Mr. Danny Durrence was nominated by Holly Durrence of Gooseneck, who was the previously featured as one of AllOnGeorgia – Tattnall’s ‘Farms of the Month.” Holly nominated Danny Durrence based on what he offers the community through his farming operation and for his interaction with local schools in the area.
Never mind the windy day or the soggy ground, the u-pick farming operation run by Danny Durrence on Highway 301 just before you cruise into the city of Glennville is just as friendly and welcoming as it could be. The plot is everything you imagine farming to be: vegetables on one side, barns on another, hay, cows, and chickens in the back.
That’s because Danny Durrence of Gooseneck has many irons in his farming fire.
Danny is a fourth generation Tattnall County farmer. Born and raised in the area he still farms, the Durrence blood lines are deep with a love of agriculture as his daddy, granddaddy, and great-granddaddy were all lifelong farmers.
Danny graduated from Georgia Southern with an accounting degree, but that wasn’t the fit for him. While he was in college, he married Sandra Durrence and continued farming on the side. He quickly decided he was not a fan of the office life and headed back to the country.
It was 1974 when he began farming full time. Not the best time to get a farming operation off the ground, you may think, but Danny says he was ‘young and ambitious.’ “I’ve lost the ‘young’ part of that now.” Growing tobacco and hogs, Danny tended around 50 acres the old school way: by hand.
At one time, Tattnall County was one of the biggest hog producers in Georgia, and Danny was in the heat of it, but when North Carolina really took to hogs, it forced many Georgia hog growers out of business.
As the farming industry and equipment evolved, Danny stopped growing tobacco, though he lasted until 1990, much longer than many other tobacco farmers. His farming operation transitioned into the u-pick model with produce that it is today.
And don’t forget the cow business. What started as a brood cow operation quickly evolved into bull development program. People would bring bulls to Danny and he would develop them for about a year before selling them. It was one of the first programs in the United States to develop the two year old program of bulls feeding on grass instead of grain. After six years of grass-fed development, the market expanded with more growers and prices dropped…so he transitioned to selling butchered cows in quarters, halves, or wholes and making sure mama cows are breeding calves.
His cousin in Jacksonville suggested Danny provide meat to the farmer’s market in town and it was a huge success. He’s been taking meat down to Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach for six years. Grass-fed beef is a growing trend, one consumers around the country have created a market for, and while Danny says the process takes longer, the folks he sells to in Florida won’t settle for anything else. Couple the ‘extra time’ with the time Danny spends hauling cows back and forth to Tifton for USDA inspection, you can bet the product is something to be proud of.
But what about the rest of the meat? There isn’t much of a market for him to auction the cows, so the meat pretty much stays in the family…sort of. Danny’s son, Jamie, owns restaurants in Savannah under his business, “Daniel Reed Hospitality.” The Public Kitchen & Bar, Soho South, Local Eleven 10, and Artillery all serve the local, grass-fed meats provided by Danny. You can imagine that keeps him pretty busy. In 2015, he butchered 75 cows alone. As son Jamie expands his restaurant entrepreneurship to Atlanta, the number of cows Danny will need to develop and butcher will almost triple, but he’s not stressed, just blessed.
With all of that, it seems the poultry side of things is an encore, but Danny currently has four chicken houses with Claxton Poultry, something he’s done since 1988.
Nowadays, Danny grows strawberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, and much more, for his u-pick operation -plus a few pecan trees. He’s well known for his farm tours during strawberry season. Kids can come pick a pint of strawberries for just $1 – a good indicator that Danny isn’t in farming for the money. The $1 also includes a hayride to see the cows, chickens, and pigs. “I feel like it’s a way to pay it back to the community.” In 2015, more than 1,500 kids came through the u-pick tour.
His wife, Mrs. Sandra, is a real go-getter and a big part of the farming operation. “She’s a very beautiful lady who doesn’t mind getting into a chicken house,” he says beaming.
His daughter, Jennifer Durrence Bradley is married to Ricky Bradley and she teaches at Pinewood Christian Academy in Bellville. The two have four children, the oldest of whom is a senior in high school and has a strong farming itch. Danny says he’s tried to talk him out of it, but that’s a hard thing to do when someone develops a love for the land.
When asked if he was worried about the future of farming, Danny said, “Worry? I don’t worry about much. Concerned? Yeah.” He lamented that if individuals don’t come up farming in the family, there just isn’t much way into the industry. Between equipment and commodity prices, you have to know someone or inherit land to get off the ground. It’s becoming more and more difficult to make a living off of a family farm, too and competition among farmers in the region doesn’t help either.
You have to have three qualities to be a farmer, Danny says: a good work ethic, mentally tough and spiritually to handle the stress of it all, and be prepared to fall because some years you will.
He wouldn’t change a thing about it, though. “God has blessed us out here. This has been a small family farm in a competitive environment. We aren’t a big farm and I don’t have a desire to be a big farm. I feel like God will continue to take care of us.” The satisfaction of doing a good job is what keeps him going. “You do it, you do it right. You try to do it right the firs time.”
DC Durrence Farm has a website, but they do very little advertising. Word of mouth is the way to go and, of course, swing by if you’re heading south on Highway 301.