Brickyard Farms is celebrating tens years of working the land. Val and I along with Val and Cate before me, have fed many people over the years from these five and one half acres. We can’t remember a time when someone has visited the farm and not gone home with fresh veggies in season. Our enthusiasm shows each time we give a tour or explain what we do and how we do it.
This year we are thrilled to have several people who are well-connected to our farm want to grow their own gardens! As I took pictures of each of them I asked two questions: Why did you start a garden; and what does your garden mean to you? Their answers were as varied as the individuals themselves. I am honored to share a little about each of their journeys with you.
Our neighbor Lynne Serfling or ‘Lynner’ as we so often call her, is our go-to person when we are at market. She makes sure that things are watered and the dogs let out when we are away. She loves the farm and helps out on occasion when needed. When she asked if I would till a piece of land behind her garage this spring I was surprised and asked what she wanted to grow. She said that she had been giving it some thought through the winter. She wanted to grow her own sweet corn and winter squash. When we decided not to grow winter squash because of the glut at the market she said there was no reason we should be without squash! Lynner’s family had always had a large garden. It was an important part of their food budget. Times were hard when she was a child and she remembers planting, weeding and harvesting many kinds of vegetables with her father and siblings. “We grew a garden out of necessity back then, but working the land gets into your skin. Plus I can’t let you have all the fun!” She selected a sweet corn variety called Bodacious, along with Blue Kuri, butternut and acorn squash. When she came home from work the other night, she called and left an excited and tearful message on our phone. “I know it’s late, but I had to call and tell you MY CORN IS UP! It hasn’t even been a week and it’s up!” Then, while weeding her garden the other day she had an epiphany. She had realized she had always worked on someone else’s garden or land and had never had her own land to work. Now, as she stewards her own plot, she gives thanks for the healing quality of this pursuit.
Next we have our farm-hand Zac. Zac is simply a work-horse! He plants, weeds and harvests right along side us each day. You would think he would be absolutely sick of looking at veggies and weeds at the end of the day, but he too wanted to plant a garden, behind the house he rents from us. For Zac his garden is an effort to take control of his grocery budget and learn how to put up food for winter. Although Zac has never been an adventurous eater, that doesn’t stop him from planting the things that he does eat like: carrots, peppers, onions and watermelon. The potatoes are for his mom. He said, “I particularly like to get up each morning and water my garden. It’s amazing how many little things you notice; how fast it grows, whether or not there are any pests, that sort of thing. I like to share it with Xander (his son) when I have him every other week. I want him to know there are others things to eat besides hot dogs!” Zac and I are looking forward to canning salsa together when the tomatoes are on. “I love your salsa! I want to make my own!”
Tim and Stephanie Pierce are new to Cloverdale. When their internship ended at a previous farm their need to rent a house and our need for new renters coincided perfectly. They were wanting to try something new that allowed them to earn income and also be flexible enough for Tim to do the wood-working he so loves. We offered a garden plot, use of a hoop-house and access to a workshop. With these bases covered, Tim and Steph have started a business called Dirt Song. “It’s a place to start,” said Tim. “I’m sure it will evolve into other things.” Tim has made many beautiful items with wood, each one is unique and one of a kind. Steph is interested in making value-added items that will use the herbs they grow for an expanded and creative purpose. “I’m not interested in being self-sufficient. I would rather be inter-dependent with like-minded people. We don’t know where all this will lead, but where ever it is we’ll do it together.”
Jelania Hale lives in Kalamazoo. A long time friend of Lynner’s, she loves the fresh produce that grows here. Being a vegetarian she particularly enjoys knowing that we are a no-spray farm that uses organic methods. She thought why couldn’t she grow a few things herself? Although she lives in a city neighborhood she has designed a small garden that maximizes her minimal space. Tucked in between two driveways, she has a narrow raised bed that holds tomatoes, basil and garlic. She has the option of growing vegetables up her ‘cattle fence’ or using it to support her tomatoes. She can also attach a shade cloth if needed. The flower beds around her garage and fenced yard are home to beans, lettuce and other herbs. “I like knowing how my food is grown. I can’t tell you how often I come out here to water, check on things or just talk to my plants,” say Jelania. “I enjoy having things visually appealing, so the rocks and potted marigolds add to the esthetics of the raised bed. It’s amazing what you can do with a small space.”
Each of our friends feels a sense of stewardship to their garden. With attention to what each of their gardens need, their efforts will be rewarded with food grown for their own table, by their own hands. I know each spring when row after row of seeds are sown, there is nothing quite like the thrill of seeing tiny green seedlings breaking ground and reaching for the sun. It’s a birth and there you stand like a proud parent.
Then it starts. You read, you experiment, and you will want the best for those seedlings. They are yours and you are responsible for their success. How much water is too much; how much too little? Those little seedlings will inform you whether or not you are on the right track. You will weed and weed again. Each day you will observe, didn’t it grow twice as big after the last rain? You will curse the cut-worm or the slug that caused it to fail. You will take it personally. You will uncover your creativity and discover solutions for problems and challenges. All the while, each of you are invested in the outcome. With shovels and hoes in hand, your investment will bare fruit as you slowly become closer to the earth. You will find you do indeed reap what you sow.
“To forget to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” –Gandhi