Vollmer Farm - Bunn, NC
by Elizabeth Friend, WSM Contributing Writer
As the sun was setting on North Carolina’s tobacco industry in the 1990’s, John Vollmer took stock. Three generations had grown tobacco and grain on the family farm in Bunn, but the future seemed uncertain. Searching for a way to keep the farm productive and profitable, Vollmer started looking into organic farming.
With assistance from scientists at North Carolina State University, John began to make the transition from tobacco to organic strawberries. He remembers that period of change as challenging, but ultimately very rewarding.
“They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that’s not true,” he laughs.
Now Vollmer Farm boasts the state’s only certified organic pick-your-own strawberry fields, and for the past four summers has supplied Weaver Street Market with the finest organic berries on the market. As he puts it, “I don’t focus on yield as a benchmark for growth. My goal is [to] focus on flavor, aroma, and beauty. You don’t have to buy ugly strawberries.”
Buoyed by the success of the succulent strawberries, the Vollmers have begun to diversify into other organic crops, including pumpkins, lettuce, and, most recently, an acre and a half of blueberries that should be ready for harvest by next summer.
Organic agriculture has breathed new life into this family farm, and John hopes that future generations of Vollmers will follow in his footsteps. His son Russ and daughter-in-law Mary grow the pumpkins for the fall, and already the grandchildren are eager to help out.
“I am enthusiastic about the next generation on the farm. They’re young; they’ve got a lot of energy and a lot of time.” In the meantime, John Vollmer has no plans to retire, so you can look forward to sweet juicy Vollmer strawberries at Weaver Street Market for many summers to come.