By Janet Irizarry
I am a "want to be" farmer. I moved to Gardiner 9 years ago, and am always in awe of the farms and the hard work that goes into maintaining them season to season. I would love to have a garden of my own and grow my own food, but since I have a hard time keeping a simple house plant alive, I have never attempted it. This is why when I saw on Facebook that my friends were looking for volunteers to help them on their farm I couldn't resist. It meant putting in some hard work and sweat, but it looked like a great learning experience. Plus it also meant I could pick my own and take home some beautiful produce.
Frances Gonzalez, owner of Vegan Wines, and Eric Linn have a small farm on their property in Gardiner. They started the farm for their own purposes so that they could eat food that was without pesticides, animal products and was kind to the earth. The food they grow is organic, sustainable, eco-friendly and vegan. By vegan I means they do not use any animal products for growing. Instead they use a manure made from plant scraps and compost from their vegan, leftover food scraps. Growing in this manner keeps both the soil and them healthy.
They are growing so many different varieties of vegetables: beets, carrots, broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, peppers, pumpkins, cauliflower, tomatoes, etc., etc. My favorite (pictured above), New Zealand spinach, also known as Warringal greens. It is hardier than regular spinach and is great raw in salads or sautéed with a little olive oil, garlic and butter. I actually throw it in practically anything I am eating.
Last fall, they added a Geodesic Dome. The "food dome", as they call it, allows them to grow food all year around. It came as a kit from a company called Growing Spaces, and as you can tell from the smile on Eric's face, it's his baby!
The dome is a very unique structure that’s built for efficiency, natural climate control and special lighting for all year long growing. It is powered by a 3000 gallon pond which acts as a generator to keep the dome a consistent temperature with humidity. What amazed me the most about it was, it allows them to grow fruits and vegetables not usually found in this part of the world. Do you believe they are growing bananas, avocados, figs, pomegranates and lemons?
The dome also has a hydroponic vertical tower, great for growing lettuce and herbs. I think this type of growing is very cool and I have considered getting one because they seem simple to maintain and don't take up much space. I know several people who have used smaller counter top versions to grow herbs. I probably should start with that first.
It was a hard day on the farm, but a lot of fun and I learned a lot too. Frances and Eric are so passionate about healthy eating and food sustainability it is contagious. The food they are growing speaks for itself by both looks and taste.
Last night I roasted beets and sautéed them with collard greens. Look at those colors, they scream healthy!
For lunch today, its a salad with all sorts of fresh picked lettuces, Australian spinach, purple carrots, beet tops, collard greens, cilantro and whatever else I could find in the refrigerator.
Later I am going to make hummus with the beet tops. Waste not, want not! It is a good day!
If a day on a food farm sounds like fun, you can do it too. During the summer, they are offering an opportunity for people to come help out on their farm. Check it out here.