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Today is Saturday April 29, 2017

 

 

iconWhere there was smoke, there's fire at Big S Farms
By Louise Durman, Knoxville News-Sentinal

Where tobacco once grew, habanero pepper plants dot acres of Big S Farms in Parrottsville. Located in the Salem Community near the Cocke-Greene County line, the farm is in the foothills of the Appalachians. It is one of the oldest family-owned farming communities in the United States, says Wesley D. Snyder.

A cultural anthropologist and graduate of the University of Tennessee, Snyder is founder of Big S Farms. In partnership with him are Keith and Shawna Suggs and Vance Carter. The Suggs live at the farm near Parrottsville while Snyder and Carter live in Knoxville. Snyder -- a slightly built, soft-spoken native East Tennessean, whose strawberry-blond hair is tied in a ponytail -- is dedicated to the development of Tennessee farms and of products grown on or made from the crops. His love of habanero peppers and spicy foods led him to growing peppers and producing gourmet hot sauces and salsas. It helps promote a "farming way of life in the region" he says.

"Developing alternative crops with value-added potential offers a solution", he says about replacing peppers for tobacco. Tobacco had long been a cash crop for small farmers, but its demand is decreasing and that's having a "significant impact on the economy of this area." "I wondered what I would do to make a living in Cocke County. The average income there is unbelievably low. It is targeted as a distressed region," he says.

"You can make a living growing vegetables if you can sell them commercially". The acreage at Big S Farms is dotted with various kinds of habanero plants. Orange, white, chocolate, pink, yellow and red habaneros are grown. "There are over 100 varieties habaneros, from zero heat to out through the ceiling", he explains.

 

 
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