Featured #SwampFarmer: Mill Village Farms

Photo Courtesy of www.millvillagefarms.org

Veggies for a cause! Mill Village Farms exhibits everything we love about supporting local farmers and building community. By supporting Mill Village Farms and buying their delicious and nutritious produce, you are also supporting their skill-development and career programs that help at-risk youth in the area. 

 

Mary and Megan

The farms were created in 2012 by Dan and Noah, the Founder and Executive Director of Mill Village Ministries. While Mill Village Farms now acts as a separate entity under the guidance of Megan, the Farm Director, and Mary, the Farm Manager, it retains the sense of family and community outreach that Mill Village Ministries has created in the West Village of Greenville. There are summer programs that provide paid jobs to youth in the area. This provides invaluable work experience and a team of support. The experience leads to not only skills that the youth can take further into life, but is a source of self-confidence and gratification in seeing hard work grow.

 

The farms that make up Mill Village are located in three different areas of Greenville and Easley. These farms are located in places that can be deemed “food deserts.” A “food desert” is an area where access to fresh, whole foods such as vegetables and fruit are unavailable to the people living there. These are usually in rural or low-income neighborhoods where access to transportation is limited. Mill Village Farms has created community farms that provide healthy, affordable, nutrient rich produce to these areas. Walking around these farms was truly an amazing and heart touching experience for the employees here at SRCG.

 

A Hydroponic Tomato Tower!

The team at Mill Village Farms works tirelessly to secure grants to be able to continue operations and to expand the practices they use in working towards complete sustainability. There are many different farming practices involved to produce the Appalachian Certified veggies at Mill Village Farms. Currently, there is a mixture of both hydroponic systems, where vegetables are grown in natural nutrient-dense flowing water, and traditional soil farming. The farms are also in the process of updating their aquaponics system. Aquaponic farming systems utilize the sustainable system of providing fresh, organic nutrients produced by fish to hydroponically grown plants that in turn help purify the water being used.  The farms are in the process of becoming Organic Certified, and while the process for that can take a bit, they are currently practicing everything that encompasses organic farming. The farms are a great model for all that can be done in a small space with maximum impact on the community surrounding them.

 

Veggie Washing Master!

Mill Village Farms has also taken over the Crop Stop in West Greenville that was originally run by Clemson Extension. This is where all of the veggie cleaning and storage happens. All vegetables are super fresh when arriving to customers, arriving in our store and to the public after being harvested that morning. The Crop Stop provides both dry and cool storage as the farms grow to provide for a larger consumer base. There is also a community kitchen that is being renovated so that people from the area can come learn and benefit from the process of canning. Keep an eye out for the Mobile Market driving around that goes to low-income neighborhoods, food deserts, and business parking lots to sell fresh vegetables to people right off the truck!

 

Mill Village Farms is one of the best examples here in Greenville of teaching everyone, no matter their background, the benefits of getting to really know your food. Furthering farming and nutrition education to the public and providing a healthy source of meals and support are the foundations of SRCG and we are so happy to partner with Mill Village Farms to support this cause. We even have some of the youth that have graduated from the summer program working in our store! Feel free to ask us how to get involved or visit their website www.millvillagefarms.org for more information.

 

 

Mill Village Farms, Megan and Mary, you all are doing amazing work and we are so excited to have you as a part of our #swampfarmer family!

 

Featured #SwampFarmer: Putney Farm

Donna and Leonard Photo: Chelsea Peeples

Putney Farm is a natural bird heaven located in Honea Path, SC that has been providing SRCG with beautiful rainbow “Easter Eggs” and duck eggs to sell to our customers since we opened! Donna Putney and her husband Leonard have created an oasis on their farm where chickens and ducks are free to roam and live healthy and natural lives. The flock is the epitome of both “free-range” and “pasture-raised” in that the birds have over 10 acres of land that they are free to roam and feast on as they like. These terms can be tricky to understand in the current market, so seeing first-hand how happy and free the hens are at Putney Farm was amazing. With plenty of wooded areas and bushes for cover, as well as a few roosters to keep them safe, predators are naturally warded off. We loved seeing the chickens and ducks dashing excitedly around us!

