Published on Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Bob Hinton and his three brothers were raised in Dover, Florida, the sons of first generation farmers. In fact, they were each born in the small house that sits on the edge of a strawberry field.
Throughout their childhood, the boys worked hard in the fields with their mother, who ran the farming operation, while their dad taught agriculture at a local school. The work wasn’t easy and often had to be done while other children were having fun playing sports or running around with friends. Between chickens, vegetables and citrus, there were always things that needed their attention on the farm.
As the boys grew, they each became involved in FFA. Bob held several officer positions and traveled with the Work Experience Abroad Program. He didn’t think he’d end up back home on the family farm.
"I really didn't want to farm, but when I got away from it and started traveling, I realized how nice it is to have your family all together and be a part of the same operation, and to see each other every day.” Bob recalls. “I went to Europe when I was on the Work Experience Abroad Program. Seeing those families and realizing they were doing the same thing that is so important to me, farming together and living their lives together every day, that lifestyle was something that I really wanted. That's when I decided I wanted to come back to the farm.”
Right after college, Bob returned to Dover and joined his family on the farm full time. Throughout the years, Bob and his brothers have continued to run the farm. They’ve each taken their turn with different responsibilities, but the highlight is always getting outside and running the farm. “Just being outside and getting to see the crops grow, and enjoying the farming atmosphere, that’s everybody’s favorite.” Bob smiles.
As the brothers grew the business and started their own families, the third generation of Hintons started finding their place on the farm. For Bob’s niece, Audra Maxwell, that meant building forts out of clamshell boxes and helping protect strawberries from frost. Even at a young age, she loved having a sense of responsibility on the farm.
“I remember freeze protecting with my dad and thinking it was the best thing ever to be able to stay out all night long. I was saving the strawberries from freezing. It was so fun. We’d go and check all the different gauges and make sure all the rain birds were turning. Little did I know, everybody else thought it was the most miserable night of the year.” Audra laughs. “I just remember thinking that I was having some kind of impact. You know, like, 'That rain bird is not turning! We need to go knock ice off that one.' And I felt so grown up. I felt like I was a part of everybody that was making a difference on the farm.”
Audra’s responsibilities have changed, but her desire to make a difference is still the same. “It kind of gives me goosebumps when I think about growing up here and being the third generation.” Audra continues. “But it makes me feel like it's my responsibility, mine and my cousins' generation, to make sure that the farm progresses. To make sure that in an industry that is progressing every day, that our farm is progressing with it and that we can make it better by what we're learning.”
These days, Audra’s children are the ones filling their bellies with strawberries from the field and watching the tractors work. Audra dedicates most of her time on the farm to food safety. She takes her job very personally. “On the farm level, food safety is so important because our responsibility is to grow a safe product first. We recognize we are growing a healthy product and we're growing a product that we ship all across the country, and so that's been, for three generations, what my family has done. It would be devastating as a company to have some kind of food safety issue, but it would be more devastating to us as people because our number one goal is to make sure that our product is safe.”
People all across the country enjoy the fresh fruits and vegetables the family grows. “It gives you a sense of pride when someone who may have moved out of this community finds a Hinton Farms clamshell in Maryland or Washington and they send you a picture of it." Audra explains. "They're like, 'Look what I found! It makes me feel like home! I found this in my local grocery store and I remember coming out to your house and picking strawberries all the time when we were little, and I found it 2,000 miles away.' It just makes you feel like, through our farm, we've created memories for people, and kind of a sense of home.”
That’s why Hinton Farms Produce farms.
Author: Natalina Sents
Categories: Why I Farm, Why I Farm Roadtrip
Tags: Beck's Blog, Why I Farm, Beck's Hybrids, Natalina Sents, Why I Farm Roadtrip, produce, Florida Farmer, Bob Hinton, Strawberries