Farms, artists celebrate fruits of the harvest

jbecknell@enquirerherald.comJune 21, 2014 

— Eddie Brimer is a modern-day farmer. He raises beef cattle and cuts timber on the side, and holds a job selling insurance to other farmers.

Brimer and his wife, Donna, love the rural life on their 20-acre Cedar Ridge Farm outside the town of Sharon, where Eddie also makes and sells realistic, life-size wood sculptures of bears, birds, wolves, totem poles and other items.

But Eddie Brimer said few people who weren’t born into a farming family will experience the life they enjoy.

“Now, farming is about gone,” said Brimer, 54, who purchased his property in 1996, around the time prices for acreage in Western York County began to rise. “There are very few full-time farmers.”

But the Brimers are happy to share a glimpse of their lifestyle to visitors, as they did Saturday during the Ag + Art Tour, a free, two-day self-guided tour of farms in the Catawba region, featuring local artisans and farmers markets.

The tour featured 19 sites in York County, including 11 in Western York County. The tour, which began in York County in 2012, this year expanded to include Chester, Lancaster and Fairfield counties.

Farmers offered tours to visitors and some, like The Peach Tree in Filbert, offered sweet samples of the fruits of their harvest. Artisans at each site offered performances and demonstrations of their work and also sold their wares.

Brimer said he enjoys showing people what an agricultural life is like. But he said Western York County, which has a rich history in agriculture, has fewer and fewer farms.

“As the younger generations come along, they’re not interested in making a little bit of money for a lot of work,” he said.

He also said many people give into the temptation to sell the family land to developers who are putting up new subdivisions.

“If you were getting out of college now, it would be very difficult to get into farming,” he said, because of the cost of land and the limited income farming produces. “You can hardly justify it.”

Brimer said he and his wife planned to raise horses when they purchased their property. When Brimer developed a severe allergy to horses, he said, their plans changed.

Brimer said he cuts timber on his own 20-acre property and raises 16 head of beef cattle at another site, where he leases 64 acres.

“I’m not relying on farming to make a living,” he said.

At the Hill Mercantile building in downtown Sharon, quilters showed their work in “From Barns to Bedcovers,” a quilt show that has been part of the tour since its inception.

In addition, John Carter offered storytelling at the building, and members of the Yorkville Artists’ Guild showed their work.

Inman Farms and Black’s Peaches, both west of York, hosted vendors, including a basket maker at Black’s Peaches and vendors selling produce, crafts and fresh bread at Inman Farms.

At Ben Smith’s The Peach Tree, Diane Cranford of Rock Hill showed quilted goods, including pillows and dolls.

Smith offered demonstrations of the farm’s peach grading operation, which separates soft peaches, to be used in its ice cream, from firmer peaches to be sold fresh.

The farm offered visitors samples of some of its most popular products, including watermelon slices and, of course, fresh peaches.

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077

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