Farmers, their land, and what they grow come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles (just take a look at these few dozen Farmer Hero profiles we've written). With that spirit in mind, and knowing about the diversity of Farm Aid staff's living spaces, gardening experience, and eating habits, I set out to chat with our staff on what they were planning on growing this year.
Anna, our Operations Manager, shares an apartment with roommates and has very little room to grow, so she's planning to continue growing herbs this summer. Growing up, her family had a huge garden, with each person responsible for a different section. Some of that skill must still be present, because she's been able to keep the same potted plant of basil growing in the window for the past 13 months. Not unlike many other staff members, her favorite gardened food is tomatoes.
Joel is Coordinator of Farm Aid's Hotline and Farmer Resource Network. He lives in an apartment, but is lucky enough to have access to two garden spaces. In front of his building, he's got a small “guerilla garden” on city-owned land that would otherwise be barren where he grows flowers and pole beans to the delight of his neighbors. Behind his building, he takes care of a neighbor's yard in exchange for getting to grow food there, including tomatoes, more pole beans, chives, green peppers, and even had some small success with cantaloupes. Pole beans are his favorite thing to grow because they're fun to watch and make for tasty eating.
Caroline is Farm Aid's Spring Intern from Northeastern University (and she grew up on a family farm!) Now, she lives in a very small city apartment, but she does manage to grow basil, thyme, cilantro, and rosemary. She's another staff member who grows her own aloe, and her plant is a second-generation one she has managed to keep in good shape for years. One of the things she misses most is growing vegetables at home. Strawberries and rhubarb were her favorites, which she turned into pies with her mother and entered into competition at fairs and festivals. Hopefully she'll get her hands on some rhubarb other staff members are growing and let us taste us those prize-winning skills.
Alicia, Farm Aid's Program Manager, is another apartment-dweller, with no real garden space, so she relies on a CSA for much of her fresh food. Alicia does grow aloe and basil year-round, enjoying the latter in summertime Caprese salads (click here for Hilde's recipe from last year) and in pesto over pasta all winter.
Cornelia, the HOMEGROWN Sherpherdess, is a proud new homeowner and fully taking advantage of having new garden space (along with a community garden plot – she'll be busy)! She's growing four varieties of heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, delicata squash, cucumbers, dill (sounds like a great pickle-making combo!), swiss chard, Ali Baba watermelons, potatoes, kale, Brussels sprouts, basil, a bunch of herbs, and peas. I'm full just hearing about all the possibilities and hope she shares her forthcoming bounty at the office. Her favorite thing to grow is black cherry tomatoes from seed.
Joanna is Farm Aid's Accountant and another prolific and busy gardener. In addition to growing her three favorite varieties of tomatoes, which she uses all winter (after washing, drying, and freezing them), she grows: tons of basil, pole green beans from seeds saved last summer, trying to grow onions for the first time, squash, zucchini, oregano, chives, rosemary. Joanna's family is lucky to have grown up eating all the fresh food they've grown together over the years.
Kari is Farm Aid's Development Relations Manager and resident salsa fanatic (here's her recipe), but unfortunately has no space at all in which to grow her beloved tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Even her attempt at growing basil failed last year, so she'll rely on other staff sharing whenever they've got extras.
Wendy is the Resource Development Director and grows vegetables in four raised beds in her backyard. With two young daughters, she sees it as a great opportunity to expose her daughters to the way food is grown and maybe convince them to try food they otherwise wouldn't want. This year, she's planning on growing peas, potatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini, squash and watermelon. While heirloom tomatoes are her favorite, last year her plants were wiped out from blight and she's hesitant to try growing them again this year. Perhaps she'll stick with what her space seems to like best: peas and cucumbers.
Carolyn is Farm Aid's Executive Director and isn't content just growing tomatoes, lots of different herbs, and potatoes at her own home. She's also helping to grow vegetables at two different friends' houses. Yellow cherry tomatoes are her favorite backyard treat.
Hilde, the Program Director here at Farm Aid, is growing in a community garden space the next town over from her house. With a very experienced gardening friend, she's growing rhubarb, strawberries, garlic, different kinds of beets, snap peas, lettuce, herbs, onions, leeks, fennel, asparagus crowns (I didn't know this, but apparently it takes three years of development before asparagus pays off with delicious edibles), melons, squash, kale, chard, collard greens, peppers, and cucumbers. Ahh yes, and I can't forget about the fact that she's growing a few varieties of tomatoes (her favorite, naturally).
Glenda, Farm Aid's Associate Director, lives in a second-floor apartment, but maximizes her space by growing tomatoes and basil in self-watering grow boxes on the back porch. In addition, she plans to grow rhubarb, chard, peas, more tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, arugula, green beans, peppers, jalapenos, and herbs in her backyard. She's been extremely impressed with results from her self-watering grow boxes – the crop outperforms that in her backyard. Her favorites? Tomatoes and basil, along with rhubarb, which is fun to both cook and grow, since it's a perennial.
And finally me, Matt, Farm Aid's Web Marketing Manager. What am I growing? I'm still not sure yet. I don't have any good-sized areas with sunlight, so I'm waiting to hear back from my landlord about a project I'd like to undertake. I'd love to turn the top of my boring, black (albeit, very sunny) garage into a container garden paradise. I'm infamous around the office for my love of raw carrots, so that would have to be the first thing I'd try my hand at planting.
What about you? Are you growing any fruits or vegetables this year? Reply in the comments or on this discussion on HOMEGROWN.org (a Farm Aid project).