This past August I visited family and friends in Alabama. We visited Hellen Keller’s home in Tuscumbia and the Alabama Country Music Hall of Fame. I was especially honored to visit the Urban Farm and Forage, home to Kelly and Jonathan Hayes and their two children.
Kelly Hayes is one of three finalists nationwide in the Johnny Appleseed Organic Invitational, sponsored by gardening magazine, Mother Earth. The competition began with finalists nationwide, whittled to 12, then six, and now, three organic farmers are anxiously awaiting the outcome at the end of September. The other two competitors are from New Mexico and Ohio. What an accomplishment for a small farm in small town Cullman, Alabama! Cudos to the Hayes family!
The categories for the competing farmers are: Heaviest Tomato; Hottest Pepper; Most Exquisite Curated Container Arrangement; Heaviest Sweet Potato/Yam; Heaviest Squash; and Best Organic Gardening Hack. The weight classes are weighed on a certified scale, and Best Organic Hack and Arrangement wins are the most media votes on the gardener’s Instagram site. Points are awarded per number of votes. Organic Hack voting is ended Sept. 18, and Container Arrangement voting was Sept. 20-25. You’re probably wondering how to determine the hottest chile pepper. The peppers will be evaluated at a lab in Las Cruces, New Mexico using the Scoville ratings. The Carolina Reaper pepper is considered to be the hottest pepper in the world. Guess what pepper Kelly chose to grow as her hottest pepper. Yep. Carolina Reaper.
On two and a half acres of land, Kelly and family have realized their dream of sustainable organic farming. Organic gardening does not use pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides, which harm insects, birds, animals and can contaminate the bounty consumed by humans. The compost heap is arguably the most important part of organics. The heap is natural recycling which makes healthy soil. Healthy, quality soil makes for healthy plants.
The beauty of organic gardening is it can be possible in most any situation. Two important points I would like to emphasize for small space gardening. One point: in a city, container gardening is doable which can even be pared down to window gardening and down to grow light gardening. A sixteen square foot garden can produce enough food for one person every day. Small space gardening is being introduced to Third World Countries. Point two, small space gardening is a perfect endeavor for schools. Kelly Hayes has established an “outdoor classroom” at West Elementary where she is a full-time teacher. Kelly’s philosophy is to teach children how to grow their own food and get outdoors!
I was impressed with Urban Farm and Forage organic “potage garden.” Potage translates to kitchen garden, or, literally, “for the soup pot.” Kelly ‘s potage garden is a productive, effective design, combining edible and ornamental plants, vegetables and fruits, flowers and herbs in boxed sections with paths laid out in vertical and intersecting horizontal paths. Kelly has sections for the medicinal, edible flowers; sections of herbs; two arched trellises; and sections for vegetables. One arched trellis is for pumpkins to hang, and one is for butternut squash to hang. They look so calm hanging there, and it makes for easy harvesting.
Kelly’s office building is placed in center back. This is the work hub and houses a small refrigerator where friends can stop by for eggs even when the Hayes aren’t home. Along the salvaged wooden fence, berry bushes are growing, and beyond the fenced area is a small orchard of fruit trees. Also, beyond the fence is the chicken house with little curtains on the nesting boxes. Really. Down the center of the fenced garden area are a picnic table for farm to tables meals and a cozy area around the fire pit. How do you make healthy S’mores?
No need to say with rising costs at the grocery store, a kitchen garden saves money for families; however, the garden isn’t the only thing happening in this urban farm and garden. There are goats for milk to use in making botanical products, to make fresh cheese and for drinking. Free range chickens help control bug populations; the poultry waste is composted; their eggshells are used; and eggs eaten and used in recipes. Several beehives exist for pollination of garden and orchard; raw honey is used in homemade products and sweeteners; and the delicious recipes happening in the kitchen are using all from the potage garden.
Being a full-time teacher does not slow Kelly Hayes down. From the medicinal flowers and herbs, she makes and sells tinctures, hand made soaps, lotions, salves for rashes, insect bites, and I found her salve soothing on my harsh sunburn. If you go to her Instagram account you will find much more happening on this small urban farm – kellyhayes53098.
Have you gotten your ticket for our Oct. 8 Luncheon at Rollings Hills Casino? Amongst the many silent auction baskets, Urban Farm and Forage is donating a basket with botanical products from their farm. You have to be present to bid for these great baskets, so reserve your seat now! Call Judith Paul, 530-200-5013. Featured speaker is Jennifer Jewel, NPR radio show and podcast host and author of two books.
Red Bluff Garden Club will meet Sept. 30, at First Methodist Church, 525 David St. Doors open at 12:30. Darla Lawrence presents “Golden State Pecans-A Family Endeavor” at 1 p.m.
Red Bluff Garden Club Inc, is a member of the Cascade District Garden Club, California Garden Clubs, Inc; Pacific Regional Garden Clubs, and National Garden Clubs, Inc.