Tucked away off Blue Clay Road, a young farmer is carrying on a family tradition he is determined not to let die.
Twenty-two-year-old George Graham Trask is in the midst of his first summer season as head farmer at Trask Family Farms, a new business on old land centered around getting back to old ways.
For now, customers can get a taste of the farm’s first round of produce at area farmers markets and at a produce stand on Eastwood Road (just past Autumn Hall, the stand is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and at varying hours on Saturday, depending on the weather).
But in the fall, the farm will be out in full swing. A large barn on the property is under construction, set to wrap up within a month, that will function as a vegetable stand and gathering place, where homemade watermelon and cantaloupe ice cream will soon be sold (definitely by the spring, Trask said, and maybe by the fall).
“We're gonna build it to where it's a destination where you can come out, buy produce, sit on the porch, have a lemonade and watch somebody pull stuff right out of the field onto the shelves,” he said.
Twelve acres of produce will be in view and a soon-to-be-planted 10-acre corn maze will pop up in time for Halloween. After picking up vegetables and grabbing an ice cream, visitors can stop for a photo op in a sunflower field.
After several years of experience helping family members out on their respective farms, Trask dove into the trade last summer while working 70 acres of sweet corn in Brunswick County belonging to his father, Richard Trask. “I just kind of fell in love with it, because it was the only time I felt like I was actually doing something worthwhile, was when I was out at my father's place farming,” George Graham Trask said. “It gave me peace of mind, it gave me clarity to where I wanted to do this more and more. To the point where now I’m obsessed with it. I do it every day and I can't stop.”
Richard Trask said his son is working 12-14-hour days, seven days a week. “Once the switch is turned on, it can’t be turned off,” his son said of the farming bug.
The land where Trask Family Farms is located spent the past five decades or so cultivating row crops, following the exodus of produce in the '70s given its seasonal nature. Though the land continued to be farmed, Richard Trask never went all-in but continued to carry out the work as a hobby.
“My father always wanted to be a farmer. His father and grandfather lived during the collapse of farming in the ’70s and early ’80s,” George Graham Trask (pictured right) said. “He loved it, and he wanted to do it but he thought he couldn't make a living doing it.”
Richard Trask’s great-great-grandfather, Daniel Webster Trask, is credited with pioneering the concept of shipping produce north via rail following the Civil War to solve a local oversupply problem. “The telegraph arrived back: The lettuce arrived perfect. Send more lettuce,” Richard Trask said. “Next thing you know, by the 1950s, we were the largest producers on the East Coast.”
“It’s a legacy that he wants to perpetuate,” he said.
During his freshman year at the University of South Carolina, George Graham Trask was constantly sick, and later was told by a doctor his blood sugar was so low he “should have been in a coma.” He was diagnosed with hypoglycemia, and moving back home to work on the farm saved him, he said.
“I reconnected to something I’d been missing. I reconnected with my family; I reconnected with my heritage,” he said. “The same blood that's been farming for 130 years runs through me.”
With the support of his father and mother, Angie, who helps run the farm’s social channels, George Graham Trask also credits Kelly Holden as a key mentor. Holden ran Holden Brothers Produce out of Holden Beach for decades and showed Trask that growing produce could still be a viable business model.
Other farmers, including Cal Lewis of Lewis Farms, were eager to share their insights, George Graham Trask said, especially considering how few young farmers are entering the business today.
“I don't want my fields to be developed into some kind of housing project – I want them to stay fields,” he said. “I want my family and me to continue the legacy of my ancestors and farming and producing good quality crops and satisfying a need of the community.”
This season’s bounty includes “too many” watermelons and tomatoes – planting the right amount “takes years to master,” he said – bell peppers, sweet corn and cantaloupes. “Everybody loves the sweet corn,” Angie Trask said. “It’s all over Facebook.”
So far, all the farm’s sales have been entirely direct-to-consumer. “I don't want to wholesale anything,” George Graham Trask said. “I want to keep it right here in town.”
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