When it comes to farming for Joseph Fields, it’s not just a job – it’s the love of his life. A third generation farmer, Joseph and his siblings – Anna, Frederick, Robert, Jr., Abraham and Juanita – learned the trade from his parents Robert Sr. and Nancy Fields. He used the farming principles they instilled in him to start his sole-proprietorship Joseph Fields Farms.
After growing up in the family business, Fields became a full-time farmer in 1973. “I was born and raised on the farm and saw my parents doing it, and I just fell in love with it,” said Fields. He fell in love again and married his wife Helen three months later. With her assistance and business savvy, Joseph Fields Farms was born in the mid 1980’s.
Joseph Fields Farms – Organic Certified plants a variety of produce on approximately 50 acres including collards, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, beans, onions, lettuce, strawberries, squash, melons, celery, bok choy just to name a few. They have the capability to plant any fruit or vegetable found at any other local farm in town.
Known as one of the more prominent figures in agriculture in the Lowcountry, the Fields transition to planting only organic produce has positioned the farm for a sustainable future, at least until the next transition phase of the industry. It all started over 15 years ago when he set a goal to plant chemical-free crops. He sought out to receive the training and education necessary for the transition and received his organic certification in July 2008.
When asked about the success of the farm, Ms. Fields stated that farmers need to offer produce that can be planted twelve months out of the year. “In order to satisfy the public, you need to provide produce that is needed year round.” She also expressed the need to be open-minded and well-educated in the industry. “As farmers, you have to take the initiative and open to new things. We travel often, attending classes and conferences to stay ahead of the game and take advantage of any resources that can help us sustain,” she said. “It’s difficult to get funding to for some of the programs that are out there, but if you stay in the system and take some initiative, you can have some success.”
In the fall of 2016, the excellence of Joseph Fields Farm was recognized by the Smithsonian Institute as they selected one of their signs to be displayed as an exhibit at the museum in Washington, DC. They family was invited to a collection donor preview and reception in September and they made the trip. “We always wanted to go Washington to see the museum. When we got the invitation, we were lost for words. We never thought that something like this would happen,” said Ms. Fields. Mr. Fields was overjoyed as well when he got the news. “It makes you feel good when something like that happens to you. My family have been doing this for generations. My parents would have been proud,” he said.
Regarding the future of farming, Ms. Fields hope that the younger generation gets more involved. “We encourage younger farmers to work hard and come up with new ideas in the industry, especially black farmers. We have to work together and learn everything we can about agriculture to take it to the next level. We are doing well enough now to sustain, but there is always room for improvement.”
Joseph Fields Farms will continue offering some of the best produce the low country has to offer for years to come. They will debut their farmer’s market with a grand opening on Saturday, February 18 at 10:00 am at 3129 River Road on Johns Island. Make sure to stop by and get your share of the beautiful produce and much more!