By Wendy Nilsen Pollitzer
When John Keith bought Pick Pocket Plantation in 2005, the farmhouse was collapsing. There were actually five holes from ceiling to floor throughout the structure. And the property was overgrown, but Keith was determined to bring the plantation back to life.
The farmhouse and surrounding out buildings, like the mule and milking barns and the blacksmith house needed lots of work. So Keith diligently cleaned up the civil war era site and its buildings. He tore stucco off the main house to reveal wood siding. He cleared the fields, having a near-death experience with a chainsaw in a tree. He even discovered foundations where structures once stood.
While cleaning the overgrowth with a track hoe, Keith noticed four posts in the ground and the remnants of a 2 ft. chimney. He asked former owner, Neil Trask (who grew up on the plantation) if he remembered what was once there. Trask revealed it was a warming house, traditionally meant for keeping the smells and heat of cooking away from the main house. Keith tore the corncrib off the main barn, dug some footers and rebuilt the structure, based on Trask’s description. Trask claims that it looks exactly like the old warming house.
Pick Pocket Plantation was the first acreage owned by the Trask family, which began a truck farming empire of thousands of acres across Beaufort County. The historic plantation home and surrounding grounds now comprise more than 15 acres, located in the center of Burton between the intersections of US 21 and SC 170.
The farmhouse is noted for its distinctive architectural style, unusual exterior board siding, wrap-around porches and cupola or widow’s watch.
Neil Trask, who was born on the property, was friends with the caretaker’s son, Jim Adams, also born on the property. As boys, they would climb the widow’s watch and visually explore the surrounding land for miles. They could see clearly to Mink Point from the location and decided from up there where they would spend their afternoons.
The property now boasts nine historical buildings, including the beautifully restored plantation home. Period antiques bought in Ohio, Tennessee and Georgia from major dealers can be found throughout the home and property.
And now, Keith wants to share the plantation with the people of Beaufort and its visitors. He has partnered with Lara and Alex Lill, the occupants of the caretaker’s house on the property and Lara’s mom, Kathy Lambert, to bring a Framers Market to Pick Pocket Plantation every Tuesday from 2-7 p.m., now through September.
Each of them wants to bring life back to the property, where “It feels like you’ve traveled back in time,” explains Lara Lill.
And Keith agrees when discussing the working-class farm, “When you’re out here, you can feel the energy of the past … the hardships, the laughter, the sorrow, the joy.”
A Farmers Market is just what Keith envisioned for the property. And Beaufort will be awed at Keith’s labor of love while out for the afternoon enjoying the nostalgia of the property.
In addition to fresh vegetables, vendors at the Framers Market will also sell fresh breads and pastries, local specialty foods, local prepared foods and crafts from a variety of local artisans. John Keith will also sell his homemade apple butter and cane syrup, made on site.
“There are no rules at this Farmers Market,” Says Lambert, who had the idea to bring the weekly festival to Pick Pocket. “Customers are savvy. They want choices,” says Lambert who is familiar with all the regional markets from here to Charleston.
The market will also have activities for the kids, competitions and raffles and live music. It’s sure to be fun for kids of all ages. There will also be tours of the plantation, and visitors interested in the property’s equestrian center can take a look at Plantation Stables of Beaufort.
Located at 93 Trask Farm Road, tucked away behind Advance Auto Body on Robert Smalls Parkway, you’ll find Historic Pick Pocket Plantation and Beaufort’s new Farmers Market.
If you are interested in becoming a vendor or if you’d like more information about the market, visit www.pickpocketplantation.com.