Season 3, Episode 05

A Real Family Farm

Return to Episode: A Real Family Farm

Donna Sanders headshot and byline.

Where The Food Comes From is no stranger to visiting family farms. Remember the Bradford family all the way back to Season 1, Episode 3: Farming Like It’s 1699?

At Nat’s place we walked the okra field, ate it as we picked it and the taste was incredible. His collard greens are so tender you can actually eat the stems (he sent some to my mother-in-law who thoroughly enjoyed them). But, the show-stopper is the watermelon. Back between 1700 and 1850, the Bradford family created a watermelon that’s soooo super sweet you can’t believe it, but with a thin rind so it doesnt ship well. Believe it or not that thin rind is totally edible even without being pickled. I can go on, but Bradford Farms is already told (for now — we’ll be back!). Besides it is time to meet the stars of this week’s show, the Gibbs family, who live a very similar kind of life, but on an even larger scale.

Tom Poland, Chip Carter and Nat Bradley enjoy fresh watermelon

Tom Poland, Chip Carter and Nat Bradley enjoy fresh watermelon (from Season 1, Episode 3)

After a gnat-infested (remember: I hate gnats) shoot in Cordele, GA, on June 14 Where The Food Comes From traveled to the small town of Abbeville, GA. population 2,700 to meet the Gibbs Family. Fun fact, the farm may also be located in Pitts, GA, according to GPS — nobody seems to be sure. So why the difference? My guess is because the farm covers so much territory in many different locations.

Gibbs Farm Produce grows and harvests approximately 350 acres of crops specializing in green beans, peas and butter beans and watermelon and has an average harvest of 100 – 122 bushels per acre. Personally, I don’t know if that is a lot, but it sure sounds like it.

Wilcox County Library, Abbeville, GA

Wilcox County Library, Abbeville, GA — Credit: Michael Rivera

.We spoke with Eric & Brooks Gibbs, Owners of Gibbs Farm Produce, briefly in the packing house. Radar showed heavy rain was on its way so it was time to move on out into the fields before it arrived.

Our crew, being the professionals they are, does what it takes to get the job done right. Just look at Jordan Hicks, cameraman, popping out of the SUV’s sun roof. What exactly is Jordan doing? He’s flying a drone out over the farm. I really do love the drone.

Drone pilot standing through sunroof of truck.

Our first stop took us to the bean fields. Did you know peas and butter beans are a summer crop? Once they have been harvested the turnaround crop is cattle feed.  It really amazes me how nothing is wasted and there is always something growing. I have learned the word is sustainability and it is one you will hear over and over again.

Our first interview took place with Eric Gibbs. He gave Chip a lesson in bean picking. Chip ended up picking a bean that was overly matured. Sorry Chip, no tasting this time – it was too tough.

This was quickly remedied when we visited the Purple Hull Pea field, technically known as the Cornett Pinkeye Cowpea. As you can see the hull is actually a deep deep purple, but the pea is green with light pink colored eyes. We were told the pea actually tastes like Edamame – but don’t eat too much of it unless you want a wicked stomach ache. Cooked, they’re one of Chip’s favorite foods — he grew up on them and often spent afternoons shelling what he picked from his dad’s garden until his thumbs were purple.

Gibbs Farm Bean Field

Bean field

Chip and Eric Gibbs picking green beans.

Chip learns how to pick green beans.

Closeup of Cornett Pineye Cowpea

Closeup of Cornett Pineye Cowpea

The crew is always looking for new things to try. Today’s attempt was recording sound and video via a drone as Chip & Eric were walking through the field – the below picture was taken with the drone flying next to them. Pretty cool. The experiment was a success and the sound was perfect. Way to go! To do a shot like that a few years back would have taken a very expensive dolly system that would have actually involved laying railroad-style track across the field!

Chip and Eric Gibbs walking through bean field.

Remember what I said about the rain coming? I guess radar does not lie and down it came. Actually this was a relief because the rain was very much needed. In fact, a prayer circle was held the day before in surrounding towns for the rains to come. I guess it worked.

There is one thing I forgot to mention. There were workers in the fields, but Eric said because of a cultural superstition in the country they’re from, we could not film or take pictures of them. No big deal, we have seen this before, but this was so totally different. Apparently, these workers believe that if they are on camera and show their faces they will lose their souls.

Huh. When I was a nursing instructor culture was part of my curriculum. Maybe it should be part of everyone’s. Maybe, just maybe understanding various cultures and why they do what they do will help out with some of the problems this world is experiencing. Just a thought. Side note: this superstition was not in my instructor’s book, but we’ve all heard of it in various cultures.

By now it was raining cats and dogs. As luck would have it, it was lunch time and Subway became our refuge.

The fields are always interesting and I learn so much that it sometimes scares me. It’s like I am learning a whole new language – actually I am. But sometimes there is something even more fascinating going on. In this case cows. Cows – yes plain and simple cows. I totally love cows and refer to them as “Moo cows.” My youngest son – who happens to be 34 — thinks this is very immature of me. He’ll get over it.

Spotted brown and white cow looking into the stun.

Random cow... I love moo cows!

