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!

Featured #SwampFarmer: Southern Berkshire Farm!

img_0618Clinton and Jesse Pace, of Berkshire Farms in Westminster, SC, are officially our youngest farmers and newest addition to the Swamp Farmer family! They provide pasture-raised, non-GMO, soy- and corn-free Cornish cross chickens to both our Swamp Kitchen and our Grocery, and for the very first time, they are supplying us with broad-breasted turkeys this Thanksgiving! Our swamp staff had the pleasure of visiting this farm last week, and Farmer Jesse gave us a tutorial on how they care for their animals! Within 18 days of chicks being born, they are hand-carried to the pasture in rotation and allowed to eat and move to their hearts desire in large chicken tractors or fenced-in areas. When animals live on pasture, they eat a more varied diet of different grasses, herbs, and flowers. The diet has an enormous impact on the flavor of meat it produces, and that’s why we use it in our famous pot pies and chicken enchiladas. The woods surrounding the farm contain a ton of predators that would find a growing chicken to be a delicious treat, so the chicken tractors and fencing help to keep them safe and free from harm. Growing chickens need protein and in times of drought and cold, the bugs may be in short supply and so the chickens are fed a supplementary feed that is non-GMO, soy-free, and corn-free to keep them healthy. Despite Clinton and Jesse’s young age, they already have 10 years of experience in sustainable farming practices and understand the value of symbiotic use of land and humane practices. Keep an eye out in the future for their amazing goat meatballs and forest-raised, Berkshire heritage pork! They love having visitors and welcoming the community to their farm, so feel free to ask us for more information about them or to schedule a visit!

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