Rick Vest, of Vest Berries farm, had a record sweet potato crop this year. The two largest specimens weigh 13 and 14 pounds each! They are Beauregard traditional orange variety; and the other big ones are Murasaki white sweet potatoes. His total sweet potato crop yield for this year was 10,000 pounds.
They were planted on May 21 during very good weather. No fertilizer or chemicals were used on the sweet potatoes. According to Rick, this was an exceptional year for sweet potatoes. They got the rain and sunshine needed at just the right times. Rick said he hilled this year’s crop extra high – up, fifteen inches. Due to the rainy hurricane season, namely Hurricane Florence, they were dug three weeks later than usual.
Sweet potatoes of all sizes are available at the Athens Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, 9am-noon. He also sells wholesale to local restaurants, and takes orders to sell to individuals.
Since the State does not keep official vegetable records, this is an unofficial record sweet potato.
Growing from a young age
Rick began his passion for farming as a young child, as he worked on a truck farm near his hometown of Harrison, Ohio. He moved to Nelsonville to attend Hocking College after high school and never left Athens County. Rick met his future wife, Terry, at Hocking College, and soon began a life together. They have two daughters and four grandchildren. The couple just celebrated 40 years of marriage.
Rick and Terry have owned and operated Vest Berries since the early 1980’s. While maintaining the farm, Rick also had a career as a graphic designer at McBee from 1978-2006. After McBee relocated, Rick rekindled his love for farming. He has been farming full-time ever since. During the spring/summer months, they operate a pick-your-own strawberry farm in Stewart, Ohio.
Over the years, Vest Berries has grown to include much more than just their staple crop, strawberries. On any given Saturday, Rick can be seen at the Athens Farmers Market selling carrots, beets, potatoes, lettuce, kale, squash, and berries, among other fruits and vegetables. He is an active member in the local farming community, serving as a member on the Athens Farmers Market executive committee, and previously on CFI’s Board of Directors.
For those who know Rick, they know what a lively spirit he has. He enjoys talking to people and socializing with fellow farmers at the market. He is a hard-working family-man who would give the shirt off his back for anyone in need. His family is proud of his accomplishments in the community and appreciate the recognition of his gigantic sweet potatoes.
Vest Berries put in a call to the Community Food Initiative’s Harvest Hotline for help harvesting all of this year’s sweet potato crop. Together, they yielded approximately 700 pounds of Yukon potatoes and 1,100 pounds of sweet potatoes that may have gone to waste, but instead has gone to feed people facing food insecurity.