Featured Farmer: Matthews Farm

How sweet it is!

By GreggPatterson,ArkansasFarm Bureau


“Honeymooners” TV show comedian and Hollywoodstar Jackie Gleason’s signature line was “How sweet it is.” In the youth slang of today, if something is really good, kids say it’s “sweet.” No matter what generation you’re from, “sweet” is the key word to describe Matthews Ridgeview Farms in Wynne.

Members Terris and Kim Matthews are living the sweet life farming more than 3,000 acres of sweet potatoes in Cross County. They were the 2008 Cross County Farm Family of the Year. Their operation is the largest sweet potato farm in the state. The effort is all about good ol’ American hard work and the couple’s savvy approach to marketing their products.

Before the couple met, Kim worked for Wal-Mart. Her work involved buying products for several of the retail giant’s stores inTennessee. (That’s how she met Terris.) The experience gave her great insight on how big companies chose products and the producers they buy from.

That knowledge led to the Matthews’ deciding to get the sweet potato side of their farming operation GLOBALGAP certified. (GAP stands for Good Agricultural Practices.). The food safety effort took about a year and a $100,000 investment to ensure good agricultural and safe handling practices on the farm and its 150,000-square-foot headquarters and processing plant in Wynne.

The certification allows Matthews Ridgeview Farms to sell its sweet potatoes internationally.

“It’s opened up a whole new group of customers for us,” Kim said. “They never would have considered us without this certification.”

GLOBALGAP is a third-party private body that sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products worldwide. It covers everything from seed to finished product and includes annual inspections once a farm’s product is certified. The standard reassures consumers about the food’s on-farm production concerning environmental impacts, reduced use of chemicals, animal welfare, and ensuring worker health and safety.

“This type of certification is essential when trying to attract major buyers. They won’t do business with you unless you have it.” Terris said. “It’s critical to expanding our market and the farm’s business.”

Terris is a fourth-generation farmer who struck out on his own from the family’s Matthews Brothers Farm in 2006. Like most successful farms today, diversification is critical to the farm’s success. The farm also grows wheat and soybeans.