We Would Love to Grow Your Food! — Howard Family FarmMar 29, 2022 12:54PM ● By Kristie Darling
It’s tulip-picking time at Howard Family Farm, but this hugely popular cut flower—tulips signify perfect love, you know—won’t last long. The rows on this cool Monday morning are streams of bright colors in a light wind. Families with young kids toting fresh picked tulips in buckets, seniors off their fieldtrip bus, scissors and baskets in hand, and solitary pickers strolling quietly among the rows made this charming scene feel like a painting. Plan your tulip picking adventure soon before they’ve all been picked.
From Season to Season
This is the start of the Farm’s growing season, when tulips reach their colorful peak, the strawberries begin to bloom and fruit, and the early vegetables…broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, onions…have been in the ground long enough to be just about ready to harvest. Everything is warming up, and the plants—and the farmers—are glad of it. By mid-May, the Farm’s landscape will be changed from the brown of winter to the greening of spring and then the tastes of summer. Hot weather harvest will include juicy red tomatoes, of course, and several varieties of squash and zucchini, eggplant, sweet corn all summer long, cantaloupes, and sweet watermelons for summer celebrations. Summer flowers are ready to cut at the end of June—think zinnias, sunflowers, gladiolas, poppies. In the fall, come for pumpkin picking—kids really love this!
For the Howard family, growing vegetables and flowers is a year-round enterprise. Even in the coldest weather, there’still lots to do. Many people don’t realize the amount of hard work that goes into running a successful family farm. When I met Brian Howard, he had just come off two long nights working to save his strawberries from the cold. He looked tired but glad his plants had survived the frost. “We’ve had the worst late frosts this year than we’ve seen in 34 years,” Brian said. “I spent two nights watering the rows to keep our strawberries alive…it’s freezing cold, and you have to keep at it all night long. I was out there knocking the sprinklers with sticks to crack the ice off ‘til morning.” Brian explained that there’s lots you can do to be successful, and some of the things you do will fail. “Mistakes are expensive on a farm. In 2020, when they shut us down on opening day—the pandemic had just started—we had to do something, so we took our flowers to rest homes to share. People found out about us and it turned out to be a good thing. I love to see things growing and know that I did it.”
The Farm is comprised of 100 acres planted with fruits, vegetables, and flowers. “We have two greenhouses where we start our plants, and we recently added a large hot house for homegrown tomatoes,” Brian told me. “We’ll have earlier tomatoes and more tomatoes.”
A Bit of Family History
Brian Howard grew up on this farm. “When I was a kid, I did whatever needed done,” he remembers. “We had chickens, strawberries, sweet corn, pumpkins. We grew tobacco until around 2005.” Brian’s taken over management of the farm from his father, Michael Howard. Brian’s daughter, 18-year-old Karlie, is now third generation farmer and Mitchell Community College student. His 12-year-old son, William, prefers baseball.
Amy Howard is the inspiration behind the tulip farm. Brian’s wife of 19 years, she could see the possibility of adding pick-your-own tulips along with pick-your-own strawberries…a new income stream. “We have 60,000 tulips, and when you cut them off at the bottom, they don’t come back…you have to plant again each fall. It used to take 10 kids a week to plant the bulbs,” Brian said. “Now, with our machine, three people can do it in a day.” Amy’s mom, Cathy Warren, was working in the farm’s store and helping at the counter when I visited. “I never thought I’d see my daughter Amy doing something like this…she’s become an amazing farmer,” Cathy said. “She’s a smart businesswoman, too.” Amy is a respiratory therapist and has recently started teaching at Catawba Valley Community College.
Karlie is learning the farming business from the ground up. She told me she likes working at the farm, “All my friends work here, and it’s been better than working at the daycare where I worked before.” Her job today was greeting tulip pickers and showing off the new baby sheep, Milky Way and Frasier. For the last five years, Karlie has been working the check-out table, picking flowers for folks who have called in an order, and arranging bouquets. Everyone stays busy when the farm comes alive each spring.
And There's More!
The Barrel Train rolls down the dirt road filled with kids on a ride, included with admission. The little sheep snuggle up for yet one more selfie. As the crops come in, the store will fill with fresh produce—lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet corn. You’ll also find CBD oil, delicious Amish canned goods, local eggs, meat, dairy, and breads. By late summer, the Corn Maze has grown into an adventure for the whole family, and pumpkin picking will soon commence. Each season enjoys its own unique activities. When was the last time you took an old-fashioned hayride or sat outdoors for an under-the-tent jam session by local musicians? Special occasions, some featuring bouncy houses and other fun activities especially for kids, pop up throughout the season…check www.facebook.com/howardfamilyfarmharmony for times and dates.
Experience A Day on the Farm
“Our guests drive out from all over,” Cathy shared. “Once people find out about us, they come back throughout the year and year-after-year.” When I was getting ready to drive back to town, I asked Cathy why family farming is important, and her answer says it all. ”We have to have this…we can’t go on without small farms and farmers. Family values are grown here, not just flowers and fruits and vegetables. Hard work is necessary and valued. It’s not easy standing out in a frozen field working all night to keep things alive, but they do it…it’s an important lesson for today.”
HOWARD FAMILY FARM
250 Crater Road
Harmony, NC 28634
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