2010-05-05 / Fields & Yields

Getting the dirt on blueberry production

Byne hosts farm tour for Whole Foods
By Anne Marie Kyzer

Cam Shepherd, right, explains the packing process at the Byne farm. Staff Cam Shepherd, right, explains the packing process at the Byne farm. Staff The dirt, the bugs, the big pile of yard waste piled high in the distance … this is Dick Byne’s paradise.

Byne’s passion for organic farming is as rich as the flavor in his blueberries and he had a chance to share it Tuesday.

He welcomed more than 75 guests, including around three dozen employees of Whole Foods Market from Atlanta, for a tour of his organic Byne Blueberry Farm.

From soil testing to composting, the Whole Foods folks heard a variety of presentations from local extension agents, city officials, beekeepers and others.

Several more Burke County farmers were also on hand sharing local products like fresh milk and blueberry ice cream.

Byne hosted the event to help Whole Foods employees learn more about how the products they sell are grown.

“My whole purpose for this is for them to be exposed to agriculture in Burke County, so they can talk fluently about agriculture to the customers that come into Whole Foods,” Byne said. “They have a lot of interaction with customers, and this will give them fuel to interact even better.”

Byne shows off his Rabbiteye blueberry bushes. Byne shows off his Rabbiteye blueberry bushes. Whole Foods is Byne’s largest customer and a company he says appreciates the way he likes to farm.

Alex Rilko, of the Whole Foods distribution center in Atlanta, appreciates Byne’s passion for the land most of all.

“He cares about the dirt, the environment,” Rilko said. “He just loves what he does and it’s contagious, too.”

Brent Demarest, who oversees produce purchasing in the southern region of the U.S., said Byne’s passion pays off in the quality of his berries.

“He’s growing a high quality product and growing it in the right way, in my opinion,” he said. “Dick just cares a lot about his product.”

They add that Byne’s farm tour helps Whole Foods employees understand how to better market and sell products from the farm.

“The team gets excited when a customer comes in and they can say ‘Here’s the process’,” Rilko said.

Byne watched the flurry of activity on his farm, satisfied that a new group of people had been introduced to the good life on a farm.

The group finished off the day with a lunch cooked by the Burke County High School FFA organization followed by dessert …blueberry pie, of course.

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