Featured #SwampFarmer: Tyger River Smart Farm


So Lush! Photo Cred: Jon Hedden

Ryan Oates is our plant-smart farmer behind all things hydroponics at Tyger River Smart Farm in Reidville, SC! His love of all things green stems (hehe plant humor) from his studies in Botany, his Masters degree in Plant Molecular Biology, and from his mom, Joyce, who is a Master Gardener!
In fact, Ryan was growing all of his plants in his Mom’s greenhouse in her backyard when he started the farm in 2012. In November of 2016, he moved into his new 13,000ft greenhouse that has so much room for all the great greens he provides SRCG. The greenhouse is super lush inside, smells so fresh, and is newly GAP Certified. Ryan says he is “serious about food safety!”


Tyger River’s Certified SC grown lettuces, kale, arugula and herbs are all non-GMO, chemical-free, and sustainable sources of nutrition and beauty for our Swamp Customers. The hydroponics system is also very environmentally friendly. It utilizes space efficiently and is extremely low-waste because everything recycles back into the system. The water source that Tyger River draws from is a pristine artesian aquifer located far beneath the ground. The system uses about 1/10th the water a traditional farm usually uses and, since soil is not used, there is no chance of contamination through runoff.


NO SOIL?!?! Don’t worry, there is nothing Frankenstein-ish about growing these tasty greens. In fact, all of the nutrients that a plant could want and need are provided in a continuous stream of clean water containing natural mineral salts. For all of you science and agricultural lovers out there, the specific technique he uses is called the Nutrient Film Technique. The root ball at the end of the plant is still alive when you buy it! If you need to store it a little longer than usual, Ryan recommends adding a little water to the bag before putting it into the fridge and it will stay #superfresh. A really neat fact is that you CAN actually replant his hydroponic basil into the ground with a little care and love!

Ryan also refers to himself as a “sun-worshiper!” This might seem weird because he grows his plants inside, but the Sun is actually the most vital contribution to the hydroponics system! Tyger River’s greenhouse is situated to allow for maximum sunlight to reach the plants and they wouldn’t survive without it. Make sure you wear your sunglasses if you get a chance to visit! There are also some fun red and blue LED lights that help activate different types of chlorophyll in the plant needed for photosynthesis. At night time, it would make a great spot for a dance party!


Everything that SRCG gets from Tyger River is crisp and freshly packaged by Ryan’s mom, Joyce! We also get the privilege of seeing his dad, Roy, during deliveries. If you can catch Roy while he is here, make sure to ask him about all things Clemson football; he hasn’t missed a home game since the 70s! Before Ryan found his calling in hydroponics, he was a cabinet installer and professional woodworker. Can you say, multi-talented?! He is also our only farmer that has twins! We love having such a unique farm in our #swampfarmer family! #eatyourgreens

Featured #SwampFarmer: Milky Way Farm

Driving past Anderson and through winding roads of lush, green rolling hills, you will arrive in Starr, SC, where Milky Way Farm is located! We recommend going at sunset, the views are stunning! As a 5th generation farm, Davis, his father LD, and the Peeler family have been supplying Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery with delicious raw milk since the beginning of Swamp time! We even sold out of Milky Way’s milk in preparation for the snow; that’s over 1,500 pounds of milk!

Milky Way has a total of 77 Jersey, grass-fed, and grain-supplemented cows that produce over 5,000 pounds of Grade A raw milk per day! Jersey cow milk is revered for its higher butter fat content, more nutritional fat-soluble vitamins, and an increased level of fatty acids. Basically, it’s really GOOD for you! In addition to all of the nutrients, raw milk retains lactose and lactobacteria that aid in our digestion. With the presence of these goodies, many lactose intolerant people are able to drink it! Davis and stringent testing tells us that is a completely CLEAN, SAFE, and HEALTHY alternative to pasteurized milk. Milky Way’s Jersey cows are milked twice a day, and when it’s time for milking for they are always on time!

So why can you get raw milk in SC and not in other states? The main reason is the worry of the spread of disease since it is not pasteurized. The safety is all about the source for both types of milk! Milky Way Farm is inspected every year by the FDA, the CDC, and SCDHEC. The milking process is very sanitary, the cows are super healthy and happy, and the product is treated well. Pasteurization is not needed when hygienic rules are being followed and a cow’s health is of the utmost importance.

