POCA - Shady Oaks Farm is an ongoing project for husband-and-wife team Chris and Leslie Burdette, who strive to farm throughout the year.
"The big push with farmers is to get them to think outside the box," Leslie said. "If you want to make a living at farming, you have to farm year-round to have an income every month. I think I can at least make money 10 months a year, January and February being the coldest months."
They are always looking for new methods for extending the growing seasons.
Chris, 54, and Leslie, 57, moved onto the 32-acre tract of land 16 years ago when they married. It was a second marriage for each of them. Since that time, they have invested countless hours into the Putnam County land that Chris inherited from his parents.
It's a secluded four-wheel-drive ride to reach their gardens and home perched high atop mountainous terrain with a breathtaking view.
"We started planting ginseng in the woods 17 years ago when we were dating," Leslie said. "It's medicinal and increases stamina. I've never used it. Isn't that funny? It grows slow. It takes 10 to 15 years to get the root up to size. It's another avenue for making money on the farm."
Then they became interested in woodland plants - trillium, goldenseal, bloodroot and ferns.
"I was fascinated with the diversity of plant life," Leslie said.
About 12 years ago, they planted blueberry bushes, but they did not do well. A couple years later, they built a greenhouse and bought some plugs for growing bushes. About six years ago, they went to a blueberry farm in Kentucky where the owner taught them how to use cuttings to start their own.
At one time, they had more than 2,000 bushes and sold blueberries to those who wanted to pick their own. However, Chris became disenchanted with the varieties and began pulling the bushes. They now have fewer than 1,000 and are in the process of planting different varieties to build the crop.
Three years ago, they acquired a high-tunnel greenhouse to extend the growing season. High tunnels look like greenhouses but are simpler and less expensive to construct.
"It has no heat or electricity," Chris said. "You can roll the sides up and down and plant directly in the ground."
Through this system, the plants are irrigated from the bottom. The top of the structure protects the plants from the elements while airflow can be regulated through the side vents.
The structure is permanent, and crops are rotated. The current crop of red raspberries will soon be gone. That area can be used during colder months for spinach, radishes and carrots.