Every spring, for those of us who grew up on a farm, there’s an insatiable desire to dig in the dirt. I still love the smell of just-turned ground.

Patty Thaxton, who grew up on a farm in Greenfield, shares that love for the soil. Like me, her father was a farmer and she often helped with chores on the farm.

“Ever since my dad died, we share cropped the land and my cousin farmed it,” said Thaxton. “We always have done that – sharing income, expenses and the risk. That’s the way my parents always did it.”

Patty moved back from Phoenix to help care for her mother.

“I was managing the farm the whole time Mother was alive,” she sadi. “When she died, I had less to do, and I wanted something I could do with my hands on the farm.”

She and her brother, Bob, turned to raspberries, a value-added crop that would allow them to diversify beyond corn and soybeans.

They still had farm equipment that could be used with small crops.

“We’d always had a big garden – so we decided to experiment.”

Patti began attending small fruit and vegetable seminars as well as cover crop seminars, and a year ago, she and Bob planted the first raspberries on land that had previously been planted to corn. Raspberries take three years to mature.

“What we didn’t count on was the drought,” said Thaxton.

This spring, they recently finished planting another 1,600 raspberry plants , adding yellow ones and replacing some of the red raspberry plants that were lost to the drought.

“We’ll be in full production this year, and hoping for a good harvest,” said Thaxton, adding harvest will start in mi-August and go until frost.

Her favorite way to eat raspberries is right off the plant, or  to process the min a raspberry habanera jam.

“I also make them into a syrup – it’s so good you can eat it right off your finger if you don’t have ice cream,” she says laughing.

She hopes to sell most of the berries wholesale to restaurants – anything leftover will be sold off the farm.

“We’ve had a lot of interest,” said Thaxton. “I think of these as liquid, purple gold.”

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About the author

Charlyn Fargo spent 27 years at the State Journal-Register covering agriculture, business and food. She currently is the Bureau Chief of County Fairs & Horse Racing with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. She is also a Registered Dietitian and writes a weekly syndicated nutrition column for Creator’s News Service (www.creators.com) and is co-owner of Simply Fair, a fair trade boutique at 2357 W. Monroe in Springfield. She has bachelor’s degrees in agricultural communications and food from the University of Illinois, Champaign and a master’s degree in nutrition from Eastern Illinois University. She and her husband, Brad Ware, have a daughter, Kate, and son, Jayden. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys baking cookies for Simply From Scratch, a company she formed to support faith-based ministries.

View all articles by Charlyn Fargo

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