Hydroponic Farm Receives TN Specialty Crop Grant

James Miller from Blackberry Pond Farm out of Martin, TN started dabbling in the art of dirt free farming using a variety of aquaponic and hydroponic growing mediums in several greenhouses on their farm in Northwest Tennessee since 2016. The Miller family grows year-round hydroponic vegetables that are included in their weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and salad boxes. Community Supported Agriculture is a unique marketing agreement between the farmer and the consumer. The consumer pays the farmer a fee in advance of the growing season and in return the farmer provides the consumer fresh produce every week during the growing season.  

In May, Blackberry Pond Farm received a Specialty Crop Grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. The purpose of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) is to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.

“In 2021, we will be assisting in setting up hydroponic greenhouses in Dresden High School, Westview High School, and Obion County High School to achieve Good Agricultural Practice Certification,” stated James Miller, owner of Blackberry Pond Farm. “This will be integrated with Food Safety instruction, Greenhouse Management, and Specialty Crop growing methods. Our goal is to increase awareness and interest in Local food production and hydroponic methods in future specialty growers.”

This year, Blackberry Pond Farm became one of the first farms in Weakley County to become Good Agricultural Practices Certified. Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) are the basic environmental and operational conditions necessary for the production of safe, wholesome fruits and vegetables. The purpose of GAPs is to give logical guidance in implementing best management practices that will help to reduce the risks of microbial contamination of fruits and vegetables. Having a GAP certified farm allows for a greater expanse of potential market opportunities. While GAP is not limited to farm to institution procurement (USDA, as well as many wholesalers require GAP certification, too), it can be a factor for some farmers looking to scale up their farms and access institutional markets.

“The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is proud and honored to have Weakley County’s premier hydroponic farm collaborate and support the developing Farm to School initiatives and high school greenhouses in Weakley & Obion County Schools,” stated Samantha Goyret, Executive Director of the NWTNLFN. “The LFN is continually seeking farmers who are wanting to expand their market opportunities to source more local foods into schools. Through similar funding, we will be developing a Local Food Procurement Manual to connect Farmers and School Nutrition Directors through safe, transparent and profitable policies.”

You can purchase products at Blackberry Pond Farm’s roadside stand located at the intersection of Courtright Road and UT Farm Road on Friday 2:30 pm- 6:30 pm and Saturday 8 am- noon, or visit the Dresden Farmers Market on Saturday mornings between 8am – 12 noon.

Blackberry Pond Farm offers both contactless pickup at the farm and delivery options within Obion and Weakley Counties. They are also listed on the Pick TN Products website and in the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Guide.  You can purchase their products at the Dresden Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8am – 12 noon. You can also purchase products at Blackberry Pond Farm’s roadside stand located at the intersection of Courtright Road and UT Farm Road on Friday 2:30 pm- 6:30 pm and Saturday 8 am- noon.  Contact the Millers through email at blackberrypondfarm@gmail.com,  on their website https://blackberrypondfarm.com/ or message them via facebook https://www.facebook.com/BlackberryPondFarm for pick up at either location. You can also call the farm at 731-587-5336. 

Featured Image: The Miller Family from left to right: Chelsea Miller, Junior Miller, Tina Miller, JJ Miller (future farmer), James Miller, Sue Miller, Chris Miller.

Published in the Weakley County Press, June 1, 2021

~ Samantha Goyret
Local Food Network Team