Tim Goggans is a third-generation farmer who grew his grandfather’s modest Purvis homestead into Sandy Run Farm and Nursery, a successful blueberry farm, with diversity added to its name.
Blueberries are an important crop for Mississippi, with the state producing 3.45 million pounds of the sweet fruit in 2017. The crop brought approximately $5.75 million to the economy that same year. As one of the area’s largest U-pick blueberry farms, Sandy Run boasts production of 40 acres of blueberries,1 acre of blackberries, and 3 acres each of peach and Japanese persimmon trees. In the experimental stage, the farm also has a quarter acre of tea, a newly popular commodity in Mississippi.
Currently, the farm grows five varieties of the nutritious superfruit, including Brightwell, Premier, Alapaha, Climax and Powderblue.
Goggans’ grandfather started the farm in 1930, a common way of life at the time.
“It was a typical small farm in ’30s and ’40s small-farm America. My grandfather raised a few cattle and chickens, sold eggs, grew cotton and produce, farmed, and worked odd jobs,” Goggans says.
Goggans’ parents were both health care professionals working at the local hospital, but as his grandparents aged, they returned to the farm with their young family.
“I moved to the farm when I was 3 years old, and I was under my granddad’s feet from that point on,” says Goggans.
As an adult, he worked off the farm for a few years but returned and formally took over in 1987, starting the blueberry operation in earnest with his wife, Jo Ann.
Goggans’ son, Ethan, who has a degree in agricultural business and economics, also joined the farm and brings a fresh perspective to the business.
“Young people have a skill set that I will never have,” Goggans says. “Their ability of understanding the internet and marketing and moving information around – they’re so much more efficient than I’ll ever be.”
Now, along with his family, Goggans is merging agritourism and education.
“It’s something we need to strive toward,” he says. “You’re starting to see the third generation of people that were not raised on the farm. When I came up, everybody either had a grandparent that had a little farm or was part of a farm. Now, you’ve got a large part of the population that’s never been to a farm, has no idea what it’s about, and that population is getting bigger and bigger.”
Goggans feels exposing young families to farm life is at the core of agritourism.
“If we don’t take the reins with agritourism and promote agriculture, fewer and fewer people are going to know what it takes to put food on their table. One of the things I’m most proud of with the U-pick is educating people about where their food comes from,” Goggans says.
“It’s a family adventure to come out there and pick,” Goggans says. “We did U-pick 20 years ago, and it just didn’t take off. We restarted small about 12 years ago, basically in our backyard on the edge of the field. This time, it has steadily grown every year. I think the younger millennials like it as a family outing. They come with their kids and bring a picnic lunch and spend several hours there picking berries and playing on the playground.”
Goggans has been president of the Miss-Lou Blueberry Growers Cooperative on and off for the past 12 years, and he feels the co-op helps with connections in keeping in touch with the industry and marketing blueberries. It serves as a collection point for blueberry growers in other parts of the state and brokers the fruit for growers.
Selling through the co-op and via U-pick serves as an effective one-two punch for businesses.
“They complement each other,” says Goggans. “Our crop can range anywhere from a quarter- to half-million pounds of fruit a year, and there’s no way with U-pick you can move that volume of fruit on a local market.”
Bringing young people into the co-op is a challenging, but important, future task.
“We had a Miss-Lou Co-op meeting the other day, and if you sit in that room and look around, the average age of the growers is probably 60 or older. I’m 56 and I’m the kid,” Goggans says.
The farm saw the start of a pumpkin patch in October 2018.
“The turnout was very good and we hope to keep expanding that in the future,” Goggans says.
Families can take a wagon ride out into the field to choose pumpkins and enjoy the pavilion area complete with a playground.
“For me, the challenge is keeping your business going and figuring out your market. There’s a lot of potential there,” Goggans says.
Sandy Run Farm and Nursery operates its U-pick hours from mid-May through the first week of July. The pumpkin patch is scheduled to operate on Saturdays and Sundays in the month of October, and to be open to school and other groups by appointment. For specific hours of operation or to schedule a tour, call (601) 296-0630. Calling ahead is advised before traveling long distances.
Sandy Run Farm and Nursery
1092 Brooks Rd., Purvis, MS