Scattered throughout East Texas are locales offering farm stays, berry picking, log cabins, grass-fed beef, and gourmet cooking. But at Greer Farm, located just west of Daingerfield, you can enjoy it all in one lovely location.
Sid and Eva Greer are the playful owners of Greer Farm. Eva grew up in Belize with her Polish parents and Sid is a proud Texan and UT graduate. While in the employ of BP Amoco, they traveled the world, lived in Tunisia, London, and Madagascar and retired to a farm purchased in 1979.
The farm itself has been a Texas family homeplace since 1850, earning the distinction of being one of Texas’ first farms. The white clapboard home took two years to restore and is now an inviting respite with rocking chairs on the porch.
Sid’s energy and inquisitiveness are obvious. On a tour of the grounds, he could name (if you really wanted to know) all of the 10,000 bulb flowers and their origins, point out the Nigerian pygmy and Spanish goats, acknowledge the value of their Guinea Hens in controlling fire ants, and explain his unique method of replanting pine seedlings to significantly shorten the harvesting cycle. He promotes the farm as sustainable which is not the same as organic. This approach is a recognition that "there are lots of bugs in East Texas" but also a commitment to good stewardship of the land for future generations. Sustainable farming also includes social responsibility such as good working conditions for laborers. As a trustee for Northeast Texas Community College, Sid is proud that the college has committed to a program to teach sustainable farming.
Always the businessman, Sid prepared a business plan for the farm that continues to guide them. It included raising Maine-Anjou cattle, planting berry orchards, and developing some of the land for timber. When I asked if the goat cheese from our meal was made from their herd, he replied "Cheese making is the last item on our business plan and we’re not there yet".
Eva is a culinary school graduate of the Art Institute of Houston and enjoys incorporating her native Belizean spices into some of her creations. A lifelong cook, she finds herself in the best of worlds. The farm provides her with hand- gathered eggs, beef, chicken, cabrito on occasion, fresh herbs, and vegetables. Her fine cuisine is available through her catering business and for reserved lunches and dinner and special occasions in their home. To enjoy her prix fixe gourmet meals, she requires a minimum of 12 guests, which is understandable after reviewing the choices for the four course meals. You can learn some of her secrets by attending one of her cooking classes. Eva also stays busy developing chicken recipes for Pilgrim’s Pride and supervising the 100 varieties of antique roses in one of the farms’ many gardens. She has achieved her goal of year round flowers.
Visitors can choose among other offered activities at the farm. The blackberry and blueberry patches are now in "full bloom". You can pick your own and take them to the main house to be weighed. Down at the lake, paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes are for hire as well as bicycles. Children would also enjoy the animal feeding time as the goats, chickens, hens, sheep, and horses eagerly approach without inhibitions.
The most recent addition to the farm are the log cabins which face the lake. From the outside, they appear to be built with pine logs as they were 150 years ago. But inside are luxury hotel amenities - high definition TV, WIFI and computer hook up, and Ipod players. The kitchen area is well equipped for cooking meals. Homemade bread, jam and fresh eggs are delivered for breakfast. With screened windows on all four sides and three interior ceiling fans, you can sleep without air conditioning even into the summer. The front porch soothes you with a fourth ceiling fan. Rocking chairs are provided as well as garlic based organic spread to ward off mosquitoes. I get sleepy just thinking about it.
Over the entry doors of the main home are these words, "All Because Two People Fell In Love," an anniversary gift from Sid to Eva. The Greers continue to expand and build their lives together. The difference now is that life is shared with people who can enjoy and appreciate their efforts to sustain and promote farm living. So, until the next column, remember the Greers’ philosophy, "life is simpler when you plow around stumps."
The Greer Farm website is http://www.greerfarm.com/