Sheila Rice and her father, Gerald Calhoun, run their family farm, Calhoun Produce.

Sheila Rice and her father, Gerald Calhoun, run their family farm, Calhoun Produce.

It could be said that Calhoun Produce has the best of both worlds. The family-owned farm and agritourism destination in Ashburn certainly has the best of both interstate exits.

“We’re in between two exits off (Interstate) 75,” says Sheila Rice, who helps run Calhoun Produce with her parents and brother. “We’re 6 miles off one exit and 8 miles off the other. We’re rural but close enough to the interstate to see a lot of travelers stopping by.

“We are a destination. We’ve set up some billboards and we’ll have tourists come every year as they’re traveling to Florida or wherever. Once people find us, they think it’s worth it and will plan to come back the next time.”

GA ag [INFOGRAPHIC]The farm on which Calhoun Produce is located has been in the family for 100 years, having been started by Rice’s maternal grandfather. The produce company was established in 1992 and, in addition to Rice, is owned and operated by her parents, Gerald and Joyce Calhoun, and her brother, Brad.

“You always have your ups and downs, but you have that opportunity to make those memories,” Rice says of working daily with her family. “My daddy is 74 and my mother is 71, and they work hard every day, sunup to sundown. They put all that extra effort into it to make it what it is. Our kids help when they’re out of school.”

Gerald Calhoun and his son, Brad, check out young butterbeans.

Gerald Calhoun and his son, Brad, check out young butterbeans.

A Learning Experience

It makes sense that the family-owned business is a family- and kid-friendly destination. During the spring and fall, just about every school in the area makes field trips to Calhoun Produce Monday through Friday, and Saturdays are typically for families, church groups and tourists enjoying the experience and learning about farm life along the way.

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“We try to educate everybody,” Rice says. “Visitors have fun, but they’re getting an educational experience at the same time. We get repeat schools every year. The teachers enjoy it and get a lot out of it just as their students do.”

The highlight of spring – typically March through May – is the 2.5 acres of strawberries grown on the farm, offering visitors a U-pick outing, as well as delicacies such as homemade strawberry ice cream, strawberry shortcake and strawberry lemonade. Early summer is blackberry-picking season, and afterward, Rice and her family turn their attention to the butterbeans and peas they’ve been growing on the farm since 1980. They have a packing operation on their property as well, where they can fully prepare the beans and peas for selling wholesale to area grocery stores. They’re also sold to farmers markets and through the farm market at Calhoun Produce, as is other produce such as squash, okra, peaches, tomatoes, onions, watermelons and a fall crop of vegetables.

Gerald Calhoun shows off a freshly shelled butterbean at Calhoun Produce, a family-owned farm and agritourism destination in Ashburn that grows and raises strawberries, goats and more.

Gerald Calhoun shows off a freshly shelled butterbean at Calhoun Produce, a family-owned farm and agritourism destination in Ashburn that grows and raises strawberries, goats and more.

Fall activities include a 7-acre corn maze, wagon rides, pumpkins and gourds, visits with farm animals and the honeybee house, and plenty of farmyard games throughout October. Calhoun Produce even stays busy in November and December, assembling and selling gift baskets and boxes of gourmet jellies, chocolates, brittles, honey and other items. The farm market also sells farm toys, jams and jellies, rooster home décor and plenty of food.

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“It’s just a good family environment on our farm,” says Rice, who is on the board of Georgia Grown and an active member. “I love my job. I wouldn’t take anything for it.”

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