When we got back to the farm the Gibbs girls, who you will meet below, had just moved the cows to the upper pasture. The crew thought it would be a great idea getting a drone shot over the pasture. Jordan and EllaGrace jumped into a golf cart and took off. The rest of us had to walk to the lower pasture. Here is the caveat, we had to climb over a metal cow fence to get there. Great, something else for me to hurt myself on. But I did it! And to my credit with no trouble at all. My only wish was that someone took a picture of me in action. I love freaking my kids out and this would have definitely done the trick.

EllaGrace is the Gibbs’ oldest daughter and a remarkable young lady. She raises cows and her plan, at the time of this shooting, was to show one of her cows – yes one of many – at the County Fair. Her new challenge is Eva. EllaGrace explained to us that Eva is a bit feisty. But, she had no doubt she would be able to tame Eva in time to show her off at the County Fair in July.

EllaGrace Gibbs with her cow calf Eva

EllaGrace Gibbs with her cow calf Eva

Now let’s meet LizzyRae, the second Gibbs daughter. 

LizzyRae Gibbs holding a bucket of feed

LizzyRae Gibbs

LizzyRae is not sure what her forte will be, but she is leaning toward training cows like her big sister. Her knowledge is incredible and she verified a question I had asked in a previous episode.

If you remember, I mentoned how back in my behind-the-scenes from Season 2, Episodes 3 & 4 Where The Food CAME From, I saw a cow that had both male and female attributes — horns! A lady at the agriculture exposition told me all female cows are born with horns. I was doubtful.

When we got home I did forget to research it. So when I saw the cows I asked LizzyRae about it. Being a cow expert she did confirm it. She told me this sometimes happens and can cause problems and the horns will have to come out — especially if they are running down the mouth inside the cheek bones. I may have already said this, but it reminds me of getting wisdom teeth pulled. “No Bueno,” sounds really painful.

How did my anticipation of seeing the cows up close and personal end? In a huge disappointment. Even with the tempting food setup in the lower pasture by LizzyRae, EllaGrace was unable to get the cows to move from the upper pasture. I guess sometimes they can be shy. My emphasis here is sometimes; we saw something very different in an upcoming Season 3 episode. Here comes the rain again! Time to get out of there.

White cow with horns

Eric’s Interview Continues


The crew set-up on the front porch of the Gibb’s home farm store for the continuation of Eric’s interview. Eric spoke about the start-up of the farm and other professional matters; you will hear it in the interview.

But what came next totally took me by surprise. We always hear how one partner could not have achieved their goals without the other, but this one was so emotional.  

Eric talked passionately about Brooks. As it turns out they married right out of high school. Eric went onto explain Brooks is the “backbone of the operation” and — wait for it — “You got to have a burning love to make things successful!” I did manage to hold the tears back. Unfortunately, I cannot find the words to describe the look on Brooks’ face. As Eric put it, their story is a “True American love story!” I am tearing up just writing about it. With that said let’s meet Brooks.

Eric Gibbs

Eric Gibbs

Brooks Gibbs

Brooks Gibbs

Chip interviewed Brooks in her farm and gift shop right on the farm. Actually this is her second store, the first one is located in Eastman, GA. Brooks is a beautiful woman inside and out. Her family is the most important thing to her and it shows. Naturally she talked about the farm, but with a small redirect by Chip she talked about herself.

Brooks has her own garden. After looking at it I will call her garden a farm within a farm. Here she grows the most beautiful flowers, her favorite are the Zinnias. Brooks opens her flower farm to the public. Here they are able to cut the flowers and create their own bouquets. While Chip was interviewing Brooks I asked Eric a few questions of my own.

Brooks Gibbs' Garden

Brooks Garden

As it turns out, Brooks also has her own packinghouse for the farm’s products. Brooks went on to say she remembered when her “Mimaw” shelled peas by hand. But progress goes on and a packinghouse is born. Amazingly it was built by her, her mom and EllaGrace. During Brooks interview Eric was kind enough to show me the packinghouse. I felt bad about it then and still do that I took him away from watching his beautiful wife being filmed. But he insisted and said it was really okay. Country kindness firsthand. Side note: Chip did not know the packing house existed.

Sheller at Gibbs Farm


Inside a sheller at Gibbs Farm

Inside the sheller

Tarps hanging to shield debris

Tarps up to shield from weather and debris

The Gibbs children were up next. The girls giggled a little and both of them worked on keeping Cotton Davis, their little brother, in check. They talked about some of their future goals, what it means to grow up on a farm, and the hard work they all have to put into it. Once again, I could not help but think how mature and goal oriented country children are.

Chip with the three Gibbs kids

What about Cotton Davis? We haven’t met this young man yet. Cotton, at the time of filming, is 9-years-old. Cotton does his part and helps with the watermelons, I was told he still is too tiny to help out with the cows, but boys grow fast. While Chip was off, doing who knows what, I followed Cotton around. He brought me to the assembly line used to sort the watermelons, showed me the process, and to my unhappiness asked me to give it a try. This young man has muscles like Superman. Me not so much and there was no way I could possibly keep up with him.

Cotton Gibbs grabs a watermelon off the line
Cotton Gibbs grabs a second watermelon off the line
Cotton Gibbs and three large watermelons in his wagon.

You’ll get to know more about all of them in the show, right down to the end, which Chip closed with Cotton’s very able assistance.

It was a great day and one I would not mind repeating without the rain. I do have a secret agenda, please don’t tell my husband, but I would love to go shopping in Brooks’ store. Typical woman (did I say that?).