Monday, August 22, 2011

Serenbe Farms

August 2011
The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Friday 19th of August and toured Serenbe Farms in Palmetto. The tour and lunch was arranged by garden club hosts Sallie Mabon and Mary Anne Harman.
The club was met by Ryan Graycheck a UGA landscape architect graduate who was serving one year apprenticeship at the organic farm. Maya Velasco, a second apprentice, helped with portions of the tour.
Graycheck explained the mission of Serenbe Farms: to grow organically as much healthy produce as possible on five acres; to educate the community about healthy farming practices; to build community through food. The farm is fulfilling its goals as the small five acres produces a 60,000 pound harvest yearly which it sells to the Serenbe community’s three restaurants, and supplies their 115 subscription families with food, plus supplies the weekly market sales made at both Serenbe on Saturdays and at Atlanta markets. The subscription cost to receive thirty weeks of fresh produce is $25 per family.
Oak logs for the Shitake Mushrooms
Education through garden club tours and apprenticeships are proving successful too especially for apprentices who move on to top jobs because of their experience in Palmetto. Serenbe’s last objective of building community recognizes that a generation of people have grown up eating out or consuming fast food, and its goal is for families and communities to harvest, cook and sit down together to enjoy healthy home grown meals.
Four people work the five acres that were once a cotton farm.  Lots of organic matter is added to yearly to the soil to build it up. Composting, crop rotation, and cover crops are the three C’s practiced.  Buck wheat is the most popular cover crop because it adds phosphorus to the soil, and ryes and legumes add nitrogen. A ten year vegetable rotation plan is used. Drip and light spray irrigation is used on our hot summer days with 3-4 hours of water on the crops.
The fall crop from seeds germinated nine weeks earlier in the greenhouse had been planted with summer crops in full harvest.  The crew was dreading picking the itchy okra. Five varieties of okra were planted such as Red Burgundy, Hill Country Red, and Clemson Spineless. A number of varieties of every vegetable are planted to ensure full production. Fifty four varieties of peppers are planted and they are in beds marked sweet to hot.
Edamame (soybeans) almost ready to harvest.
The garden club first viewed the beds of greens: lettuces, mustard, bok choy, arugula, and cilantro that were under a shade cover. Blueberries, raspberries, watermelons and muskmelons were being cleared of pests by free ranging chickens that are part of Serenbe’s pest control plan. Heirloom varieties, especially tomatoes, have an increased number of pests.  The farm uses Neptune’s Harvest and Maxi Crop which are certified organic products in its irrigation system.
An eight foot electric fence protects the wooded side of the farm from deer. Cover cloth is used over young squash, cucumber, and zucchini plants until blooms appear and the cover is removed for pollination.
After touring the garden, the club enjoyed slices of cold watermelon-a new yellow meat variety grown on the farm.  Members watched one apprentice as she readied greens for market.  Club members were allowed to pick flowers (celosia, amaranth, and zinnias) as well as pot seeds (patty pan, zucchini, and cantaloupe). The garden club day ended with a stop at Frank’s Family Restaurant where everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch.