Getting to the roots: McGinn and McCoy’s business helps gardeners get started and keep going

Garden helpers: Via their new business venture, Rambling Roots, Cera McGuinn and Mallory McCoy can help locals put the seed in the ground and nurture it until the last bite has been taken. photo by Max Cooper

As far as fresh produce is concerned, Cera McGinn and Mallory McCoy want to see more people living hand to mouth — putting the seed in the ground and nurturing it until the last bite has been taken. The pair are co-owners of Ramble and Root, a consulting and installation service for do-it-yourself, organic vegetable landscaping. The duo recently wrote, illustrated and published a book, Reviving Homegrown, as a beginner’s guide to organic vegetable gardening (complete with an optional gardening kit).

“In our grandparents’ generation everyone had a garden — that’s how you sustained yourself,” says McGuinn. “Why not do that now to provide for you and your family?”

“Our grandparents and great-grandparents — that’s not that many generations ago,” McCoy interjects. “For [home gardening] to be be lost in a 60-year span is outrageous.”

As part of the growing urban homesteading movement, McGuinn and McCoy understand that the business of empowering people to grow their own vegetables usually doesn’t yield repeat customers. And they’re all right with that. After all, that’s not the point.

Mountain Xpress: Why is Ramble and Root so heavily focused on the DIY aspect of gardening? Business-wise, that’s not a common approach.

McGinn: I like that it helps people become more self-sustaining, whether it’s helping them out building stuff or teaching them how to. Any way we can encourage them being more self sustaining is amazing. I feel that most of the people we’ve met with are just so intimidated. … They want to garden, but they think there’s no way they can make it grow.

What do you two do to help them get over that intimidation?

McCoy: It really depends on what the person wants to do. We want to be able to help [everyone] along the process, from the beginner who wants to do it all themselves to the person who wants a vegetable garden but doesn’t want to do all the manual labor.

Speaking of manual labor, what made you two want to start farming?

McGinn: I think mine started when I was doing landscaping at Warren Wilson [College] with Tom Lamurglia, and he just fostered that whole love of plants and seeing his excitement.

I started doing it in Philadelphia, where I did urban gardens, then went to the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C., and just fell in love with it.

Why is the urban homesteading movement important, and where does Ramble and Root fit in?

McCoy: I think it crosses a lot of political lines. I feel like everyone regardless of their ideologies — Democrats, Republicans, Anarchists, Libertarians or however someone may identify — all feel the need to be sustainable. Maybe it’s because they distrust the government or dislike how society is being run. Whatever the reason, being able to encourage people to not only worry about those issues but work on those issues in their own families is one of the reasons we’re doing this.

We think that people should know where their food comes from and what is going into it. You don’t want to put those chemicals in your kids. How can we raise a better generation? You’re not just growing your own food; you’re growing a better ideology for your children.

What’s the overall message that you think people need to hear?

McGinn: They need to realize that their food could be as local as their own backyard and that growing it’s not as hard as they might think. Seeds want to grow!

— Mat Payne is a local freelance writer.


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