Milking Time

Milky Way has to follow more stringent guidelines than a conventional milk farm and tests daily for signs of disease and bacteria. In addition to Milky Way’s milking machines being clean, efficient, and super high tech, they also test the milk straight out of the udder for contamination or illness in the cow itself. The milk is filtered and then cooled to 40within seconds, it’s pretty cool! Davis has further prevented the chance of any spread or introduction of disease by having a closed herd since 2003.

Davis delivering to his favorite grocery, Swamp Rabbit!

Davis is a wealth of knowledge on the benefits of and legislation concerning raw milk sales in the US. He has a background in veterinary medicine and can answer any questions you may have. He also knows a thing or two about Australian Shepherds! Be sure to congratulate him on his newly appointed Chair of Young Farmers and Ranchers for the Farm Bureau! Not a fan of milk out of the glass? We have you covered with locally made gouda cheese made from Milky Way milk in the store! We are so happy to have such a passionate family at Milky Way Farm as part of our #swampfarmer family!



Davis’s favorite cow.


Photos courtesy of our talented #swampstaff: Betsy Bain, John Hedden, Doris Demkovich, and Ashley Simon

Featured #swampfarmer: Gibson Farms

Leland Gibson is Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery’s only USDA certified organic beef farmer and resident cow whisperer in Westminster, SC. Seriously, his cows love him and are just as photogenic as he is! Some people can be overheard referring to Leland as our “Movie Star” or “Handsome” Farmer! Have you ever seen a calf or full grown cow frolick because it is so excited? It’s the cutest!

Leland has a heart of gold and adds to his herd often by rescuing undernourished cows from feedlots. Within months they are happy, healthy, and content grazing and eating all day long.  Gibson Farms, along with being the first and only beef farmer in the state of South Carolina to have an Organic certification, is Animal Welfare Certified, and is a recognized farm of the intensely selective Slow Food organization. This means that not only are his cows fed well and treated fairly they are also extremely happy with their physical and emotional well-being. All of these positive attributes translate into super tender, flavorful, and delicious meat.


Gibson Farms is fully sustainable and everything that its 97 cows eat or drink come from the farm itself. The cows are 100% grass-fed and grass-finished, only eating Organic certified grass and hay from the beginning of their lives until the end. All of Leland’s cows are hormone free, antibiotic free, corn free, and grain free with natural grazing being their main source of sustenance. For treats, the cows love salt which comes from an organic salt mine in Salt Lake City. Their love of salt also meant lots of licks and kisses for us while we were there!


The Black Angus and Charolais cows that Leland raises have over 200 acres to graze on five different types of grass including clover, fescue, and bermuda varieties.  The cows are rotated on the land during the warmer months in an impact grazing method that rotates the cattle every couple of days to different areas of pasture. During the other months of the year a rotational grazing is implemented with the cows being moved every 4 to 5 days. This provides the cows with plenty of grass to fill their bellies, lets the land rest and replenish nutrients, and helps to prevent a spread of parasites and disease by keeping the cows clean and away from their own manure. Leland’s squad of wild turkeys also help to spread manure around the pastures to naturally fertilize the grass.

As a third generation farmer, Gibson Farms has been in Leland’s family since 1958. Leland, however,  wasn’t always a farmer and his talents and passion to positively impact our world span into many different areas of life. He is an ex-marine with a degree in Aviation Management, so add saving the world and flying planes to his qualifications! He can also build and design anything that he needs around the farm, used to own his own refrigeration repair business, and even has a side project of renovating the original Gibson farmhouse! We think that he might need to come work for us!  

We are glad that he ended up being a beef farmer and a vital part of the local food movement with wanting to provide SRCG and the Upstate with sustainable, organic, and tasty beef that is raised with integrity and love. So happy to have Leland and Gibson Farms as a part of our #swampfarmer family!


Featured #swampfarmer: Bethel Trails Farm

Steve and Michelle Ellis are behind all the healthy and happy livestock at Bethel Trails Farm! Wanting to stay near to family in Greenville and Clinton while also having the freedom to raise any livestock they wanted, Bethel Trails is located in a very serene part of Laurens County.

