There are signs of life all over Hominy Valley Farms Land and Cattle, even on a cool winter day: cows grazing, chickens foraging and owners/operators Frank and Jeanette Wilson readying the land for spring.
As I pulled up to their Appalachian Grown-certified farm in Candler, Frank and Jeanette were pulling up the last of the season’s Brussels sprouts. Not for themselves, though, they were quick to note. Rather, for their pigs who wouldn’t care much if the veggies were a little less than perfect. They pointed out the last of the kale in the field, which they have been enjoying at their dinner table.
Then, Frank headed off to take hay to their animals and work on a trellis for forthcoming blackberries and black raspberries. Meanwhile Jeanette and I headed over to their greenhouse — or high tunnel — which they heat part of the year. She tidied up a bit and checked on some salad greens she planted as a trial in mid-December. We all met back up at their on-farm store to chat and take in the winter landscape.
While the greenhouse isn’t overflowing now, soon it’ll be a very different story. Next month, the greenhouse will be home to dahlias, a new passion of Jeanette’s. And just after, it’ll be much ado about ‘maters. “We seed our tomatoes this month and transplant them into the high tunnel in mid-March,” says Frank. “That means we can get them to yield in late May/early June and offer them up to you earlier than almost anybody in the region.”
In other words, they’ve only got a few weeks left to order seeds and clean and disinfect flats and pots for planting. When asked what seeds they’ll order this year, Jeanette admitted she has a little fun with the process: “I’ll probably decide on impulse!”
Selecting seeds is just one thing you can be doing at home now for a spring or summer garden, Jeanette says. “While I’m hesitant to talk about farming being the best way to earn a living,” she cautions, “I think everyone should be proficient or be gaining proficiency in growing their own food — whether a large garden or just a pot on the porch.” The Wilsons order a lot of their seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds (http://www.johnnyseeds.com); for home growers wanting to buy locally, Sow True Seed is an option (http://www.sowtrueseed.com).
The farmers also suggest testing your soil now, with help available from the local Cooperative Extension offices. “We’re testing so that we’ll understand what nutrients are already in the soil and what need to add,” says Frank. “We’re looking for micronutrients or an absence of micronutrients that could really make or break a crop.”
If you’re starting early or are growing now — the Wilsons already have their strawberries in the ground — utilize row cover to keep your veggies warm and deter insects, especially with greens, Frank notes.
Meet me at the market
With more winter farmers markets this year in WNC than ever before, Frank and Jeanette are also busy bringing their meats and eggs into town (they’ll have veggies to offer likely come March). Find their beef and pork at Asheville City Market downtown on Saturdays in the Haywood Park Hotel atrium, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Or, stop by their farm store at 76 Hominy Valley Drive on Wednesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. You can also visit the store by appointment and order for delivery if you’re near the area. Hominy Valley Farms can be reached at 665-0933, or visit http://www.hominyvalleyfarms.com.
For a full list of WNC winter farmers markets, visit http://www.asapconnections.org or http://www.fromhere.org. At From Here, also find an online farmers market calendar and a food and farm events calendar chock-full of workshops to help you get growing and keep up with farmers this winter. And, visit ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at http://www.appalachiangrown.org to find additional farm stores/stands open for shopping through the cold months.
— Maggie Cramer is ASAP�s communications manager. She can be reached at email@example.com or 236-1282.