In Six Mile, SC, the beautiful berry filled oasis that Walker has created was the most calming (and delicious!) farm to visit. Immediately upon arrival, Walker sat us down and went over the history of the area and why he chose, after searching for 4 years, the land that all of his delicious berry bushes now exist on. Walker and his wife Ann moved to Six Mile in 1971 and began The Happy Berry in 1979. Located in a valley right near Lake Keowee, the land provides the perfect “microclimate” for berry bushes. This means that warm air off the lake is able to settle in the valley to create a stable warm climate that is resistant to frost naturally. So cool!
All of The Happy Berry’s original bushes came from a local nursery, with varieties chosen based on climate acclimation. Since berry bushes are perennials, they continue to grow and produce fruit every season. Walking around the rows and rows of super happy berries, Walker would point out the new growth of the bushes and tell us his reasoning for picking a certain variety. A lot of his blueberries are Centurions that are very cold resistant and grow super well in this area. Some of the bushes that Walker has are upwards of 16 years old! On the property, about 2.5 acres are devoted to blackberries, 5+ acres for blueberries, 1 acre for figs, and 1.25 acres for yummy grapes.
Berries are one of the most finicky, susceptible to disease, and pest attracting crops to cultivate. Due to these factors and farmers needing to produce enough product to make a profit, berry bushes are still commonly sprayed to prevent disease and for predatory pests. While Walker does spray his berry bushes, something that he was very transparent about, he employs new practices every year that decrease the amount of spraying he has to do. He makes sure that as many weeds as possible are picked by hand before spray is enlisted. He will only spray post-emergently, which means no spray is used until the weed is actually visible. He also has planted many pine trees around the farm, so that, as they grow, they provide shade for the bushes and deter sightings by insects and birds.
Walker’s knowledge of farming, plants, and berries is endless. He may be turning 80 this year, but his vivacity and hunger to continually learn is like that of someone a quarter of his age. He has amassed many degrees, such as a PhD in Horticulture, and is even a Certified Crop Advisor for the area! There is a constantly evolving array of methods that he uses in his cultivation process. Currently, he is working in partnership with USDA to hang these red balls near his berry bushes that have self contained Organic pesticides in them to attract fruit flies. This prevents the need to use any chemicals, even Organic ones, on the bushes themselves. He is also working with the Clemson Mechanical Engineering department to build an oven specifically for creating Biochar from his old berry bushes once they are done producing. This Biochar would provide an excellent source of naturally derived minerals back into the soil, reduce waste, and stop the leaching of minerals into groundwater.
The dedication that Walker has for his farm and for sustainability makes us so proud to be able to include in our #SwampFarmer Family. We will have his berries, figs, and grapes in our store until the growing season ends in September. So many delicious pies and jams in your future!! Be sure to stop in and try one of our berry smoothies or the blueberry salad that will be featuring Happy Berry’s products.
Feel free to stop by The Happy Berry yourself to meet Walker and see all of his super happy berries! Don’t worry, if you happen to snack while at the farm there is a “Sin Jar” that you can contribute to if you are feeling guilty! It’s a magically delicious place in the world!