By Eliza Chapman Bailey
Right outside of St. George sits Gruber Farms and a family whose heart for community farming has been beating for over 60 years.
For those who grew up in an agrarian community, shucking corn, snapping string beans, hulling peas, and storing produce for leaner times were rites of passage. Once the freezer and cupboards were full, the remaining vegetables and fruits were delivered to neighbors, family, and friends. This small gesture of giving created a space to “catch up, to acknowledge one another as equal participants in a shared community.
The essence of this tradition can be felt in local farmers markets. Here small farmers can sell seasonal produce while co- mingling with neighbors and friends. It is this spirit of camaraderie that drives lifelong South Carolina produce farmer Stanley Gruber, owner of Gruber Farms (located in St. George, South Carolina) to continue cultivating the fields purchased by his father, Wilson Birnell Gruber in 1948.
With a keen aptitude, Gruber gauges what each plant needs to survive. His knowledge on propagation, cultivation and harvesting is immense, he acknowledges,
“My family has been selling produce for over 60 years… I enjoy selling at farmer’s markets as opposed to grocery stores because I can see the end result of my hard work and labor – knowing that my customers will be eating recently picked produce, when the crops are at their peak, full of flavor and nutritious, keeps me going”.
With the help of his sister, Susan Kirlin, and a handful of employees, Gruber can operate simultaneously at the Port Royal, Summerville (Summer’s Corner and Downtown), West Ashley, Columbia (Soda City) and once a month at the Edisto Beach farmers markets.
A member of SC Department of Agricultures Certified SC program, they also offer a community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription service which allows customers to buy locally grown seasonal food directly from Gruber Farmers.
The fundamentals of the CSA are simple: for a nominal cost, subscribers receive a box of vegetables and fruit at various drop off locations in their community. Each subscription period runs for 10 weeks throughout the planting and harvesting season. The mindset behind the program is multifaceted: it allows Gruber Farms to pre-sell produce, provides freshly harvested food rich with flavorful nutrients and gives the consumers a vested interest in the farm’s success.
Aside from the nutritional and taste value of buying local, the USDA’s National Agricultural Library gives points to ponder regarding direct to consumer (D2C) products, “edible products for human consumption”. They state,
“The benefits to the community include support for local farmers, job creation, economic diversification, attracting reinvestment and growth, keeping food dollars within the local economy, and reducing food insecurity.”
As Fall ushers in, bidding adieu to farmer’s markets, Gruber Farms CSA boxes ensure that all the benefits of quality produce is still available to the community in three portion sizes: small—one to two people; medium—three or four people and large—five to six people. AM
For more information on pricing, or order online at gruber-csa-farm.com or call Stanley Gruber, 843-563-1159 or Susan G. Kirlin, 843-693-7069. Gruber Farms is located at 265 Old Bell Road, St. George, South Carolina.