Parkers add to diversified agriculture
According to long time farmer Rafe Parker, farms often evolve on accident. His family’s farm, Parker Farms, of which he is now a part owner, is a good example of that.
Rafe said he knew when he was two years old that he was going to be a farmer and everyone else knew it too.
Rafe’s family began farming in 1974 in southern Maryland. Rafe said his family’s farm started out as a tobacco and cattle farm. “Farming was always there, but tobacco and cows were the big deal.” Eventually, he said they started to branch out, farming vegetables and opening a pick your own roadside stand. In 1976 this expanded to 150 acres of pick your own and a roadside marketing and farmer’s market. In 1978 the business expanded to include a local chain and wholesale business; in 1979 it expanded to 300 acres of a pick your own farm, one of the largest on the east coast and from 1980-1988 a gradual expansion of wholesale business. In 1988 there was even more expansion and between 1998 and 2008, the farm had grown into 3,000 acres of production in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. During some of this growth, Rafe, as a kid, spent time helping out and working during the summers, then went off to NC State to study Agriculture Business Management. After graduating in 1996, he moved to Leedstown to begin his official start in farming.
Since his start in 1997, Rafe has farmed for 18 seasons in Leedstown.
As for the growth of Parker Farms, Rafe said, “It was kind of by accident. Everyone kind of evolves one way or another. We got into the wholesale business and grew from there.”
Along with being part of Parker Farms, Rafe has his own farm, Eagle Tree Farms, in Leedstown. This farm serves as the main producer for Parker Farms in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The farms focus mainly on vegetables with 2000 acres of vegetables and 400 acres of grain grown over two seasons. They plant twice a year, in the summer and in the fall.
Their most popular products are sweet corn, broccoli and squash. “After eating sweet corn like ours, you don’t want to buy it in the store. It just doesn’t taste the same.”