Oakview Farms among state finalistsPublished 9:00am Thursday, April 11, 2013
Oakview Farms of Wetumpka is among four finalists competing for Alabama’s Farm of Distinction at the Alabama Farm-City Awards April 11 in Birmingham.
The winner will be selected by a panel of agricultural experts who judge farms based on environmental stewardship, overall appearance, accomplishments, efficiency and leadership of the farm owner.
At Oakview Farms, Joe and Patty Lambrecht have learned if you “mill” it, they will come. In fact, once customers got a taste of Joe’s stone-ground cornmeal, they wanted more. Today, the Lambrechts grow hydroponic lettuce, blueberries, strawberries and Brussels sprouts and sell their own honey and farm eggs.
“We started out with cornmeal,” said Joe Lambrecht. “Cornmeal grew into grits, and it just kept on growing. We started making bread, then we needed honey, so that started us into bees. We got our bee colonies set up, and then we kept growing into the lettuce and berries.”
Both retired from off-farm jobs, the Lambrechts supply farm-fresh products to neighbors, gourmet chefs and Marriott restaurants on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. He said the key to keeping customers is honesty.
“They can come and see Patty and me. We tell everybody ‘we eat it first.’ If it’s not good enough for my family, we won’t sell it. If they ask us a question about the crop, we tell them exactly what we’ve done.”
Because Oakview Farms is located in a growing suburban community, people might think the Lambrechts would have complaints from neighbors. To the contrary, the burgeoning area provides the couple a built-in market.
“We sit in the middle of about 5,000 houses, and we really haven’t had any issues,” said Lambrecht. “The only thing we have is support. We just have people asking ‘what are you doing next and when can we get it?’”
One crop at Oakview Farms is always in season – education. With every pound of grits or quart of blueberries, the Lambrechts provide novice cooks and schoolchildren a lesson on how to grow and enjoy farm-fresh products. In fact, interest in local grains led to Patty spending countless hours in her kitchen perfecting recipes for the home baker.
The Lambrechts regularly give presentations to Master Gardener groups and host tours for schoolchildren. Some of their chef clients visit the farm to pick their own produce.
“Patty and I speak a good bit to anybody who will listen to us,” he said. “We show them where food comes from.”
Alabama’s Farm of Distinction winner will receive prizes valued at more than $10,000, including a John Deere Gator from SunSouth, TriGreen and Snead Ag Supply; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative; a $2,500 cash award from Swisher International and an engraved farm sign from the Alabama Farmers Federation.
The winner will represent Alabama in the Southeast Farmer of the Year contest at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga., Oct. 15-17.