It may be the dead of winter in the Carolinas right now, but spring has already arrived at Bush-N-Vine. Bob and Sam Hall are the father-son team of farmers and owners of Bush-N-Vine Farm. They recently gave me a tour of their farm located in York, South Carolina. Stepping into the high tunnels and seeing juicy, ripe strawberries growing was a nice break from the cold, frosty morning.
Deep Rooted History
Bob Hall established Bush-N-Vine Farm after graduating from Clemson University in 1979 with a degree in Horticulture. The farm has a long history in his family. His great grandfather grew cotton on the land in the 1800’s. Bob says he used to help out when it was a peach farm run by his great uncle in the 1920’s. Bob later converted the old peach packing shed into a market stand for Bush-N-Vine. Not wanting to add competition to the local peach farmers, Bob started growing strawberries as his main crop in the 1980’s.
Bob’s son, Sam Hall, grew up helping on the farm with strawberry picking on Saturdays. He graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Agriculture Economics in 2010 and began working with his father at Bush-N-Vine. Sam now co-owns Bush-N-Vine with Bob and has helped grow the farm to what it is today.
Sam says he always knew he wanted to be a farmer. He enjoys watching things grow, especially food that’s good for you and has flavor.
Bush-N-Vine Farm’s mission is to foster relationships with its customers, its employees, and the land- all to the glory of God, says Bob. Like many aspects of farming, these relationships seem to be constantly adapting and growing.
Restoring the Land
As a farmer, you want to “leave the soil better than when you started,” says Bob Hall.This is no easy feat with the red clay in South Carolina’s Piedmont region, but the soil’s fertility has improved greatly from the clotty soil that Bob Hall started with in the 1980’s. Methods like crop rotation and planting nitrogen fixing legumes such as peas and clover are methods that Bush-N-Vine uses to replenish the soil’s nutrients and retain moisture. The farm also uses water irrigation systems to save water and prevent crop disease related to moisture. The wide variety of crops that Bush-N-Vine grows, many with different growing seasons, helps maximize use of the soil and the environment’s resources without depleting them.
Bush-N-Vine does spray fungicides as needed on their fruit crops, but they also use beneficial insects and UV light as well to fight off rot and insects. “Our main goal is to be sustainable… we like to grow food that’s healthy for our families and our customers’ families,” says Bob Hall.
Fresh Year Round
The majority of Bush-N-Vine’s business in the 1980’s was through “Pick-Your-Own” patches. Bob Hall states that people from his parent’s generation would come to Bush-N-Vine to pick large amounts of produce themselves and then preserve their haul for the winter months with canning and freezing. These days most customers prefer fresh fruits and vegetables all year round.
Offering fresh produce year round took on a new meaning when Bush-N-Vine developed it’s “fall strawberries.” By using day neutral strawberries (meaning they need warmth instead of sunlight) and high tunnels, Bush-N-Vine can plant strawberries in the fall that produce juicy, red berries from November to February. The high tunnels and greenhouses also allow other crops, like tomatoes, to have extended growing seasons.
Developing methods to grow fresh produce year round has benefited Bush-N-Vine’s customers but also it’s employees. Unlike many farms that have to lay off their employees during the slower growing winter months, Bush-N-Vine’s employees can work and have income all year round. Also, the warm high tunnels and greenhouses are more pleasant to work in during the cold of winter.
In Fall 2010, Bush-N-Vine found another way to meet the customers’ preference for “fresh year round” when Sam started a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. From March through December, customers can pick up a weekly box (sizes x-mall, small, medium, or large) with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables grown at Bush-N-Vine. Some customers have referred to opening their CSA share each week as “Christmas in a box.” Sam Hall says that the boxes are filled based on value not bulk, ensuring customers get their money’s worth.
The CSA program took off when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Many people wanted to avoid going to crowded grocery stores and felt more comfortable picking up a box of produce from a farm they were familiar with. Bush-N-Vine’s number of CSA shares has increased twenty percent since the start of the pandemic according to Sam Hall.
A Destination Spot
Bush-N-Vine’s outdoor activities have continued to grow, even during the pandemic. A newer building was constructed in 2014 has helped Bush-N-Vine become a destination spot. During the warmer months, customers come to the farm for “Pick Your Own” strawberry, peach, blackberry, blueberry, and pumpkin patches. Instagram worthy sunflower fields, delicious strawberry ice cream, and a family friendly atmosphere are perfect for people looking for fun, outdoor activities. While the hay rides were cancelled during 2020, all other activities could resume safely and have been a fun way for people to get outside and see where their food is grown.
Bush-N-Vine’s Spring CSA season starts March 8th, 2021. Pick up locations are located around Charlotte, Lake Wylie, Rock Hill, and Fort Mill. Spring CSA boxes include strawberries, raspberries, broccoli, and asparagus just to name a few.
The deadline to sign up for Spring II CSA boxes is February 15th, but you have until April 15, 2021 to sign up for Summer I CSA.
To get more information and sign up go to https://www.bushnvinefarm.com/csa-program-2020.html
You can also buy produce directly from the farm stand located at 1650 Filbert Hwy York, SC 29745.