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Ottingers reap harvest back on farm

The back of Phillip Ottinger’s pick-up truck is packed with corn as he prepares for the weekly farmers market in Jonesborough.
Customers line up at his tent to purchase his sweet corn, squash, raspberries and cucumbers as the market begins. Before noon, he has sold all his corn and most of his other products as well.
Ottinger’s success is the fruit of his hard work and passion for farming.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering and a master’s in environmental engineering, the Greene County native spent 30 years working in Nashville, Oak Ridge and Greeneville so that he could eventually begin farming.
“I always planned to come back to the farm,” he says. “But you don’t make a lot of money farming, so you have to inherit a farm or you do something else to earn the money to be able to farm.”
Ottinger and his wife were able to return to Greene County, where they purchased his in-laws’ farm after her parents passed away.
The farm was originally purchased by one of his wife’s family members in 1890 and nowqualifies as a Tennessee Century Farm.
It is packed with a variety of fruits, vegetables, berries and animals. Ottinger grows and sells blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, pumpkins, fall squash, sweet corn, cantaloupe, watermelons and beef cattle.
He also has an orchard where he grows 16 different varieties of apples, including Gala, Honey Crisp, Fuji and Pink Lady.
While Ottinger brings his produce to customers at the farmers market, he believes that picking fruit is a special experience to which many young people no longer have access.
He invites customers to visit his farm – Buffalo Trail Orchard – in Greeneville where this year visitors may pick berries, pumpkins, gourds and squash. To enhance the experience, Ottinger also gives hayrides.
“I really enjoy having families with small kids come out to the farm,” he says. “It’s exciting to see the little kids, especially if you take them out into the pumpkin patch and they see these huge pumpkins that they can sit on and take pictures.”
Ottinger, his wife and their daughter do the majority of the work on the farm.
After his daughter, who he says has been a big help on the farm, begins school at the University of Tennessee in the fall, Ottinger will likely look for an intern to assist at the farm in exchange for food and housing.
“It’s amazing to me that young people would want to do that,” he says. “I’ve got a son who lives in Madison, Wis. He goes out and helps some friends on their farms. We usually talk to him every Sunday. After he tells me what he’s done over the weekend, I say, ‘I couldn’t have paid you to do that at home.’”
Ottinger also has a garden that he grows for himself and his family.
“We have just a little family garden that we don’t sell out of,” he says. “We have potatoes and tomatoes, okra, beets, beans and the typical garden vegetables. We grow what we like to eat.”
For more informationa bout Buffalo Trail Orchard, call 639-2297.