Renaissance man becomes berry farmer

Published 2:27 pm Friday, June 4, 2010

Nick D’Andrea is a Renaissance Man.

Especially, if growing berries is considered an art.

D’Andrea grows berries with the best of the producers and, almost modestly, says that he has blackberry bushes seven feet in height.

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And, it’s no wonder.

As a professor of criminal justice and social sciences at Troy University, he has a wealth of experience in research. He used that experience to learn what he needed to know about growing blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.

Then he used his endless energy and his love of the outdoors to jump headfirst into the Alabama Farmers Market program.

“I have to have my outside time,” D’Andrea said. “I’m at the university in the mornings and, when I get home, I want to be outside.”

When he first considered the idea of “farming,” it didn’t seem like such a good fit. But the more he considered it, the more he thought about the challenges – and the rewards — he decided, why not?

“There’s one consolation about going into this type of venture,” D’Andrea said with a smile.

“If you can’t sell what you grow, you can eat it.”

D’Andrea said he has a huge freezer that will hold a “ton” of produce and his wife cans about 500 jars of fruits and vegetables each year. So, the couple has no fear of famine on their farm– at least for a long while.

The name, The Berry Patch, doesn’t tell the full story of D’Andrea’s “truck” farm.

Although, his blueberries, raspberries and blackberries will easily pass the taste test – because he knows the secret of sweetness – his farm is also productive in many other ways.

The Berry Patch produces tomatoes, snapbeans, green butterbeans, white peas, purple hull peas, sweet corn, okra, Irish potatoes, yellow onions, squash, sweet banana peppers and peaches.

Later, the “patch” will produce Japanese persimmons, brown turkey figs, muscadines and red angel pomegranates.

And, if tending all the produce was not enough “outside time” for D’Andrea, he is growing a “crop” of catfish in his pond, which is fed by an artesian well, and feeding the “cats” a steady diet of grain.

D’Andrea’s major outlet for his fish, fruits and veggies will be the Pioneer Farmers Market in Troy and there’s no better place to sell produce and no better way to sell it than among friends and neighbors.

D’Andrea is a strong supporter of the Farmers Market program because it, not only puts farm-fresh produce on the family table, it also provides a local outlet for farmers to sell their produce.

“You won’t find higher quality produce at better prices than at a Farmers Market,” D’Andrea said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of the Pioneer Farmers Market in Troy and feel sure that it will again be a great success.”

The Pioneer Farmers Market is open on Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. and on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 5 p.m.

The market is located in the parking lot behind First United Methodist Church in Troy. The producers accept Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers.