Sunday, April 21, 2024

Strawberry Fields Forever: Argyle family’s leap of faith comes to fruition

When Tim Sutton decided two years ago that he and his family were starting a you-pick strawberry orchard from scratch, his first major purchase before buying any land consisted of 30,000 strawberry plants.

Now, conventional wisdom says securing farmland with electricity and running water first, then purchasing a tractor, various farming essentials, and plants is the natural and safer order of things — not to mention the fact that first-time growers usually start with a smaller crop.

Sutton agrees and would love to say he knew exactly what he was doing.

But at the end of the day, it came down to taking a chance.

“I didn’t know if I didn’t know what I was doing. Even the guy I bought the plants from said, ‘You know …first-time growers usually don’t order that many. Maybe you should start with 5,000,’” Sutton said with a laugh. He had an agreement in principle to buy a piece of land between Ponder and Justin but realized he’d have to purchase plants before taking ownership in August 2021 to avoid missing the next growing season. “My rationale was that I saw the high demand other big growers in the area experienced, and if I planted a smaller amount, I felt like I wouldn’t have enough. I also didn’t want to wait over a year to do anything with the land.

“I got plenty of funny looks, and I didn’t know if we could get them to grow, either. But I took a chance so we could get started quicker.”

Tim Sutton (second from left) and his family at Goober Bub’s Orchard & Bakery. (Photo by Lynn Seeden/Seeden Photography)

Sutton and his family are proof that taking a leap of faith can work out in abundance. Goober Bub’s Orchard & Bakery, located at 10534 Eakin Cemetery Rd. in Justin, is a family-run, you-pick farm offering fresh strawberries, blackberries, homemade jams, delicious baked goods, and, more than anything, fun memories. They believe one of the ways God reveals His goodness is through simple things like good food and fun experiences.

Their first season in 2022 lasted from April 16 to early May and was a smashing success considering their crop survived a mid-March freeze, an April hailstorm, and summer-like temperatures.

Their second season begins this month, and the process is pretty straightforward: Bring your family to the farm between April and May and pick as many berries as you like. Goober Bub’s — a combination of Sutton’s long-time nickname (Bub) and his daughter-in-law Joy’s late father’s grandpa name (Goober) — opens at 8 a.m. on Saturdays and will also be open a couple of days during the week. They sell everything by the pound and close whenever they’re out of berries for the day.

Along with ensuring they always have a fresh crop, the farm’s next phase will include the addition of a new store and bakery.

“This is something I really like to do, and it’s something our entire family can enjoy,” Sutton said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding.”

Sutton and his wife, Jeanna, have lived in Argyle for nearly 30 years and have two children, Lance and Bailey. Lance and his wife, Joy, have two baby daughters named Annie and Evie. Bailey just recently married Tyler Pirtle, instantly adding another farm worker. When their kids were younger, Tim and Jeanna routinely took them to a summer camp just south of Branson, Missouri, and always stopped at nearby Persimmon Hill Farm.

Similar to Goober Bub’s, Persimmon Hill Farm is a berry, fruit, and mushroom farm with an on-site bakery next to the berry fields. The Suttons always enjoyed the experience, and Tim often wondered if it’d be possible to do something similar closer to home. He already had experience as an amateur grower, having planted over 60 pecan trees along with growing blackberries. In fact, he and Goober had a shared interest in beekeeping and were excited about providing the community with honey before Goober’s untimely passing.

He just never imagined taking that hobby to the next level.

“A couple of years ago, I started looking into the idea of a strawberry farm more and more. I came across some folks who grew strawberries and quickly realized there was a ton of demand in North Texas because the farms were always sold out — almost before they even opened for the season,” Sutton said. “Jeanna got tired of me looking on YouTube and said I ought to be doing this.”

So off he went. He came across a piece of land in the spring of 2021 that technically wasn’t even listed yet. The owners had another property available, but the bottom of the listing read, “other land might be available.” The first thing he did was take a soil sample, and he realized it was perfect for growing plants.

Sutton eventually closed on the land by that August but had to commit to his initial strawberry crop beforehand to ensure timely delivery. He received the plants in October and planted them almost immediately. Six months later, the harvest was ready.

“So before I ever closed on the land or bought a tractor, I had all these plants,” Sutton said. “We also didn’t have electricity. I had to wait almost a full year for that, and I used the neighbor’s water to help me get through the initial strawberry season. It was quite a leap of faith. It was crazy, and I had a lot of people questioning what I was doing. But we found a way to make it work.

“It’s a family deal, and we all help keep things going.”

If you’d like to learn more about Goober Bub’s Orchard & Bakery, please visit gooberbubs.com or @gooberbubs on Facebook and Instagram.

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