Almost 100 years ago in a community rich with potato farming tradition, but light on technology, Danny Johns’ great-grandfather pioneered the first horseless farm in Hastings.
Today, Johns continues the family tradition of farming and innovation at Blue Sky Farms.
“Farmers have the most diverse skill set of any job. We’re marketers, chemists, mechanics, and meteorologists,” Johns says. Like his great-grandfather discovered years ago, Johns believes that “technology allows farmers to do more with less- it mitigates the risk.
Take a look at a clip of the packing house tour given by Danny during the Tour de Farm 2012. Learn a bit about the sorting and packing of our potatoes, as well as the progressive technologies driving our farm.
Blue Sky farm embraces technology that helps farmers work smarter. “Years ago, anyone who could hold a steering wheel could run a tractor,” manager Lance Tilton says. “From when I started farming, 30 years ago, ‘til now it’s a whole new ball game.” Tractors level the land and plant perfectly straight rows for efficiency. GPS technology and computerized components increase yield and efficiency.
Old school innovation isn’t outdated on the farm either. Down-to-earth mulching methods protect plants from insects and rot while watering practices reduce water usage by many gallons and deliver fertilizer without waste.
Johns is an expert in potato farming but is expanding into unfamiliar territory with squash, pickling cucumbers, watermelon, peppers, St. Augustine sweet onions and other garden crops. His goal is to diversify into more locally grown produce and to connect with local families. As a member of First Coast Fresh, a family farm group, Blue Sky Farm is building those relationships to nourish community agriculture in Northeast Florida, by helping small farms to be sustainable both in practice and in business.