Featured #SwampFarmer: Crescent Farm

Such a Beautiful Day! Photo: Chelsea Peeples

Margie (L) and Holly (R)! Photo: Jon Hedden

Margie is the Swamp farmer that we all wish that we could adopt into our family! We love her and we love all of the amazing, beautiful Certified Organic produce that we are able to get from her throughout the year. We also love that Margie’s whole family is involved in creating the most sustainable and efficiently run farm possible. From Margie’s daughter, Holly, helping to plan out the creative and sometimes tricky strategy of crop rotation to Margie’s super cute grandchildren, Emma and Henry (who Margie deems as her best Instagram marketing team), the whole family plays a role!

 

Freshly Tilled Field, Ready for some Sweet Potatoes. Photo: Chelsea Peeples

Crescent Farm is on the same land that the Certified Organic Parson Produce Farm used to exist on. When Margie moved here in 2011, she actually worked for Parson Produce! She eventually took over the farm in 2013 and is currently in her 4th growing season as Crescent Farm’s fearless leader. It takes 3 years and a lot of time, money, dedication, and effort for a farm that grows produce to become Certified Organic. Luckily, since Parson Produce had already acquired the Organic certification, the 6 acres of beautiful and rich soil was ready to rock when Margie took it over.

 

Yummy Organic Onions!

In order to maintain the Organic certification, Crescent Farm undergoes regular soil testing from Clemson University Extension and follows strict guidelines for plant care. Only Organic approved natural fertilizer is used, when necessary, with Margie preferring to forgo chemicals completely. There are Certified Organic herbicides and pesticides that farmers are allowed to use on their land, but these can also kill beneficial insects. Margie told us that she has found that they don’t work as well as her “Catch and Squish” method!  

 

Happy Maters!

Crop rotation is a key element that Crescent Farm enlists to minimize pests and weeds while maximizing nutrient return in the soil. The farm consists of 19 fields that are each a ¼ acre in which thousands of Certified Organic plants are grown during a season. Margie, with help from Holly, meticulously plans out which veggies should be grown on each plot of land based on what was previously planted in that soil. For example, beans and other legumes are nitrogen-fixing crops and will redistribute nitrogen back into the ground. Nitrogen is a vital nutrient that many other crops need to grow, such as tomatoes. So, after a season of beans being grown on one plot, the next season tomatoes will be grown in that same soil and have the nutrients they need to grow without the use of fertilizer. Crop rotation also prevents soil erosion, is a natural form of pest control, and prevents diseases from being able to spread. The amount of care and time that Margie, and her family, put into the farm make us appreciate all of the beautiful veggies she brings us so much more!

 

Tobacco Planter

Crescent Farm takes their eco-consciousness a step further and tries to reuse as many of their materials as they can. It can be tricky operating a Certified Organic farm because a lot of the biodegradable products available are made from corn. The corn that is used is neither non-GMO nor Certified Organic, so therefore the product cannot be used on Crescent Farm because it would taint the soil as it broke down. Margie and Holly are also always on the lookout too for farming equipment that has been discarded or forgotten about. They then refurbish it themselves and use it on the farm. We got to see the really cool, old tobacco planter that they use to transfer all of their starter plants from their greenhouse into the ground!

 

The Garlic Wall!! Photo: Chelsea Peeples

All of Crescent Farm’s veggies and herbs are hand-picked and inspected by Margie or one of her two helpers. Have you met Ryan, with the luscious locks of curly hair, that works in our cafe?? He is actually one of Margie’s helpers in addition to a Swamp employee! Fun tidbit of information: Margie’s favorite veggies to pick are leeks and garlic because they are so yummy and her favorite thing to grow is swiss chard because it’s so beautiful! She also loves good craft beer and chocolate in case you are ever wanting to get her a Christmas present!

 

Margie Washing Beets Photo: Jon Hedden

Visiting Crescent Farm was seriously like visiting a family member’s home. We got to pick and eat carrots right out of the ground and Mary’s son, James, got to play on the tractor! Just to make our hearts turn to mush even more, Margie made cookies for us and had delicious fresh-cut watermelon waiting to be devoured. There really is no better way to get to “know your food” than getting to see where it actually comes from.

How could you not LOVE this Face?!

We use Crescent’s kale, chard, carrots, and so much more in our cafe and our yummy pizzas to give you a chance to know your farmer and fill your belly! Our trip to Crescent Farm was an absolutely delicious dream!

 

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!