Earth and Sky

A former fighter pilot gets his feet back on the ground and hands in the dirt, then finds himself in the kitchen.

By Richard Banks | Photos By Jamie Cole

The Garfrerick farm near Pell City, Ala.

The Garfrerick farm near Pell City, Ala.

RECIPE: See the web-exclusive recipe from David Garfrerick for an anti-parasitic supplement for cattle. >>

As a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, David Garfrerick jockeyed a rocket while helping to protect his country. He broke the sound barrier and mastered the art of aircraft carrier takeoffs and landings, piloting a 20-plus-ton jet loaded with ordnance and fuel on and off a football-field-size runway.

“It was a thrill, a challenge,” Garfrerick says, after a little cajoling on the subject. “It’s like being thrown off into the wild, out of control, but it’s a lot of fun.”

But that’s about all you’ll get in the way of description from the mild-mannered former flyboy. He’s no Maverick or Iceman. One has to dig a bit to even learn he graduated from the Naval Academy. And, after piloting F4 Phantoms and the A4 Skyhawks from big boats with names like Nimitz, Roosevelt and Saratoga, he went on to become an executive with Procter & Gamble and Frito-Lay.

“Yeah, it’s just not his style to talk about those things,” says wife, Dede, about her husband and his accomplishments. “It’s not that he’s shy, just quiet and veeery focused,” adding the emphasis with a smile while overlooking their farm—the result of one of Garfrerick’s most recent reinventions of himself.

Garfrerick says he’s always been fascinated by gardening, having raised a variety of vegetables and other plants, even while in the Navy. “I’ve just always loved growing things and wanted some land to retire on, and bought this land, and just started growing things. It got bigger and bigger,” continues Garfrerick about the property near Alpine, Ala., “and at some point, I guess, I just had to start calling it a farm.”

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