 

Since 2006, Putney Farm has grown to include over 375 heritage breed chickens and 30 ducks. Donna has selected over 8 different breeds of heritage chickens for Putney Farm that are absolutely beautiful. A heritage-breed chicken is a variety that hasn’t been genetically altered or cross-bred for many generations and can also be called “heirloom.” Not only are these chickens wonderful to look at, the many varieties that Putney Farms includes result in the rainbow assortment of colored eggs that you see at SRCG! The difference in color depends on the breed of the chicken; the beautiful green eggs that you see are from the Americana breed more commonly referred to as “Easter Eggers!”

 

Putney’s eggs are not only beautiful, but super tasty and nutrient dense compared to common hybrid white varieties that you find at many grocery stores. Have you ever been curious about the duck eggs we at the store, but aren’t sure if you should try them? You should take the leap! Not only are they creamier than a chicken egg when scrambled, they also contain twice the nutritional value. They are super high in Vitamin A and B-12 as well Omega 3’s and good cholesterol that help to support healthy brain function. Duck eggs can also be used in baking as a substitute for chicken eggs! They are bigger and fluffier when whisked (definitely no complaints there!) than a chicken egg so make sure to substitute correctly.

 

I spy with my little eye…CHICKENS!!!

Donna and Leonard have never altered their land in an unnatural way. The chickens and ducks have lived their lives pecking on chemical-free soil that is rich in nutrients and bugs, a natural source of protein. Putney Farm is both Certified SC Grown and Appalachian Grown. The feed that is left out to supplement the natural diet the chickens have is Non-GMO, but with the availability of natural foraging the animals don’t eat much of it. If a bird were to fall ill (which very rarely occurs) it would be isolated and no antibiotics would be used. Donna has an extensive knowledge of natural herbs, plants, and healing medicines that help to keep the flock healthy.

 

Putney Farm also takes sustainability one step further by taking SRCG’s compost each week back to their farm! Not only does this reduce waste for our store, the birds on the farm are provided with additional sources of nutrients and contribute to creating more nutrient-dense soil. It’s a complete circle of sustainability! This compost soil that is then created at Putney Farm is used as a natural fertilizer for the no-till garden located on the property. Donna has introduced our customers to native plants that she grows in the garden as well as forages for such as Shiso and Lamb’s Quarter. Both of these plants have beneficial properties when brewed in tea or eaten to help with inflammation. Keep an eye out for them in the store soon!

Yum Plants!

Donna found her love in farming when she wanted to adapt a healthier lifestyle after recovering from a serious illness. A healthy body starts on the inside! She is a big supporter of natural living and was a nurse for many, many years in Florida and Illinois. She transitioned to becoming known as the “Plant Lady” to start and has designed the gardens at both GSP International Airport and Haywood Mall. Both Leonard and Donna have a ton of fascinating bits of knowledge to share, including Leonard’s duck herding method of holding out your arms and only wiggling your fingers. We’ve dubbed them his “Bird Spirit Fingers.” Donna’s trick to tell if the eggs you get are fresh is to fill a bowl full of water and if the eggs sink they’re good!

 

Professional Duck Herder

The wealth of knowledge and the open hearts that both Donna and Leonard have at Putney Farm creates a unique and beautiful addition to our #swampfarmer family!

Risk it for the Strawberry and Cream Biscuit(s)

The best people in the world will tell you that the best part about Spring is of course…strawberries! And even better? strawberry and cream biscuits. Homemade strawberry and cream biscuits that is…

If the sounds of making biscuits scares you, take heart! You’re not alone. It can be a daunting task, but with the right recipe, making biscuits from scratch is really quite easy! Lucky for you, our beloved Chef Season has created a simple and easy to follow recipe that will have you baking in no time. Check it out! And if you like this recipe, you’d better consider joining us for one of our Cook Local cooking classes!

 

 

Strawberry and Cream Biscuits

Makes 12-15 biscuits

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 cup cane sugar                                                                                             

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled (We love Happy Cow Creamery’s butter!)

