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Farmer spotlight: Timmy Tuten

If you talk to anyone in our area about where to get the best fresh produce, Tuten's U-Pick  is bound to come up. Tuten's is unique for a number of reasons. Located off of Highway 14 on Mosley Hall (headed toward Shady Grove), Tuten's welcomes patrons from all over the community and even as far away as Jacksonville or out of state! One feature that makes Tuten's unique is their U-Pick set-up. While you are welcomed to come out and buy the freshly picked produce from their fruit and vegetable stand, patrons are also invited to bring a bucket and pick their own tomatoes, peas, okra and more strait from the field. Talk about farm to table! While the media has just begun to praise the health benefits of eating fresh and local, Tuten's U-Pick has been providing that opportunity to the Madison County community for over 20 years!

Timmy Tuten has been in a farming family his entire life. As a boy, Tuten's family farmed tobacco and corn. After the big tobacco buy-out, Tuten shifted his primary focus to corn. The farm has been in business for about 40 years total and has been vegetable based for the last 20 years. Years ago, Tuten began growing watermelons so that, as he said, “the neighborhood kids could have something to do.”

“They didn't make too much,” said Tuten, “but they made a little.” This practice of employing local kids continued year after year, and now the children of some of the original boys Tuten hired are looking for summer jobs from him themselves.

For Tuten, farming is all about family and community. Tuten has had the opportunity to work alongside his two sons, Cody and Caleb. Now that his sons are adults, Tuten's nieces and nephews come out to work with him. Tuten is currently in business with his brother, Micky Tuten, and says that he could not do anything without his wife, Lisa Tuten. This love of family has undoubtably spilled over into the community. Tuten says he loves being able to know his customers, and when he sees them on the street, being able to talk and ask about each others' family. While Tuten has no personal problem with large commercial farms, he worries that because of their widespread influence, small family farms that are a part of their local communities will be gone within 10 years.

The farm itself contains 40 acres of land devoted to vegetables alone. Crops grown at Tuten's include the following: squash, tomatoes, watermelons, peppers, peas, cantaloupe, red potatoes, soy beans and corn. If you pick the peas, they will shell them­ for you!

In addition to being family and community focused, Tuten's makes an effort to be environmentally conservative in their farming techniques and practices. In order to conserve water, they lay plastic beneath the soil that is sealed with  drip tape before planting their crops. Additionally, Tuten's uses a “spoon-feeding” technique to distribute fertilizer to each plant while avoiding being wasteful or negligent in regard to fertilizer run-off. Aside from their fruit and vegetable stand and U-Pick service, Tuten's also sells their produce in grocery stores from Madison to Lake City and as far as Tallahassee. Check out Tuten Farming on Facebook for updates on what is ripe and available or call Timmy Tuten at (850) 251-5463 for more information.

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