Fresh From Steve’s Farm: Sweet Corn, Beans, Peas, Catfish And More
June 30, 2009
In 2002, Steve Hiebert and his family planted six acres of sweet corn on their Walnut Hill farm. It was the start of a booming business that now offers a variety of fruits and vegetables, and even a little fishing down on the farm.
Steve said he always wanted to farm. But the traditional crops like cotton and catfish were not appealing on his relatively small farm because it is hard to compete with cheap catfish from China or cotton from India.
“We were looking for a niche,” he said. “I was not looking at leasing more land than I already owned. I was a farmer at heart and wanted to remain a farmer. The sweet corn was what I could do.”
The idea to grow sweet corn and retail on the farm came from a friend in Arkansas. After that first year, Steve realized that specializing in produce farming was what he wanted to continue to do. Along the way, his wife suggested peas and customers requested butter beans.
This year, Steve has 30 acres of sweet corn, 20 acres of peas and 20 acres of butter beans.
Today, Steve’s farm is a far cry from that first six acres of corn that was hand picked, hand sorted and hand bagged. The corn is graded on a mechanical conveyor line; the butter beans are machine picked — it’s hard to find someone willing to pick butter beans, Steve said, and the beans and peas are available mechanically shelled. No more sore fingers from shelling — the peas and beans are perfectly shelled in minutes with almost no debris remaining in them.
This time of year, they are picking 70-80 bushels of peas per day, but Steve’s claim to fame is still his Steve’s Homegrown Sweet Corn.
“There is no fresher or better tasting sweet corn than corn that is picked the morning you buy it,” Steve said. “It does not spend days on a truck from California, plus there’s not all of the fuel spent to haul it. It just makes sense to get it from the local guy.”
Some of the produce is sold wholesale, but most is sold at retail farm fresh from the Hiebert barn in Walnut Hill. In addition to the corn, butter beans and peas, Steve’s Farm also sells cantaloupe, watermelons and other seasonal produce.
And then there’s the fishing.
Steve’s pond is open and stocked with farm raised catfish.
“It’s not just fishing; it is the experience,” Steve said. “Dad’s don’t need a new boat and a trip to the river to fish with the kids. They get tired, and they might not catch anything. But here, they love it. The kids almost always catch fish, and they always have a good time.”
Anglers can bring their own bait and tackle, or Steve “will rent you the poles, sell you the bait, clean your fish, sell you a cheap ice chest and you can head home with your fillets and your happy campers”.
Steve’s Farm and his catfish pond are located at 1201 South Highway 99 in Walnut Hill, about a mile and half off Highway 97. The farm and the catfish pond are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday until the end of September. For more information, call (850) 327-4020 or visit www.StevesFarm.net online. Steve says to call ahead if you are driving very far if you want a specific item; the corn, peas and beans can sell out quickly some days. He does take orders.
Pictured above: Some of the fresh produce available at Steve’s Farm in Walnut Hill. Pictured below: An automated butter bean picker at work Monday afternoon. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.