1 cup fresh local strawberries, quartered

1 cup heavy cream, chilled (We love AtlantaFresh‘s heavy cream – made in Atlanta from 100% grass-fed cows!)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with a silpat liner or parchment paper.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. 
  3. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or two knives until the butter is about the size of a pea. 
  4. Gently stir in the strawberries until they’re coated with flour.
  5. Add the heavy cream into the flour mixture a splash at a time and stir until just combined into a shaggy dough.  You may not use all the cream.
  6. Place dough onto a floured surface.  Using floured hands, divide, stack, and press the dough 5-8 times.
  7. Roll out dough on a floured surface to about 3/4- inch thickness.  Cut out rounds of desired size.  Place biscuits on the lined baking sheet very close together and to the sides of pan. 
  8. Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Light, flaky and delicious, these are a serious crowd pleaser. Whip up a batch for breakfast or dessert and then sit back and enjoy the praise that’s sure to follow your incredible biscuit making skills. Just don’t forget to stop by the grocery and buy the best possible ingredients! 

 

 

 

 

Featured #SwampFarmer: Hurricane Creek Farms

Jesse Adkins is the multi-talented farmer and owner of Hurricane Creek Farms in Pelzer, SC. During his successful career in landscape design, Jesse had the fateful discovery of a hydroponic farm near one of his clients. He found the ingenuity behind hydroponics fascinating and thought that he would give it a try in 2006! He has built and maintained the 1800 ft2 greenhouses himself and grows everything from ginger to tomatoes! It’s the beautiful red and delicious tomatoes that we can get all winter long that hooked us here at SRCG. We even use them for our fresh tomato sauce on pizza!

 

Jesse’s hydroponic system utilizes only water and a blend of naturally occurring mineral salts and other vital nutrients that a plant needs. Unlike soil that may contain an unknown composition and is not easily manipulated, a hydroponic system allows a farmer to know exactly what and how much of a certain nutrient is being fed to the plants. Jesse is able to tell us everything single mineral that he uses and even sends samples of his water to the extensive hydroponic crop program at Ohio State to be tested. The transparency of a hydroponic system is amazing because, in the end, the saying “You are what you eat” is totally true.

 

The specific hydroponic systems that Hurricane Creek Farms utilizes are the Dutch Bucket System to grow tomatoes, peppers, and herbs and the Raft System for lettuce. Both of these systems allow for a fresh, clean, nutrient packed flow of water to pass by the root ball of the plant constantly. The greenhouses are heated from the floor up using a wood boiler that Jesse stocks with logs from tree removal services that were going to be thrown in a landfill. Both of the systems used are very sustainable, using 10% of the water that a soil farm needs with relatively no waste because all of the nutrients are sucked up and converted to food for the plants. Since the veggies are getting all of the nutrients they could possibly want, this actually leads to a quicker grow time and, Jesse says, a sweeter tasting fruit and vegetable. We got to stuff our faces with some of his kale while we were there and we totally agree!

 

Walking into the tomato greenhouse is like walking into the most delicious forest ever! Add in the beautiful, natural sunlight from above and we were in heaven! The Beefsteak and Piccolina cherry tomato plants that we saw can grow up to 18 feet tall! Hurricane Creek grows over 7 tomato varieties and even utilizes the suckers that are pulled off a growing plant by repotting them. One tomato plant can produce up to 20 lbs of fruit in its lifetime and with over 1000 plants Jesse will hand-pick over 400 lbs of tomatoes in a day! The great thing about hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes is that they produce fruit all year long without sacrificing taste due to a steady source of nutrients. This means that we will be able to have fresh pizza sauce all year long here at Swamp!

 

In addition to the tomatoes that we could go on about all day, Hurricane Creek also has freshly milled cornmeal and grits made from the heirloom corn that is also grown there in the soil. The heritage, GMO-free varieties of corn that are used are the yellow Pencil Cob and the white Trucker’s Favorite. Both varieties of corn create a super creamy consistency when cooked and can be stored at room temperature for up to a month.

 

 

Jesse is constantly experiment with new, tasty veggies and fruit to grow. In the future keep an eye out for ginger, turmeric, and bell peppers. He’s even currently in the works of building a greenhouse completely dedicated to hydroponic strawberries! Yum! Hurricane Creek also has a herd of Black Angus cattle that are free-grazing and produce delicious grass-fed beef. You might even be able to commission Jesse to make you a new piece of handmade furniture when you visit Hurricane Creek’s roadside store! We loved visiting Hurricane Creek and are so happy to have multi-talented Jesse in our #swampfarmer family!!

