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by Jaine Treadwell

The Dubose brothers had hoped to be able to make a living off land that bordered Pike and Bullock counties. But King Cotton and Captain Corn had a different idea.

“We wanted to be able to row crop and make a go of it but it just got the best of us,” said Robert Dubose. “We didn’t want to give up farming because that’s what we loved to do, but we just couldn’t make it farming cotton and corn.”

About six years ago, the Dubose brothers, Robert, Fred and Gerald, ventured into a different type of farming operation – vegetable farming.

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Jarvis "Scooter" Burgess is learning, at anearly age, how to strip collard leaves sothat they will make again. The leaves arechopped at the Dubose brothers’ roadsidestand and packaged for sale. 

“People around here eat a lot of vegetables and they love fresh vegetables,” Dubose said. “We decided to  put all of our efforts into vegetable farming. Just give it a try and see how we would do.”

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Robert Dubose, right, his brother Freddie and nephew, Jarvis “Scooter”Burgess, were busy gathering collards to sell at their produce stand on Highway 29 between Troy and Union Springs. The Dubose brothers planted 40,000 collard plants that will be available into February.

The Dubose brothers didn’t get into vegetable farming in a big way, but they didn’t get into it in a small way either.

“Somewhere in between,” Robert said. “We planted what we thought we could manage. That way we thought we had a good chance to make it.”

Now, six years later, the brothers feel confident that they can make it as vegetable farmers.

“We’ve done pretty good for six years now and we’re trying some different things,” Dubose said. “We plant a variety of summer vegetables so that we’ll have almost any thing that anybody wants.”

The Dubose brothers lease farmland in northern Pike County and the south end of Bullock County.

“We farm about 200 acres and we might need more than that if we can keep the business moving ahead,” Dubose said. “This summer, we had all kinds of peas, butterbeans, squash, okra, cantaloupes, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers of all kinds, tomatoes, field corn and watermelons. We did good with all of it.”

The Dubose brothers were regulars at the Pioneer Farmers Market at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama in Troy.

“We really appreciate the Farmers Market because it gives us a place to go and sell our produce,” he said. “I think the Farmers Market has gotten a lot of other producers interested in vegetable farming. Folks are going to eat. We might as well help feed them.”

Summer is the big market time for produce farmers in South Alabama, but Dubose said a “summer garden’ is not enough to help him and his family weather the winter.

“We don’t quit farming when the summer vegetables have come and gone,” he said. “We start right in with our fall and winter garden and we’ve done good with it so far.”

For the winter months, the Dubose brothers planted collards, turnips, mustard and sweet potatoes.

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Van Dubose can chop two pounds of collards in no time flat.

“We dug our sweet potatoes in September and we’ve sold a lot of them and we’ve got quite a lot stored in the barn to have for sale during the winter,” Dubose said.

But, the patch of collards is what makes Dubose most proud. The brothers have nearly three acres of collards planted on land they have leased near the Josie Community on Highway 29 north of Troy.

“That’s a lot of collards,” Dubose said, with a proud smile. “A lot of collards.”

About 40,000 plants to be exact.

The brothers use the plasticulture method of farming on their vegetable farm for most of their produce.

“It took a long time and lot of backbreaking work to transplant that many cabbage plants in the plastic,” Dubose said. “But, it’s worth it because it keeps the weeds out and keeps the dirt off the plants.”

Between some rows of collards, the brothers planted patches of turnips and mustard.

“All-in-all, we’ve got about an acre of turnips,” Dubose said. “We use a drip irritation system that we put in ourselves. So, our collards look real good and they taste good, too.”

This summer, the Dubose brothers diversified their vegetable farm to include a roadside stand. 

“The stand has been good for us,” Dubose said. “We sell our produce to grocery stores and at the Farmers Market but we sold a lot out of the stand this summer and we’re doing good with our collards, turnips and sweet potatoes.”

For the winter months, the Dubose brothers have enlisted the help of other family members in packaging the produce for sale.

“A lot of people don’t have the time to cut up their greens or they just don’t want to fool with it,” Dubose said. “So, we’re doing that for them. We chop up the collards and package them. So, all you have to do is wash them and put them in the pot. People really like that. A lot of people see our sign and stop and a lot of people hear about us and drive over. We’ve had people stop from Phenix City and some people came from Eufaula the other day. If word keeps spreading, maybe we can even grow a little.”

And, as their business continues to grow, the Dubose brothers will continue to depend on the Pike Farmers Co-op in Brundidge and Troy to help them produce the best vegetables possible.

“We depend on the Farmers Co-op,” Dubose said. “We get herbicide from them and 13-13-13 and, if we need to know something, they always know what to tell us. If we didn’t have the Co-op to depend on, then I don’t know where we would go. We’ve been using the Co-op for 10 years. We used it when we were planting cotton and corn and we’re using it now. Those people are good people to know because they’ll help you out.”

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006