money is in the local economy. We know many people who produce various things, and we do purchase from them. We patronize local butchers, that’s important to us. My wife freezes and pickles and cans as much as she can. There are serious producers out here in Iredell County that produce almost anything you can think of.
We local producers work very, very hard. If people haven't been involved in agriculture, it’s hard to understand the expense of resources and time that go into the product. The producers that I know, are producing wonderful products, offering wonderful service. We try to offer you a good experience. It’s not only buying your food, but its also a cultural experience as well. Get out of town, find out what’s out in the country. People are producing quality products you might be missing out on.
Do you have anything to add, anything you’d want your neighbors in Iredell to know?
Doug: Don’t think of the farmer or the local agricultural producer as someone who is uneducated, or being behind the times. Many producers are college-educated, it’s not what the paradigm of most people think of that agriculture is. If you're not ready with your heart, your head, and your hands, you're not going to be successful. So that education is very important, and continuing to adapt and continuing to learn is very important.
Prevette Family Farm is located at 236 Williamsburg Road in Olin, North Carolina. Doug and Debbie both invite you to their farm to pick your own fresh berries, or you can request already picked. Call Doug at (704)-880-3453 for availability and more information. Prevette Family Farm also offers a wide variety of greenhouse and nursery plants for purchase during business hours: M-F from 8am-5pm and Saturday 8am-3pm.
Prevette Family Farm