At the – W Ranch (pronounced Bar W) in Mullin, Texas, Jeff Wylie is putting in his fourth summer of growing fruits and vegetables. He’s tending several acres of summer squash, black-eyed peas, and cucumbers, and is preparing ground for winter squash, pumpkins, and more. Rows of fruit trees run along the perimeter, and a line of trees marks the creek — the force responsible for creating the deep, rich soil he’s farming.
“It’s like chocolate cake for like six feet down,” Wylie said as he drove along the creek. His dogs came running up after the truck, Bell, the beagle, a little late and a little wet, having stopped for a dip in the lake his grandfather built years ago.
Jeff’s grandfather, Ed Wylie, bought the ranch in the 1960’s and had the foresight to build in a gravity-fed irrigation system that guides the nutrient-rich bottom waters of the lake through to the lowlands by the creek, and Jeff operates a strict, drip-system irrigation to his thirsty plants.
Jeff’s father, Don Wylie, insisted that he fence off the area if he was serious about a vegetable farm, since anybody familiar with west Texas knows that the deer are the real proprietors (and since the rest of the 600-acre ranch is dedicated to cattle). Jeff spent a lot of time building tall fences, but it worked, and he says now he hopes his days as a fencer are over.
Clearly the effort paid off. Over six acres are fenced in and half of those are planted with vegetables in that chocolate-cake-soil. Jeff and a few employees have created a sustainable vegetable farm in the midst of cattle country.
“None of this was down here four years ago when I started,” he says.
Peach, pluot, apricot, and other fruit trees are reaching maturity in the field alongside row upon row of precious vegetables. In the fall, Jeff expects to harvest carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips, among other crops. We can’t wait to try them!
by Cody Garrett, Ham Hustler