No bypassing their produce . . . quality and location are good combo for D&F Farms

Posted on Aug 29, 2013
D&F Farms has developed a loyal following over the course of more than 20 years of selling homegrown produce on the outskirts of Somerset.  So much so, in fact, that production has steadily swelled to where partners Dwight Faulkner and Lloyd Derossett raised 30 acres this season.

Dwight Faulkner (left) and Lloyd Derossett have done well raising produce in Pulaski County.  Behind them is a plot of green beans.
Dwight Faulkner (left) and Lloyd Derossett have done well raising produce in Pulaski County. Behind them is a plot of green beans.

One factor in this success was the construction of the Hwy 914 bypass east of town. That route connects the flood of visitors to Lake Cumberland from the north, including the so-called “Ohio Navy,” a term coined to describe the huge number of Ohioans who come to the lake. The bypass runs about a mile west of the D&F market, which is on Elihu Rush Branch Road.  Some well-placed signs along the bypass and the short route leading to the market from the bypass have enticed many lakegoers to drop in for some fresh produce. The message is simple: “Fresh Produce.”

“We get a lot of weekend traffic; you’ll see license plates from all over,” said Faulkner. “It’s especially busy when they’re going back home. They come in to pick up something to take home with them.”

And there’s plenty to choose from, including tomatoes that have a lofty reputation. “We’re definitely best known for our tomatoes,” Faulkner acknowledged. “But we should be good at it – we’ve had a lot of experience.”

D&F Farms has modest market center and a loyal customer base. Its market season runs from mid-June to early September.
D&F Farms has modest market center and a loyal customer base. Its market season runs from mid-June to early September.

Indeed, Faulkner and Derossett have had a fruitful (pun intended) relationship since teaming up back in the early 1980s to raise some tobacco.  The two worked together at a mental health facility in Somerset. Faulkner was raised on the farm where the market is located, just southeast of town. Derossett comes from a Clinton County farm.

After a few tobacco crops the duo started growing tomatoes for the Monticello-based Cumberland  Farm Products Cooperative.  “We grew thousands of pounds a year and did well with it,” Faulkner recalled. “That turned out to be one of the best marketing cooperatives around.”

Success with tomatoes prompted the two to try vegetables. One commodity led to another, and eventually the roadside market emerged in the early 1990s, with Faulkner’s mother keeping shop. Today, the market is tended by members from both families.  The season usually runs from mid-June to mid-September. D&F Farms is enrolled in KFB’s Certified Roadside Farm Markets program, and program coordinator Kara Keeton describes their operation as “top notch.”

The offerings include three varieties of tomatoes, three varieties of green beans, several varieties of peppers and melons, sweet corn, cabbage, cucumbers, onions and so on. “We have a few pumpkins too, although we don’t do the fall stuff,” Faulkner said.

Most of the produce is grown on the family farm which surrounds the market. The rest comes from a site north of town. D&F Farms uses H-2A workers.

A series of signs guide consumers to D&F Farms from the Somerset bypass. This sign is off KY 769 at the entrance to Elihu Rush Branch Road, where the market is located.
A series of signs guide consumers to D&F Farms from the Somerset bypass. This sign is off KY 769 at the entrance to Elihu Rush Branch Road, where the market is located.

Faulkner and Derossett, who are both retired from 27-year careers in public health, also have a knack for marketing. They’ve found a wholesale market in Ohio and Indiana, sending product to the northern regions of those states in advance of local harvests. They sell at farmer’s markets in Lexington and Crab Orchard.  They do some business with a Louisville wholesaler and send bell peppers to a Tennessee distributor.

Faulkner says this was a great growing season.

“We were a few weeks early this year; it’s gone well.”

The market normally closes for the season in early September. “We go until everything is gone, which is usually right after Labor Day weekend,” said Faulkner.

Tagged Post Topics Include: Certifiied Roadside Farm Markets, Clinton County, Crab Orchard, Cumberland Farm Products Cooperative, Dwight Faulkner, Elihu Rush Branch Road, H-2A workers, Indiana, Kara Keeton, Lake Cumberland, Lexington, Lloyd Derossett, Market, Monticello, Ohio, Produce, Somerset