Butterbean Sheller Adding Value To A Southern Staple


Farm: Relyea’s Produce
Operator: Natalie Relyea and family
Acreage in Production: 100 acres
Production: Vegetables, fruits, and cash crops
Markets: Greene County Farmer’s Market

“The goal for this project is to physically expand on an already successful produce business, to continue sales growth of the produce business, provide another source of income to other farmers willing to produce butter-beans, and to provide seasonal jobs to those who so desire. There will always be a demand for food- food comes from farmers. Farmers must try to hold on to the family farms if for nothing else, for food supply, making the success of this project even more important to sustainability.

 
Relyea’s Produce in Greene County has been successfully selling produce to local consumers in their region for over 27 years. A family owned business, Relyea’s Produce is comprised of a husband, wife, and son who grow a plethora of produce including squash, cucumbers, watermelon, butter-beans, string beans, okra, and many other traditionally southern fruits and vegetables. The son also has a separate part of the farm that he manages for a rotation of grains, tobacco, cattle, and cotton. The farm is entering it’s 3rd generation in the family and has survived through many phases of North Carolina agriculture.

The family started growing produce in a small garden patch on the farm and it has ballooned to an operation with 80 to 100 acres in vegetable production. The farm has a large warehouse where produce is stored and and also sold directly off the farm to consumers who visit the produce stand. 85% of the produce sales are made in this warehouse and the other 15% are made at the Snow Hill Farmer’s Market in central Greene County. The Relyea’s will source produce from other neighboring farms as needed.

In 2013, Relyea Produce was awarded a TCRF grant for their commercial butter-bean shelling operation. They purchased a commercial butter-bean sheller for the purposes of growing their butter-bean operation on their own farm but also as a way to aggregate and process butter-beans from other surrounding farms. The Relyea’s want to establish a way for farmers to diversify their operation by growing butter-beans, in order to save small, family operated farms in the surrounding region.

“The goal for this project is to physically expand on an already successful produce business, to continue sales growth of the produce business, provide another source of income to other farmers willing to produce butter-beans, and to provide seasonal jobs to those who so desire. There will always be a demand for food- food comes from farmers. Farmers must try to hold on to the family farms if for nothing else, for food supply, making the success of this project even more important to sustainability.”

Natalie Relyea believes that the commercial sheller could successfully provide a way to aggregate butter-beans from farms in Greene, Halifax, Sampson, and Edgecombe counties. The ability to process and distribute butter-beans via Relyea Produce could provide farmers with an alternative market that may be able to sustain their operations in a time when most cash crops that they have relied on are bottoming out.

“The success of this project will allow other farmers to understand that diversified farming can save the family farm.”

Relyea’s Produce has already purchased the commercial butter-bean sheller with their own income but they need to build a shelter to house the machinery and provide a place to easily process and store the butter-beans.

“The purpose of this project is to allow for expansion of an established customer base for fresh shelled green and speckled butterbeans to be sold by the gallon. This will be achieved by providing a shelter, concrete pad and electrical service for “set-up” and operation of a commercial butterbean shelling system purchased by Relyea’s Produce in June of 2012.”

In addition to housing the machinery, the shelter is critical for keeping beans dry and stored properly, it can also provide a space to clean, sort, and package the beans for distribution. The shelter and the commercial butter-bean shelling operation could have major impacts for Relyea’s Produce and their surrounding community of farmers. Infrastructure of this kind can create new markets and an easy way of preparing and distributing a product. This will bring cash flow not only to the Relyea family and their operation, but it provides farmers with a market and can create jobs for local non-farming community members.

“An estimated 6,000 gallons of butter-beans will be sold during the seasonal months of May thru September.” – Natalie Relyea

Natalie estimates that about 6,000 gallons of butter-beans will be sold during the growing season months of May through September. She also hopes that the butter-bean operation could generate approximately $40,000 net profit annually.

Article from Our State magazine about the Relyea’s and farming in Greene Co:

Our State Magazine: Greene County Farming