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Fifth-generation farmer opens greenhouse right after high school

 It was a humid day in Damascus as a spring thunderstorm had cleared, spotlighting the distant mountains outside Jake Caldwell’s home.“ The mountains are beautiful today,” said the 21-year-old farmer.

Caldwell is the newest generation to love the feel — and even the smell — of soil in his rugged hands. Just two years after graduating from Holston High School in 2018, Caldwell opened Big Jake’s Garden, a greenhouse business selling vegetables, herbs, and flowers. His ambitious goal is to eventually grow and sell garden produce year-round, gradually adding a variety of berries, apple trees, and cherries to the farmland.

“It feels pretty good,” said Caldwell about his new business venture. “But, it can be stressful keeping everything maintained.” The young farmer not only manages the greenhouses after work each day, he works full time at Southern States, Russell County Cooperative, in Abingdon, and goes to school at Virginia Highlands Community College, where he will graduate this fall, specializing in horticulture.

Caldwell and his family meet up at the greenhouse after work in the evenings to get in a few hours of work before bedtime. His mother likes to help with transplanting while her son waters and fertilizes. The father enjoys the customer service part of it. And, the grandmother is everyone’s helper.

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