Featured #SwampFarmer: Sandy Flat Berry Patch

Farmer John

Established in 1885 by the Lynn family, Sandy Flat Berry Patch is one of the oldest and longest running farms in the Upstate. In the 1970s, Fred and Sarah expanded what began as a dairy and cattle farm to include strawberries and fresh vegetables. The farm now spans over 120 acres, includes over 175,000 plants, and is run with oversight from their son, John. Ruthanne, their daughter, and Kasie (who you might recognize from our Instagram delivering berries!) also play integral roles in the daily operations of the farm.

 

The Original Family Photo from 1885!

Fred and Sarah were at the farm when we first arrived at the farm. We got to hear so many wonderful and entertaining stories of how farming has evolved at Sandy Flat and in the Upstate over the past 100 years. Fred even grew up selling milk and butter door to door in Greenville with his dad in the 1940s!  They are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to growing any vegetable or fruit in this area. If you go visit the farm yourself, you can not only pick your own gallons of strawberries, but get to meet the family and pick their brains for gardening tips!

 

Strawberry Fields Forever

All veggies and fruits that come from the farm are Certified SC Grown. All seedlings either begin in the greenhouses at the farm or have been grown at First Step Farm that they partner with in Western North Carolina. First Step Farm is a substance abuse recovery living center that utilizes work therapy, along with counseling, other therapy services, and education on healthy living and self-sustainability to facilitate recovery. Sandy Flat provides the seeds for this program and in return receives healthy starter plants that represent a cause that reaches beyond sustainability.

 

So many Heirloom tomatoes!

John has taken Sandy Flat into a new era of sustainability and eco-awareness. In the early and mid 1900s, using pesticide and herbicides were common practices. Little was known on how these new chemicals affected not only the natural ecosystem of the soil and surrounding areas, but how they affected our bodies after consumption as well. It was enlightening walking around with John and having him explain how very few chemicals are used at Sandy Flat currently. They try to limit the use of any unnatural additions to the soil or plants themselves at all points. As with all berry plants, they are delicate and insects have an affinity for destroying the entire crop. This, along with the harsh weather we had at the beginning of the season, has given most farms a need to spray these plants to ensure that they will have a healthy and profitable crop. Just make sure to wash your berries before eating them!

 

Still haven’t figured out how Kasie can carry 4 at one time!

With the crazy weather and hail that we had in the Upstate this year, a lot of Sandy Flat’s strawberry plants were destroyed and the ones that weren’t, were really weak. They’ve worked hard to nurse these plants back to health and we are so happy that we are able to get berries from them this season. John has created a crop rotation program creates a healthy and nutrient-dense soil into which crops are sewn. Rotation also prevents harmful viruses, bacterias, and weeds from proliferating in the soil. This limits the amount of fertilizer, if any, they use and with the introduction of cover crops (and no hail, fingers crossed) they are hoping to have strawberries and are completely organically grown next year.

 

Beautiful Berries

Walking around with John, he went through his daily process of smelling soil, inspecting leaves, and testing immature berries to determine what was needed to help them grow. We could have spent all day walking around with him, soaking up his knowledge and passion! He has a secret of how he naturally is able to get Sandy Flat’s berries to be the sweetest around but he won’t even tell his dad, Fred, what it is. We tried to wear him down, but to no avail, we weren’t able to get his secret out of him either!

 

The two varieties of strawberries that Sandy Flat grows are Albion and Camarosa. The Albion variety are a little more fickle when it comes to being weather dependent, but John loves growing them because when they have the right conditions are great producers of a super sweet berry. The Camarosa is a less fickle, Spring fruit-bearing plant that also produces a really sweet berry. After strawberry season is over, squash will be planted in the berry fields to reuse and reduce the waste that comes with having to cover the strawberry fields with plastic. Fun Fact: The word “Strawberry” comes from the need of having to put straw underneath the plants to keep the berries from coming in contact with the ground and rotting before the invention of plastic!

