Griffith Family Farm cultivates fresh produce in the mountains
AFTER SERVING THRONGS OF CUSTOMERS on weekends at a rented retail space in downtown Paintsville, Chester Griffith knew there was a demand for quality fresh produce, but it has exceeded his expectations since he and his wife, Melissa, opened a store on their Johnson County farm four years ago.
“We didn’t expect the customers to follow us like they did, but we stay busier out here than we ever stayed in town,” Griffith says.
About 12 miles southeast of Paintsville, the Griffith Family Farm includes greenhouses for plants, flowers, tomatoes and lettuce, and field crops for seasonal produce.
“There’s not a lot of produce or greenhouses in the mountains,” Griffith says. “You have a lot of shade, and a lot of the flat land is used for beef cattle, which is a little less intensive and more profitable for the mountains.”
The result, he says, is a lack of truly fresh produce for the area. “The majority of what they call ‘fresh’ produce is shipped in from the South,” he explains, “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, but by the time you put it on a truck and get it into the mountains, you’re already probably three to four days or maybe even up to a week of having a fresh product.”
The inventory of the 5,000-square-foot retail space includes produce from other farmers, with a wide variety of meats, cheeses, baked items, canned foods and dry goods, such as nuts, flours, cornmeal and granola. The store is open six days a week at the Swamp Branch trailhead of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail, the longest rail-to-trail path in the state for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
“We’re not only trying to promote healthy and local food, good products, we’re also trying to promote a healthy lifestyle,” Griffith says. “We have bikes out here on the trail that are free to use. We just ask people to bring them back.”
The farm’s success as a destination has now grown to include campsites, a deli counter and, soon, an expanded dining area.
“Griffith Family Farm is a true blessing,” says Bruce Aaron Davis, president and CEO of Big Sandy RECC. “Their commitment to community resonates with our co-op and we are proud they are co-op members.”
“When we were building this, Big Sandy RECC went above and beyond to meet our needs,” Griffith says. “You can’t do something like this without good infrastructure. They knew what we needed more than we did. It’s good to have people with that foresight.”