In late summer and early fall, about 30 years ago, the Conception Bay South highway running from Bay Roberts and Carbonear became an open-air market, with farmers selling fresh produce up and down the sides of the road.
Those farmers came from Shearstown — then near Bay Roberts and now part of that community — where many farms were located. Hodge Acres Farm, owned and operated by the Sparkes family, was one of the largest such farms in the early 1980s, and still runs today.
In 1983, Land & Sea spent a year of farming with the Sparkes family. By then the farm was being run by three brothers — Terry, Doug and Gary Sparkes — who had taken over the farm from their father when he retired.
Farming was the major industry in Shearstown at the time, though things had changed over the year. Sheep farming had once been popular there, but produce was the primary output by the early 1980s.
The busy farming year began in late spring, with icebergs still in the bay and Terry Sparkes planting thousands of heads of cabbage individually covered with small paper greenhouses. By late July, the crops in the fields at Hodge Acres Farm were more varied and included turnips, carrots, beets and potato.
Come fall the Sparkes brothers were hauling up a bumper crop thanks to a season with ideal weather. The women in the family were also hard at work making homemade pickles, using closely guarded family recipes. Once the family was out on the side of the C.B.S. highway once again, they could sell 5,000 jars of those pickles in a fall.
Learn more about the challenges and rewards of farming near Bay Roberts in this episode of Land & Sea, available to watch in full on YouTube.