An old dream re-imagined, Carla and Ray Humphrey are the owners of Blueberry Hills Farm, a livestock farm located in Opelika. Ray and Carla married in 1971 and both started as students at Auburn University early that fall.
“We had to cut our honeymoon short in order to make it to the first day of classes that semester, the fall of 1971,” Ray said.
Ray and Carla both graduated from Auburn University in the spring of 1973 and relocated to north Alabama to work as teachers.
However, the loveliest village on the plains continued to call to them and they moved back to the area briefly in 1981 so that Carla could earn her master’s degree from Auburn.
“We left the area for a second time after this stint in service, and after another hiatus of about 20 years we returned to the area to make it our permanent home,” Ray said. “No better place to live than The Plains. “We have always wanted to have a small farm with a log-cabin style home. We were able to find that in the Beauregard area, which also happened to have a fairly new log-cabin home on the property.”
Ray said that he and his wife are longtime fans of the old television show, “Green Acres”, which played a part in the inspiration for their move and the decision to open up their own farm.
“Green Acres” tells the story of a husband and wife who make a move from the city to the country to open a farm and live a simpler life off of their new farmland, mirroring the real-life story of Ray and Carla. Ray said that he and Carla had always dreamed of opening up their own farm, and with the creation of Blueberry Hills Farm, that dream became a reality.
“I know that this would have been the ideal situation when we were much younger, but we were determined to fulfill our dream, which was the inspiration for us to open our own farm,” Ray said.
Blueberry Hills Farm opened in 2009 and although the farming practices have slowed down, the Humphreys still live on the farm and primarily use it to raise goats, chickens and to sell eggs to the local community.
“We never had many crops, although we tried our hands with a few items from a small garden,” Ray said. “I planted and picked crops and Carla processed vegetables to be frozen and canned. Ultimately, we realized that we are better balanced working a smaller farm operation.”
Ray said that while they have scaled the crop production back on the farm, they still enjoy the work and have planted enough blueberry plants on the farm to keep them well supplied.
“Hopefully, some of the other orchard items will soon give us a better variety of fruits,” he said. “It just takes a while for that to happen, but we are in no rush. We still have a little time left.”
Ray said that although he was raised in the country on a working farm, Carla grew up in the city and they both experienced some growing pains as they worked to get the farm up and running.
“My dad was a cotton farmer in north Alabama, where we also had several truck-patch gardens,” Ray said. “When I was younger, it was hard for me to see the value in getting up early in the morning to chop or pick cotton and work until the sun went down. Many times, I said I would never be a farmer, but now I love it.”
Ray said that as the years have gone by, he has grown to love running the farm and has since “eaten his own words” and now appreciates the amount of hard work and dedication it takes to run a successful farm.
Ray said that he and Carla have learned a lot since their farm opened back in 2009, both about running a farm and the ways that the hard work and lifestyle can take a toll on the farmers who run it.
“We began our farm raising registered Appaloosa horses, Jersey milk cows and Saanen milk goats,” Ray said. “Gradually we added more animals with turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, peafowl, guineas, etcetera.
However, Carla laid down the law pretty quickly that we wouldn’t be raising hogs on the farm due to the foul odor they carry.”
Ray said that not only would they care for the animals on the farm, but they also prepared and cured hogs for winter butchering.
He also said that while they loved caring for all of the animals on the farm, they faced many challenges and a strain on their personal lives and health due to work involved with caring for them.
“Carla is a breast cancer survivor and a very hard worker,” Ray said. “She is also a loving, caring and selfless wife and mother.
“Although we raised some beautiful Appaloosa horses, Jersey cows and Saanen goats, we realized that we were putting more money into the farm operation than we were getting income from it.”
Ray and Carla decided to cut back and reduce the production on the farm.
“We exchanged all of our large animals for a few Jersey-Angus cows to put in the freezer,” Ray said. “For a couple of years we cut so far back that I really missed caring for the animals.”
Ray said that soon after that, a shoulder injury and surgeries led him to explore incorporating smaller livestock into the farm.
“We began growing our herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats and all of our birds dwindled down to just chickens, but we still have all of the eggs we can eat, and Carla has some to sell and give away,” Ray said.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are miniature goats originating from West Africa and are primarily used for milk production.
According to the official Blueberry Hills Farm website, Nigerian Dwarf Goats also make nice pets due to their small stature and friendliness, and their milk can be used to make soaps, lotions and food products. Today, the farm primarily focuses on raising and selling those Nigerian Dwarf goats to the local community, and all goats sold on the farm are officially registered with the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA).
Registering the goats with the ADGA allows each Nigerian Dwarf Goat to be recorded and ensures the preservation of the pedigrees of dairy goats, provides genetic management and related services to dairy goat breeders, per the official ADGA website.
“Although our farming practices have slowed somewhat, we still enjoy rising early to feed and care for animals and to see another beautiful day in Opelika, Alabama,” Ray said.