Steve and Michelle opened the farm in 1999 after realizing that their daughter was getting headaches from the MSG fillers found in a lot of meats sold in conventional grocery stores. They started with just a few egg laying hens and have grown to include over 200 forest foraged pigs of the Tamworth and Berkshire heritage. The farm’s chickens (both meat and egg laying), pigs, cows, turkeys, geese, and a super cool emu named Maybelline have lots of room to move around.

Walking around the farm, you might have ten chickens come clucking and running by. Or, you may have a line of pigs following you to the lake that is located on the 30 acres of forest that they are free to roam around in, duly named “Hog Heaven.” Be careful though, Maybelline the emu has been known to sneak up on you with no consideration for personal space! All of Bethel Trails’ sheep and cows are grass-fed and grass-finished, with the sheep also eating ground cottonseed in the winter.

Bethel Trails Farm’s meat chickens are all pasture-raised and supplemented, when necessary, with a low-GMO, no preservative, no animal bi-product feed that utilizes natural minerals found in kelp and seaweed. All of the egg-laying hens roam the farm wherever they please and have been caught cuddling with piglets most days. The forest-foraged piggies have tons of acorn treats that they can find themselves. The pigs also receive a supplemental feed in the winter months to make sure they are completely nourished and receive the correct amounts of protein to grow happy and healthy!

Bethel Trails Farm approaches all aspects of farming with sustainability in mind and at the core of everything, allowing their animals to be animals and live in a natural and happy setting. Steve and Michelle have been supplying us with pasture-raised chicken, pork, lamb, and eggs since we opened! Five fateful years ago, Steve gave owner Jac a sample of pork chops, and they were the best pork chops Jac had ever tasted in her life! SRCG is proud to have continued their relationship with Bethel Trails Farms for the past five years and we look forward to continuing to bring their great products to consumers for many more years! Stop by the farm on the first Saturday of every month on Bethel’s “Farm Day!”


FUN FACTS: Farmer Michelle has purple hair, which is pretty hip, but she might not be the hippest Ellis – her daughter Bailey is owner of Radish Kids, a handmade clothing brand for rad kids! Michelle has one of the kindest hearts we know and is a part time nurse as well, we don’t think she ever sleeps! Farmer Steve can build just about anything from restoring cars, to hardwood floors and the structures that exist on the farm! Also, Steve’s favorite joke at the moment: What do you call a flock of emus in the South? The answer, Emy’alls! Hehe.




Featured #swampfarmer: Ferguson Farm


Darrell Ferguson with his beautiful collards at his farm in Taylors.

Darrell Ferguson and Ferguson Farm have been providing fresh, local produce to the Upstate of South Carolina since 1969. After finding a great spot in Taylors, Darrell’s father Frank Sr learned all he could about the ins and outs of the science behind farming. He decided on adopting a “no-till” approach for his farm which minimally disturbs the soil, thereby reducing erosion and ecological disturbance. No-till farming also increases the level of nutrients and water that can be retained in the soil and creates soil resiliency, so no fertilizers need to be added to the soil to help the veggies grow. Ferguson Farm has won many soil conservation awards and even has it’s own water source from an underground spring that is free from any contamination! All of these factors contribute to Ferguson Farm only needing to spray their crops a very minimal amount when they are seedlings to keep the insects from completely devouring them. This classifies them as one of our low-spray farmers and by the time the veggies are to the size that you see them in our store, hardly any of the residual chemicals are left in them. Plus, if the bugs like them, then they have to be good! Right now we have tons of delicious greens that Darrell hand-picks himself and delivers to us within hours to make sure that we only get the freshest stuff! Right now we have collards for you to cook for good luck and for holiday feasts as well as broad-leaf mustard greens and turnip greens. In the upcoming seasons, keep an eye out for their varieties of squash, peppers, tomatoes, and produce from their Organic test plot! What you won’t see ever are eggs from Ferguson Farm, Darrell has converted all of the roosting houses to tractor and farming machine storage after having his fill of collecting eggs as a childhood chore!