Moultrie Observer

Local News

April 2, 2012

Patrick Farms puts years of experience into mentor program

OMEGA — Patrick Farms in Omega has recently teamed up with the Flint River Farmers Cooperative in Baker County to offer some mentoring advice on growing produce.

Ricky Dollison Sr., manager of the Flint River Farmers Co-op, and Gibbs Patrick Jr. and his son, Gibbs Patrick III “Jaime,” of Patrick Farms explained that farmers participating in the co-op program are learning about food safety, seed germination and fertilization, as well as many other farming techniques.

Patrick said Patrick Farms’ specialists are helping to teach farmers in the mentoring program how to have top quality produce to send to chain stores.

Dollison stated that he often communicates with Scott Turner, Patrick Farms field manager, and Tony Weaver, Patrick Farms chemical specialist, who have been working at the farm for many years.

“They freely give and they’re top notch,” he said.

Patrick said the farm became involved with the Flint River Farmers Co-op in the fall. Dollison stated that Jim Kimbel suggested talking to Patrick, who agreed to mentor them. He said, “The rest is history.”

“So far, it’s been successful. They are now planting crops for us. They are growing collards and turnips,” Patrick said.

This spring, they will have mustard. Their products are packaged by Glory Foods out of Columbus, Ohio. He said produce packaged by Glory Foods can be found in Publix stores, which will soon be open in Tifton.

“I’m looking for this to open up many doors for Flint Co-op and Patrick Farms,” Patrick said. “Flint Co-op and Glory are minority groups and it’s a plus for both of us to benefit.”

He stated that a lot of the men in the program have been row crop farmers.

“This is a first experience for them. All of them have been farmers, but this is the largest they have grown so far,” he explained. “We have doubled our acreage already.”

Patrick said they had 60 acres of collards and a few acres of turnips in February, and hopes to have 120 acres this spring.

“We’re looking for the program to grow,” Patrick stated. “It has been very successful and the farmers are really good.”

He said Patrick Farms grows about 3,000 acres of greens each year.

Dollison said there are nine members between the ages of 33 and 68 from surrounding counties who are involved in the Flint River Farmers Co-op.

“We’re looking to bring in more members and females,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is for the farmers to make money.”

He noted that a minimum of 10 acres is needed to be profitable.

With 10 years of farming experience and a background in management, Dollison also agrees that the program has been successful.

“I like to think that we’re trend-setters because Patrick Farms is mentoring us. This is our first year. We have had some glitches, but they they’re being patient with us,” he stated. “We don’t know of anything of this magnitude within this country.”

He added, “Being that African American farmers are at a low, a black farmer has to wear a lot of hats — a welder, a laborer, a farming man, etc. You have to purchase at a high rate. You can’t purchase in bulk and save. Patrick Farms enables us to go in and do a budget knowing what we’re going to make with that. We can buy fertilizer, plants, etc. with savings.”

Dollison said they have learned how to identify quality plants, read soil samples, leaf color and much more through the guidance of Patrick Farms. He noted that learning food safety is very important, which is the main thing the farmers have prepared for.

Dollison said the co-op program has been in existence since 1998. He has been managing the Flint River Farmers Co-op since June 2011 and Cornelius Key is the president. However, the mentoring from Patrick Farms is a first.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” he stated. “This is history.”

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