The American Farmer
Ike Hill is a fifth-generation farmer. His son Fox makes the sixth. Their 1,300-acre family farm in St. George, South Carolina, holds more than a century of their family’s history. Pre-Depression, their family land surpassed 6,000 acres, and Hill candidly shares it was their bootlegging business that allowed them to hold onto those last 1,300 acres.
“Our farm has always been row crops—corn, tobacco, cotton, soy beans—diversified with livestock. Just enough pigs to butcher and sell to the neighbors. Grandma sold eggs. We’ve always had cows. And, we’ve always been a sustainable needs farm—meaning all cash. We’ve never borrowed any money for that farm. In the good years, we build. In the slow years, we scale back,” Hill says.
Every family has a story. And theirs is rich, marked with long days, dirt under their fingernails, and little rest. None of which matters when you have a love for the land. And that is where the Hills’ story intersects with the Bluff. Ike first stepped foot on Palmetto Bluff in 2000. Fox followed about a decade ago, working summers in high school and college and joining the team of The Lindsay Company (one of the Bluff’s contractors) two years ago. In 2000, Ike was responsible for moving the mountains of dirt it took to begin turning the Bluff into what you see today. (And mountain is no exaggeration. The 1 million cubic yards of dirt that Ike has moved would easily overflow the largest college football stadium.)
Ike’s love for the place came quick. And, he’s been at the Bluff in various roles ever since, making the 90-minute commute from St. George twice a day. Let’s do some quick math. He gets to Palmetto Bluff around 7:30 a.m. That means he leaves his house at 6:00 a.m., which means he was up hours before that working on his farm. So, when the Palmetto Bluff Development team reached out last summer and asked for the father-son duo’s tutelage on a potential farm at the Bluff, one must wonder—for just a second—why in the world they said yes.
A full-time job. A full-time farm. Plus, launching the Palmetto Bluff farm. Few would agree to that challenge.
“We like to work, at least that is what my wife says,” jokes Fox, his smile shaded by his cowboy hat. “The American farmer is dying, but if I can evolve the thinking of just a few people through this farm, convince people to support their local farmers, well . . . I’ve done my job.”
For Ike too, it is personal, almost biblical, “I want the best for the Bluff. It needs to be the perfect place. Before I die, I want to contribute to that in any way I can.”
So, for four hours a day, five to six days a week, either Fox or Ike is at the Palmetto Bluff farm overseeing the plantings, the watering, the bee pollination, and the harvesting. They’re meeting with the Palmetto Bluff chefs to understand what produce they’d like to feature on the menu and educating each other. For Ike and Fox, it is understanding how the chefs want to feature produce and herbs on their menus. For the chefs, they are developing an understanding of what grows well in this region. And, all parties are embracing the art of patience.