Folks on the Farm: Charley Overbay

Read on to hear about my Produce Manager Charley.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Charley Overbay and I have been here in Big Sandy for about a year, since last April. I am married, for four years. I have a two and a half year old son named Davey and a six month old named Kierran. Both of which are very happy and very fun to have around. My wife, Stephanie is from Georgia and I am from Colorado and we met in Idaho going to school.

What kind of things do you like to do in your free time?

I’m an outdoors kind of guy. Put me outside and I’ll be happy. Lock me inside and I’ll be knockin’ walls down to get out. Yeah, basically anything outside. I grew up and did the scouting program and became well-acquainted with hiking and camping, fishing, biking. Those kind of things. I don’t have quite as much time to do it now as an adult with a full-time job and family responsibilities but we went fishing a couple days ago.  I actually caught a catfish and ate it and it was really good.

What’s a fun fact some people may not know about you?

I’ve been to Australia and Great Britain. Which are both pretty neat places to travel. I went to Australia when I was 16 to run in an international cross country race. And I went to England and Wales, specifically, for a two-year service mission for my church and had a great time.

What’s your position on the farm?

I’m the produce manager. Bob has a three-quarter acre orchard that has mostly apple trees, about twenty different varieties of apples, as well as sour cherries, pears, plums, apricots. Then a bunch of different berries, like raspberries, currants, elderberries, juneberries, buffalo berries, to name a few.  We also have close to five acres of dryland vegetables. Part of it is indian corn, sweet corn, potatoes, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, and some onions.  Finally a few rows of miscellaneous flowers or trials, things that we’re testing out. Those are my main responsibilities. In addition to that, I also help out with the landscaping around the house and then, this year, I helped with the seeding. Did a lot of cultivation, helping Seth with that. Then just whatever else needs an extra pair of hands, I’m there to help.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Growing produce. I’m really passionate about growing the fresh fruit and vegetables and it’s really exciting to me to be able to harvest something and eat or sell something that I’ve been a part of the whole process. From cultivating the ground, planting the seed, weeding, watching it grow, harvesting, delivering it, seeing the smiles on the customers face and hearing the reports of their satisfaction.

What changes or additions would you make to your current position and why?

To start, there’s a few more things I would try to sell. Like things from the orchard. There’s a smaller quantity of them but there are companies around that would take whatever they could get. Be it the school or the local deli. So going forward, I would be interested in selling more of the things from the orchard but currently there’s either no time to get them harvested or there’s just enough harvested for Bob and his family.

What goals do you hope to help Bob achieve in your work?

He’s interested in local food production and having a community that grows and produces their own food and eats what they grow and grows what they eat. But there’s not very many fruit and vegetable growers in this part of the country. Bob really has an interest in growing things that are able to be grown here. Obviously they can be under adjusted practices. But everything we grow is dryland so the plant spacing is spread out further than an irrigated setting. The goal then is to help Bob increase the interest and familiarity with local food production.

Bob also has an interest in doing some church service and leaving for a year and a half to two years, being away from the farm. So he’s trying to establish a team of individuals that can manage the farm in his absence. And I’m interested in helping him be able to do that service that he’s interested in.

How did you become aware of Bob Quinn and this position?

I found out about him through university back in 2013. I was going to BYU Idaho and often there’s people that come and visit campus and so through the emails you’ll get a notice that a person from this company or this company is coming to do a seminar and conduct interviews and that kind of thing. So I’d attended a few of those but when I saw that there was an organic farmer coming to campus I was super excited. Unfortunately I had class at the same hour that he was visiting and giving his speech so I wasn’t able to attend his actual speech. But I knew that an organic farmer was coming, so I looked him up online, did a little bit of research of who Bob Quinn was and his farm. I typed up a brief cover letter, printed off my resume and ran across the hall after my class, got in line and introduced myself. I just asked him, do you happen to do anything with fruits and vegetables on your farm? From the research that I’d done, I knew about the KAMUT® grain and large-scale field crops that he did, the safflower and different barley and alfalfa and those kind of crops. But it didn’t really say anything about vegetables, so that was my question for him: Do you do anything with fruit and vegetables on your farm? And he said, well actually we do. For about the past six or seven years, we’ve been doing variety trials on corn, potatoes, squash, trying to figure out which varieties grow well and yield well and taste good in our area. We’ve narrowed down varieties and we’re looking for somebody to take it to the next step and take the product and commercialize it, get it out to the customers. So he invited me to come out to the farm and I was interested but I had a farming job in Idaho and I didn’t envision being able to take time off to come up here. But he called me about a month later after I met him, and said, so when are you comin’ up? When are you going to come visit the farm? So I talked to my boss about it and we arranged a weekend to come up in the summer. I toured the farm and liked what I saw and ultimately decided to come up and give it a try.

So did you grow up on a farm in Colorado?

I would call it a hobby farm. I was actually born in Kansas and my dad farmed there. But then we moved to Colorado and we moved into town for five years. When I was nine we moved out onto forty acres and we had horses and chickens and a couple steers and pigs and turkeys. And a big garden. So we had a farm life, but it wasn’t our livelihood, we weren’t selling any of the things for a living.

 What qualifications or education was required for this position?

I don’t know if there’s an exact requirement. I think it was for Bob in hiring someone for the position, I think he was looking for someone that was interested in produce, a hardworker, excited, ambitious. Somebody that was willing to start from the beginning and push through and see what could come. But I guess the education I do have is a bachelors degree in agronomy, which provided a good foundation. Plus I have about six years work experience on a farm, working with fruits and vegetables. I think that was kind of a big help there.

 What do you enjoy about working for Bob?

Bob’s an excited person. He’s always got something to do. There’s no idle time. If you think you’re done with your to-do list, he’s got another to-do list to pass along to you so there’s no shortage of things to be done. Which can be good and bad. It’s good because there’s always new things to learn, so you get exposed to multiple tasks. Good learning experience. But it also makes for long hours. I enjoy his excitement.  His enthusiasm. His interests in organic agriculture and his smile, his attitude, his kindness to the people around him.

What are your thoughts on organic farming? Were you familiar with organic farming before working with Bob?

I knew that it existed but I wasn’t necessarily familiar with the USDA guidelines and requirements for organic agriculture. I’ve always been interested in organic farming. I’ve always wanted to work on or own an organic farm. Definitely an interest in organic farming and knowing more about it. But not really very much firsthand experience with it.

 Looking forward, would you encourage your children to be organic farmers?

I think so, yeah. First off, I’m not necessarily the type that thinks, I’m a farmer, my son has to be a farmer, my daughter has to marry a farmer, kind of thing. I personally enjoy it. I’ll enjoy all the help they’re willing to give me as they grow up. And if they’re interested in farming, then I’ll definitely support them. But if they’re not and they’re interested in pursuing a different direction for a career I’m perfectly fine with that.

 In conclusion, has working on an organic farm changed your perceptions about farming and food supply?

Yeah. I would say working on an organic farm has changed my perception. A lot of people will tell you that you couldn’t provide food without the chemicals of conventional agriculture. But having been on an organic farm and seeing the way that it works and the crops. We’re definitely producing good, high-quality food, both on the grain side, the oil side, the forage side, and the fruit and vegetable side as well. Yeah, yields may be slightly less than the conventional side but I think the health of the system is better. It makes me excited to be out there and a part of it and to be part of the solution rather than just spraying some chemicals on for a quick fix.