Featured #swampfarmer: Growing Greens Family Farm

Chris (L) and Nathan (R) Photo: Jack Robert Photography

 

 

 

Growing Greens Family Farm has the perfect name because not only do they grow the delicious microgreens and lettuce we carry, Nathan and Chris are also brothers-in-law! The farm has been in operation since 2012, but is relatively new to Anderson with Nathan and Chris relocating to the Upstate last year from Michigan. The 100 days of extra sunlight that we get here and memories of the beautiful childhood outdoor trips their family took drew them here! They have a great combination of minds with Nathan’s background in horticulture and nutritional analysis and Chris’s background in computer science. We are excited to welcome them to the Upstate farming community!

Beautiful! Photo: Ashley Simon

 

Growing Greens utilizes multiple growing practices to provide delicious veggies to SRCG’s customers. It is a Certified Naturally Grown farm with current focuses in growing hydroponic lettuces, LIVING microgreen trays (beautiful and good for you!), and a permaculture approach to soil farming. The majority of their seeds are heirloom and organic to focus on health, nutrition, and sustainability.

Here’s lookin’ at you, Lettuce (hydroponic)!  Photo: Julie McGuire

For the hydroponics system, no soil is used and instead a steady stream of clean water with Certified Organic natural nutrients passes by the root ball of each plant in a vertical planting system. The Nutrient Film Technique that Growing Greens uses reduces the amount of water needed to grow plants to 10% that of soil farming. It eliminates any contamination from heavy metals that exist in soil as well as any pests that might decide they need a snack. It’s not weird, just different and delicious!

Look at all of that Nutrition! Photo: Julie McGuire

One of our favorite things that we get from Nathan and Chris are their LIVING microgreen trays. Each variety of microgreen is the starting sprout from the seed of a vegetable plant. The microgreens are grown in a mixture of perlite, which is a naturally occurring volcanic rock that prevents mold contamination and retains moisture, and nutrient dense compost soil. They are also easy to take home and enjoy for a whole week or more, making them super economical. For younger greens, you can put the tray near a window sill to get natural light and water daily to watch them grow. Once they get to a height you like, simply just take some scissors and snap away. For older microgreens,  store in the fridge until devoured. Make sure you eat them within 4 hours for 30 times the nutrients!

Yummy Micros! Photo: Ashley Simon

Looking at one of these trays you can’t even begin to count the amount of sprouts on it. As the start of a veggie plant such as broccoli, kale, or radish, the little seed and sprout is packed with enough nutrients that the plants will need for a whole life span. This means that a small handful has as much nutrition for our bodies as a full serving of a vegetable! In fact, a small handful of the Sunflower microgreens has the same amount of protein in it as a small 4 oz piece of chicken! Crazy, right? We should be eating them on everything! If you’re skeptical of whether or not you will like them, you can try the pea shoot microgreens on one of our wood-fired pizzas. As if you needed any more excuses to eat pizza!

Lots of Learning! Photo: Ashley Simon

Growing Greens is also currently working closely with Clemson University to get their soil to a point where they can operate as a Biointensive Permaculture farm. This means that every single plant, flower, and bug works together in a fully sustainable ecosystem that needs no added fertilizers or nutrients. They are currently experimenting with many different layouts of raised beds, types of grading, nutrition-packed compost, and crop rotation for everything to work harmoniously. It was so interesting to hear about their wealth of knowledge on and exciting to see their passion for each method that they were working on! They care so much about the environment and responsibly using resources that are planning in the future to utilize solar and wind energy to further become a zero net energy farm.

Tiered beds to utilize Permaculture! Photo: Ashley Simon

You can currently catch a tasty treat of their excitement for farming in our store with the microgreens, arugula, and lettuce mixes. In the future keep an eye out for their chemical-free tomatoes (Nathan’s favorite), carrots (Chris’ favorite), kiwis, herbs, and edible flowers as well as them becoming a Certified Organic farm! If you want to hang out with them and see their enthusiasm first-hand they are planning on hosting Community Days at the farm for volunteering and fun as well as erecting a barn for dancing! We here at SRCG love dance parties and farmers that are doing so many good things for our planet. We are thankful to have Growing Greens Family Farm in our #swampfarmer family!

#eatlocalridebikes                              Photo: Jack Robert Photography