Rod Havens is formerly a mental health therapist, and retired counselor at Auburn High School. He always had a love for farming. He loves working on and constantly improving BLUEBERRY HAVENS. He is committed to learning and using the best natural farming practices to build the soil of a sustainable small farm. His mission is to provide fresh, locally grown food and a wholesome farm experience. His between-seasons used bookstore adventure grows out of his love of books and to encourage lifelong learning.
The farm was established in 1980. It took over a year to build roads and a bridge to cross the creek that flows through the farm. Built using native stone, the home was finished in 1983. Rod didn't have a farming background, but was keenly interested in organic gardening. Also interested in health, nutrition, and well-being, he decided to combine the land with his weekends and summers to experience the adventures of farming. His undergraduate degree in Industrial Education has been invaluable in building the farm and keeping the equipment running. A small orchard of a variety of fruits were planted to see which grew the best. Blueberries were by far the best and the harvest season corresponds with summer vacation.
About an acre was cleared by hand and prepared for planting. Approximately 500 three-year-old blueberry plants were purchased and planted in 1990. The same year the record rainfall flooded the creeks and surrounding land. Most of these were washed down the creek and the irrigation pipe was a ruined, twisted mess. Fortunately, the "mother plants" were unscathed, so thousands of blueberry bush "cuttings" were pruned from the mother plants and propagated in a lean-to greenhouse. Several thousand mature bushes were purchased and planted the following year.
The next six years were productive with land preparation, propagating, planting, fertilizing, installing irrigation, and maintaining the previous years' bushes. The propagated plants were re-potted into one gallon containers and planted in the fields (havens) over a couple of years. A variety of one-year-old plants were purchased and repotted and planted in subsequent years. Many plants were mulched with decomposed bark carried in 5 gallon buckets. Eventually, a Weed badger, or hydraulically driven cultivator, to spin out the weeds between the bushes was purchased. Herbicides weren't necessary and diseases were aerated, and the hand-spread cottonseed meal was incorporated into the soil. Now we use an organic, OMRI approved, Alaskan Fish Emulsion, a hydrolized fish product.
Originally, the plan was to have the blueberries harvested and sold wholesale. Blueberry plants take about five or six years to bear substantial fruit. We didn't have enough volume to do this at first, so we tried U-pick and We-pick. We really liked the idea of sharing the fun, almost addictive, experience of picking blueberries and enjoying summer harvest with others. (Really, this is not a Tom Sawyer/fun to paint the fence persuasive technique.) It's sort of like Henry David Thoreau's wood warming him twice. Love to pick, love to eat, and it's healthy for body and soul. We want you to enjoy our farm, like it was your farm. Many of our customers have begun a family experience tradition of gathering, preparing, and storing blueberries. Some comment on the joy of sharing and savoring the pleasant summer memories as they eat the pies, muffins, or frozen berries in the winter.
Now we've stopped planting blueberry plants, perhaps temporarily, to focus on growing, maintaining our bushes, marketing, and other farm improvements. We are growing and selling blueberry bushes; the same varieties that produce the best tasting blueberries as we have at the farm.
Rod has been shoveling sawdust out of semi-trailer vans to mulch the blueberries. Five or ten gallons of sawdust on each plant will hold moisture and eventually add humus to enrich the soil. Beats going to the gym for exercise, but it's really dusty. He wants to grow the best quality blueberries for you!
1612 Rainbow Drive Camp Hill, AL 36850-4310 US
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