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Farmer returns to grandfather's legacy

Posted: June 16, 2011 4:59 p.m.
Updated: June 17, 2011 5:00 a.m.

For years, Robert Marsh owned and operated Hofield Farms in Camden, providing county residents with everything from sweet corn to watermelons to tomatoes.

Now, a few years after the popular fruit and vegetable roadside stand closed, Marsh’s 27-year-old grandson Peter Marsh Wolfram is back at the farm -- growing his own crops of fruit and selling them at the Kershaw County Farmers Market.

“When I was in college, I used to come down here for the summers and work. And then I just got hooked on it,” Wolfram said. “I did the real job thing and tried that for a while -- research is long hours, but it’s all inside. I really like being outside, working with my hands, and being in the dirt. I don’t mind getting dirty.”

A native of Texas and graduate of the University of Texas - Austin with a bachelor’s degree in human biology, Wolfram said he’s also worked at mouse breeding in an upstate New York facility and spent several years doing research in Boston.

“But I just wanted to farm, so that’s why I’m here. What drew me to farming was the physicalness of it. The ‘Can you be out here sweating when it’s 100 degrees all day and still want to come back the next day?”’ he said. “But being a farmer is not just putting seeds in the ground and watching them grow -- you have to be a mechanic, you have to be a farmer, you have to be an electrician. It is an intellectual endeavor as much as it is a physical endeavor.”

What separates Wolfram’s crops from others is his use of synthetic fertilizer and not spraying pesticides on the leaves of the fruit. He takes care of blueberries, tomatoes and peppers while his uncle, Robert Marsh Jr., tends to row crops.

 “When you eat something, you ingest everything that’s been sprayed on it. At the end, I really want people to feel comfortable and not have to wash my produce after they get it,” he said. “You’re giving your food to children, pregnant women and families and the scariest thing is handing somebody something that you know has been sprayed with something. Even if the label says it’s OK, there’s still a residue on that fruit.”

Acknowledging that he hadn’t even put so much as a tomato in his backyard before a year and a half ago, Wolfram said he learned to farm “by just doing it.” A person can read all of the books in the world, he said, but they’ll never “learn how to do something until they just do it.”

“Last year I farmed full time; I had a small 11-person CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and did two markets a week. But farming is absolutely seasonal, so it’s hard to make enough money off of arugula to support yourself for three months,” he said, adding that he now works a full-time job and farms during his spare time. “Farming, it’s one of many passions. Instead of fixing up old cars, I buy trellises for my tomatoes. It’s kind of an expensive hobby, but I enjoy doing it.”

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