Shawn Peebles is an all-organic farmer. He runs Peebles Organic out of Augusta and everything he grows on the 1,500 acres he farms follows the strict organic guidelines necessary to be certified as “organic produce.” He’s been at it for 15 years, growing edamame, corn, green beans, sweet potatoes and processor pumpkins.
Organic farming is labor intensive. It requires more employees to control weeds and pests, as well as harvest the crops. “It’s a lot like farming in 1950, just the cabs of the tractors are nicer,”says Peebles.
Peebles is a proponent of organic farming and believes it’s a viable way to make a good living on as little as 500 acres.
Q: What led you to get into organic farming?
A: All I do is organic. What led me here was I was broke. I had no choice. We were conventionally farming for three generations. My dad and I decided that we had to do something different. I started growing vegetables and he went into the agri-tourism side of it. I’m more of an in-the-dirt person, so I decided to focus on organics.
Q: What have you found to be the advantage of organic farming?
A: The advantage of organic farming is you can make a good living, and you can employ quite a few people on a smaller number of acres. Five hundred acres is plenty enough for any farm family to farm and employ six or seven employees, possibly more.
Q: How about your dad? What direction did he go?
A: “He went directly into agri-tourism with a corn maze (and u-pick pumpkin patch, peeblesfarm.com). I like to say he’s farming the public instead of farming the ground. He’s done very well with it.
Q: What’s your best advice for someone trying to figure out how to bring a new stream of income onto their farm property?
A: Find the market before you do anything. Make sure you can sell whatever it is you’re trying to do before you do it.