"The fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure."
- D. H. Lawrence
A long time ago in a garden far, far away...
We have been growing organic food for about thirteen years--long before Mana Gardens was even a twinkle in our eye. It just seemed obvious at the time that we should feed our family the best food we could find--or grow. We had some space, so we chose to begin growing what we could and seek out what we couldn't at local farmers' markets and co-ops. We began with tomatoes, of course, as many people do, and soon became lost in the pictures and descriptions in heirloom seed catalogs; the shapes and colors, the flavor profiles, the fascinating histories. We were never ones to seek out the latest hybrids and were drawn instead to the ancient, the exotic, and the most tasty. We had both successes and failures on our early journey into the world of heirloom tomatoes, but we persisted. We dug up more lawn and put in more gardens. We experimented with raised beds, square-foot gardening, straw-bale gardens, and potato towers. We mulched with straw, we mulched with plastic, and we mulched with fabric. We began browsing beyond the tomato section of the seed catalogs and found peppers shaped like pumpkins, lettuces spotted like trout, cucumbers that looked like lemons, and radishes grown for their seed pods rather than their root. And none of these amazing vegetables could be found at our local nurseries, so we began starting all of our plants from seed.*
Before we began starting all of our own seeds, we would buy our transplants from a local organic farmer each year. We would talk about seed saving, disease resistance in heirloom varieties, or the weather and when it would be safe to transplant into the garden. "Be careful," he once said, "farming is a slippery slope." And so it has been for us. We increased our growing space further each year and have now reached over an acre of intensive vegetable production, we began raising chickens and bees, and selling our eggs and produce through our local co-op and farmers' markets. We expanded into a heated greenhouse and began offering a "winter greens" CSA in 2016 so that we were growing food year around. Our roots were established, we had become farmers.
*If you are interested seeing some photos of our beginnings, you can also have a look at this (now abandoned) collection of our gardening albums on Flickr.