When your business consists of sharing healthful organic produce weekly to loyal clients, those customers can quickly become like family. For Joe and Mary Aplin, relationship building is one of the most rewarding aspects of the work they do. And fittingly, this experience all began with family. Joe’s cousin, Ferrin Seay, needed extra help maintaining his family’s organic farm. Joe, a retired welder, and his wife, Mary, who had retired from the banking industry, stepped in to help.
Seay Organics is located in Florala, where Joe and Mary were born and raised. They have their own 30-acre farm there, so they aren’t strangers to hard work. All that being said, the learning curve has challenged them. “We have learned a lot through trial and error,” Mary explained.
The certified all-organic produce Seay Organics offers weekly at the Seaside Farmers Market is grown in six 30x200-foot hoop houses. These are different from greenhouses — the plants are actually grown in the ground itself and solar power from the sun’s rays heats the soil in the wintertime. In the summer, the half-moon shaped structures’ vents and doors are opened. Anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 plants are grown in any given season.
Being a certified Organic farmer comes with high standards. Organic certification verifies that your farm complies with all USDA organic regulations. These regulations describe the specific standards required for farmers to use the word “organic” regarding their products. The certification can require two to three years. Any land used to grow organic produce must not have had prohibited substances applied to it for the past three years. Until the full 36-month transition period is met, you may not claim your produce is certified organic.
This fall and winter, Seay Organics brought carrots, kale, a variety of peppers, tomatoes, beets, zucchini, basil and cucumbers to the market. “At one time we were picking 200 pounds of cucumbers a day,” Mary shared. This sizeable workload is handled by a three-person team. A couple of days a week they employ a picker — a woman who is quick and thorough and a tremendous help to the Aplins.
The Aplins are still deciding what they will plant for spring. Each week they poll their customers, taking all requests into consideration. It is important to them that they always get their customers’ feedback. “Meeting regulars, sharing ideas and recipes, and getting to know these folks is the most best part,” Joe said. The Aplins are grateful for these new friendships and getting to know the locals who support them week in and week out has been especially rewarding. It’s clear the Seaside community is sure happy they are here.
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