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Clear Creek Produce has flourished quickly

By Reid Posey

news@oxfordeagle.com

Long before starting Clear Creek Produce, Matt Britt showed an inclination towards farming.

On trips to his grandfather’s farm as a child, Britt would always be the first and most enthusiastic of the grandchildren to volunteer his help.

However, it wasn’t always clear that this would be the direction his life would take. After graduating high school, Britt moved on to a diesel college, which prepared him for the first few years of his professional life.

“I worked in Memphis on big trucks for several years, and I decided that I didn’t like it,” Britt said.

Once he figured out that working on trucks wasn’t the life for him, Britt enrolled at Mississippi State University, where he eventually earned a degree in agronomy and left with a clear vision for himself.

“I left there knowing I was going to grow produce for a living,” Britt said.

Britt said that part of what made produce so attractive to him was the sheer economics of this brand of farming. What started as a modest initial investment has now turned into a flourishing business.

“I started with a little small garden, about seven years ago, with about $50,” Britt said. “Now, I’m doing somewhere around 15 to 17 acres.”

Britt said that he got his start by growing his own tomatoes and selling them to Liz Stagg at the now-defunct Farmer’s Market, a relationship that thankfully can live on due to its reincarnation as Chicory Market.

These initial attempts went well, and Britt has since expanded Clear Creek’s reach into both the Oxford City and Mid-Town Farmer’s Markets, a farmer’s market in Hernando, and even Larson’s Cash Saver.

Additionally, several Oxford restaurants have begun relying on Clear Creek Produce to deliver fresh, quality ingredients for their customers. Britt named Snackbar, City Grocery, Main Event Catering, My Michelle’s, Bottletree Bakery, and the Ravine as just a few examples of local institutions that turn to Clear Creek for fresh produce.

Britt singled out his strawberries, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini as some of his most popular items, although his personal favorites to grow are watermelons and bell peppers. Other offerings include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, greens, onions, and pumpkins.

Britt said that although the typical produce found at grocery stores might not lack in nutritional value, the unmistakable difference in quality of taste with fresh, locally sourced produce gives local farms like Clear Creek an edge.

“We want something that tastes good, plus we want it to look as good as what’s in the grocery store,” Britt said.

Moving forward, Britt said that he is primarily focused on getting his Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. This process, which can prove to be fairly long and arduous, involves implementing a number of workplace safety and sanitation measures, as well as complying with certain standards in terms of cleaning, packing, and storing the produce.

Additionally, Britt said that he is focusing on building a proper shipping facility for the farm.

All of these efforts are building towards Britt’s long-term goal of establishing relationships with larger grocers around the country, though he acknowledges that it will be a gradual process to get to that point.

“It’s something you have to grow into because it doesn’t happen overnight,” Britt said. “My future goals down the road are Walmart or Kroger, shipping 18-wheeler loads.”

Britt said that once he gets to this level, he will likely have to split his crops into two categories. First, he will have wholesale fields which will feature an extra concentration on maximizing shelf life, as he sends this produce to larger chains. Meanwhile, he will also maintain crops designed primarily for local markets, like they are currently.

Somewhere down the road, Britt would also like to explore opening a storefront at the farm where people can purchase fresh produce directly from him, but he said that there are several steps to take before he could get to that point.

In the meantime, however, Britt is simply trying to keep up with Clear Creek’s rapid growth, knowing that soon enough, he’ll have to hire some help exclusively for sales just so he can get some work done out on the farm.

“We’re growing really fast,” Britt said. “It’s a blessing I’d say.”