In a community where most farmers claim a multi-generation farming heritage, Eric and Brooks Gibbs are unique. As a first generation farming family, the Gibbs started growing mostly peas and butter beans. Almost 20 years later, Gibbs Farms is a major farming operation that includes a packing facility and retail store located near Abbeville in Wilcox County.
For Brooks Gibbs, her childhood dream was to become a school teacher. “As a little girl I always asked for a new chalkboard and school supplies for my birthday and Christmas,” said Gibbs, who graduated with a degree in education in 2007.
“After I graduated there were no jobs here in Wilcox County,” she said. “I started helping Eric on the farm, and eventually I knew that God was calling me to do something. I wasn’t sure what but I knew it was something here on the farm.”
As farm production continued to increase, Gibbs noticed that more customers wanted the peas and butter beans to be shelled.
“Eric was busy selling whole peas and butter beans in bulk at markets throughout Georgia and Alabama,” Gibbs explained. “I wanted to shell them, and then sell them wholesale to markets and stores.”
With an entrepreneurial spirit and a keen eye for a new business venture, Gibbs suggested they open a shelling facility.
“Eric told me that if I could get enough people to agree to buy them wholesale, then he would build me a packing house,” she said. “So that is what I did.”
With business cards printed, Gibbs, along with her mother, and daughter in tow, started promoting shelled peas and butter beans from Gibbs Farm.
“I started helping Eric on the farm, and eventually I knew that God was calling me to do something.
I wasn’t sure what but I knew it was something here on the farm.”
“We got in a car and started driving all over,” said Gibbs, who does not back down from a challenge. “We went to Douglas, Macon, and little towns, and I handed out my business cards.”
With a tenacious spirit and unwillingness to quit, Gibbs finally landed her first wholesale client.
“It took some time, but we finally had enough interest to build the packing house,” she said. “We started getting more wholesale accounts, and now we have semi trucks coming to the packing shed daily during the summer months.”
After opening the packing facility in 2009, Gibbs decided to start shelling pecans.
“I am always thinking about what I can do next,” said Gibbs, who planted pecan trees on the farm eight years ago. “Now we shell pecans for other growers, but in a few years we will have our own pecans.”
With the pecan shelling underway, Gibbs was not out of ideas.
“We have a lot of locals that come to the farm to buy peas and butter beans,” said Gibbs. “I figured we needed to open a retail shop for our local customers.”
Earlier this summer, Gibbs Farm officially opened a store next to the packing facility.
“We have gift items and decorations for the home,” she said, “and we also serve homemade peach and blueberry ice cream.”
Gibbs admits her favorite addition to the farm is the zinnia garden that Eric planted for her this year.
“I have always loved zinnias,” she said. “They have been a big hit. People see them from the road and stop to pick them to take home.”
The mother of three is continuously in motion, as she moves from helping a customer in the store or taking a wholesale order by phone, Gibbs juggles being an agribusiness woman, wife, and mother.
“I always tell people that my children are being ‘barn raised’ here with me at the farm,” she said. “Eric and I are building this for our children. We take a lot of pride in the fact that our family name is on each bag we sell.”
Though the journey was different from what she had imagined as a child, Gibbs said she has no regrets.
“It amazes me how God leads you on a different journey,” she said. “I never thought I would be shelling peas and butter beans for a living, but this shows you that it is God’s plan and not yours. I believe this with all my heart and wouldn’t have it any other way.”