Sandy Flat also grows many more veggies and fruits in addition to their delicious and beautiful strawberries. We got to tour and see their other fields that include heirloom tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, okra, and melons. Keep an eye out for these at SRCG soon! It’s so amazing to support a farm that has been a part of the Upstate community for over a century!

Pepper Plants

 

I Scream You Scream for Strawberry Lavender Ice Cream

Ice cream is one of the best parts of life, because it’s always there for you. You broke up with your girlfriend? Ice cream. You got promoted? Ice cream. It’s 1 million degrees outside and you might be dying from heat stroke? Ice cream. Ice cream is always the answer–no matter what. And if you’ve never tried making your own, it’s time to give it a go. Sure vanilla is cool, but we’ve got everything you need to make strawberry lavender ice cream, so why wouldn’t you?!

We’ve got lavender from Mill Village Farms, raw cream from Milky Way Farms, and strawberries from Sandy Flat Berry Patch! Stop in and pick up what you need, and then get home and make yourself some local ice cream because that’s what all the cool kids are doing..or at least that’s what we’re doing. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 pound strawberries, trimmed and halved (Sandy Flat grows a juicy berry…)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lavender flowers (Mill Village Farms)
  • 2 cups heavy cream (raw Milk Way Farms cream!) 
  • An ice cream maker

To Prepare: 

  1. Coarsely mash strawberries with sugar, lemon juice, and salt using a potato masher in a large bowl. Let stand, stirring and mashing occasionally, 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer half of strawberry mixture and lavender to a blender and purée with cream until smooth. Return strawberry cream to bowl with remaining strawberries and chill, stirring occasionally, until very cold, 3 to 6 hours.
  3. Freeze mixture in ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up.

Ice cream will keep for up to one week, but if it lasts that long you have some serious self control and we applaud you.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured #SwampFarmer: Patch of Heaven Heritage Farm

Jack Robert Photography

Julia and Ron Jaworski welcomed the Swamp Staff into their home in Walhalla, SC with open hearts and lots of treats to eat that featured her open-range eggs! Not only is Julia a veteran of the Army and a Biomedical Engineer, she has also fought cancer to create Patch of Heaven Heritage Farm in 2014. It is an oasis of 26 acres of rolling green hills and forests. Her “henny-girls” spend their days completely and freely exploring all of nature! It’s the epitome of a completely free-range chicken and they have a nice big, safe coop to come home to at night.

 

Jack Robert Photography

Patch of Heaven Heritage Farm is an NPIP Certified farm through Clemson University. This means that all of the 124 Delaware and New Hampshire Red Heritage Breed chickens are tested stringently for disease. The certification also includes an inspection of the soil that the chickens come into contact with. The ventilation in the coop and the freshness of the water provided are also tested, it encompasses every detail of the bird’s life. All of us Swamp Staff even wore special booties while visiting to reduce the risk of any bacteria being transferred from us to the coop ground. To further ensure the health of her flock, Julia has a State of SC veterinarian come to the farm and check the health of the birds twice a year!

 

Happy Ethan, happy chicken! Jack Robert Photography

We, at SRCG, are pretty big proponents of “you are what you eat” and this includes what the food that you eat eats! The chickens at Patch of Heaven eat a completely plant based, Non-GMO diet that follows the recipe that Clemson University uses. The chickens mainly only need this in the winter time when food can be scarcer and in warmer months is tapered off. Since the chickens eat so well, are healthy and happy, Patch of Heaven’s eggs are super golden and have an amazing texture and taste! Julia even says that an egg from a happy chicken can contain less bad cholesterol in it than a commercial chicken egg.

 

So much YUM! Jack Robert Photography

Julia has such a passion for her farm and approaches every day with vivacity. She loves her farm, her chickens, and life. It is this passion and love that make her such an invaluable, positive part of the local food movement and our #swampfarmer family!

Chef Season loooooves chickens!

 

Jack Robert Photography

 

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!