Farm fresh

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, July 11, 2012

If you listen, you’ll learn a lot.

Jeff Danner listens.

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That’s why he knows how to freeze peas in a cotton pillowcase so they’ll taste like they were picked fresh from the garden. That’s how he knows how to make blue honey – bright blue honey – and how to produce peanuts like the ones grown back in mule days.

And, that’s why he was confident about going into produce farming.

Danner is a state licensed general contractor. He’s an experienced underwater welder and a commercial food grower. And, when the housing market “went to nothing,” he considered his options.

“People are always going to eat, so my wife, Machelle and I, decided to start a produce farm and see what we could make of it,” said Danner, owner and operator of Walnut Creek Produce on U.S. Highway 231 just south of Troy. “We grow what we sell and we grow it right here behind the produce stand. So, what you get here, you know is fresh because you can see where it’s grown.”

The Danners planned for good times and bad times. And in recent years, there have been more bad times on the farm than good times.

“That’s why we irrigate,” Danner said. “There’s no need to spend a pile of money and then three weeks before your peas or corn is ready to be picked you lose it all because of no water. If we’re going to make it, we’ve got to plan for whatever could come along.”

The Danners’ Walnut Creek Produce roadside stand is flanked by a large peanut field and a cornfield. In between, the farm is producing peas, butterbeans, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, eggplants and peppers.

“The sunflowers are there mainly for the beauty of it but we sell them for flower arrangements and things like that,” Danner said.

“In the fall, we’ll have boiled peanuts for sale, turnips, mustard, rutabagas, onions, collards, kale and sweet potatoes. We’ve got a late tomato that we’ll plant that will produce until frost.”

Later, plans are to have cane syrup, pepper sauce, pickles, preserves and honey.

On the backside of the farm, Danner has 48 hives of bees.

“People don’t realize what bees do for produce,” he said. “We’ll start having honey in a few weeks. It’ll be vegetable nectar honey and it will be as sweet as it can be. Most all honey tastes pretty much alike unless it’s orange blossom honey, or something else that will have a little citrus taste to it.

Around Christmastime, Danner will make a “making or two” of his Brunswick stew, which he said is from a 160-year-old recipe that originated with a Mason in Barbour County.

“You’ve never tasted anything like it, or as good,” he said. “It takes two days to make it and you can’t make enough to meet the wants. It’s the best I’ve ever tasted.”

Danner plans to have enough peanuts to meet the continuing year round demand for the boiled, salted goobers. So sweet, salty or sour, Walnut Creek Produce will have it all.

“Our prices are good and our produce is some of the best,” he said. “As long as people want to eat, somebody’s got to grow it. That’s what we’re doing at Walnut Creek.”