Tag Archives: Florida

First Cumberland, Next the World

23 Feb

Early morning smiles, still in need of coffee

UNTITLED: Donn Cooper + Greyfield Garden

Three cheers to Dodge ‘n’ Batty, our latest Wwoofing volunteers and the linchpins to a successful year in the Greyfield Garden. Let no man ever say a couple girls (and city-slickers at that) can’t work a shovel. As temperatures went prematurely balmy, our cultured Atlantans took to the dirt, turning under old crops and furiously hoeing rows for our spring and summer harvests. I don’t know where we’d be without their unrelenting elbow grease, smiles, and buoyant humor.

Cumberland Island was just their first stop in a six-month “farmhand” tour across the U.S. Call them ambassadors of agriculture goodwill and Southern gregariousness. Whatever the case, follow their ever-winsome adventures at their irrepressible blog (Cumberland and Fernandina Beach make half a dozen entries).

Godspeed, ladies. May your journey be constantly serendipitous.

P.S. Yes, “Untitled” is actually part of their blog’s title. That is, until providence offers the right name, or a really good suggestion comes along. Any ideas, Greyfield fans?

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Welcome to Greyfield Garden

21 Jan

Hello everyone, the following information includes my thoughts, words of truth, garden facts, occasional jokes, and hopefully some insight to what it is like working closely with Mother Nature. My name is Andy Schwartz and I am the gardener at the lovely Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island.

The garden at Greyfield is roughly one acre in size and approximately half of that is under vegetable and fruit production at the moment.  Greyfield has had an interest in things sustainable and environmentally friendly for decades. The mentioning of growing healthy soil and healthy food came as no surprise when several forward thinking heads came together with thoughts of rejuvenating the Ferguson family garden on Greyfield grounds. The result of those thoughts and the decision to move forward with a more sustainable and seasonal menu at Greyfield led to many positive happenings one of which was the decision to hire me as full time gardener. Items like fresh fish, shrimp, oysters, and scallops, local breads, cheeses, fresh Florida citrus, rice and various traditional grains have been on the menu for years. The addition of a productive fruit and vegetable garden paired with a good recycling and composting program only made sense. I must give my thanks to Daron “Farmer D” Joffe, Marla Henderson, Mary Jo Ferguson, and Oliver “Mitty” Ferguson for giving me the opportunity to steward the lovely piece of land that I do.

Our goal is to grow as much of the most healthy and nutritious food that we can to feed our guests at Greyfield Inn.  We offer guests a unique opportunity by doing daily tours of the garden and assisting in developing a relationship with the food they will be consuming later that evening. We are excited to share our philosophies on growing sustainable, organic, and natural foods in a healthy environment. Our country is changing the way it thinks about food and the way it perceives what is healthy and what is not. Nationwide plenty of folks are beginning to realize the importance of being able to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for themselves and their families. Our aim is to enable those that may have never seen a brussels sprout growing to see it growing and flourishing in a row of its brothers and sisters, learn how to harvest it, and have the chance to eat it that evening on their dinner plate with local fish caught that day and Carolina Gold rice from a nearby rice farmer.

The vegetables and fruits know exactly what to do; we do our part to provide the most nutrient rich soil that we can and the rest is up to Mother Nature. We do not use any chemical pesticides or fertilizers. We compost. We look to the island for soil amendments. Horse manure, oyster shell, fish emulsion, various mulches, leaf mold, and sea- weed are a few of our not so secret ingredients.  Our composting operation is fueled by roughly 12-15 pounds of kitchen scraps on a daily basis. Since my first day on Cumberland we have turned approximately 1 and a half tons (3195lbs) of kitchen scraps into nutrient rich compost for our garden beds!  We are now shredding all of our newspaper, egg cartons, and some cardboard for our worms to process into more fertile soil to be added to our beds.  We have been using compostable coffee cups that we mulch and add to our compost piles for several months now and will continue to use indefinitely. We believe that our efforts to be responsible and have a low impact on our surroundings will help to keep Cumberland as wild and magical as it is today for many years to come.

We have been hard at work developing the garden from the ground up and hope to have a very productive spring this year. We have had one WWOOFer  (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) do an apprenticeship with us and he was a witty lad from London that loved Willie Nelson, compost, and armadillos. We are listed on the WWOOF website as accepting one apprentice at a time and are working with the University of Florida to develop an internship program through their agriculture department. Through these outlets we hope to draw in individuals that are interested in growing vegetables, being surrounded by raw nature, and working shin deep in compost and horse manure, not necessarily in that order. The unique situation that is Greyfield Inn and the island surrounding it draws thousands of visitors every year. The goal of Greyfield garden is to educate as many people as possible starting with our guests and extending to the mentioned apprenticeships and internships. We also want to feed our guests all the yummy veggies they can eat during their visit! I will be posting thoughts and any information that we feel needs to be shared as well as plenty of photos and narratives. Keep your heart close to the ground so that your ear is close too and listen closely… checking our blog will work just as well.

Until next time, take it easy (on the planet) and live well.

Mature luffa on the vine, ready to be harvested and used for exfoliation.

Sunflower harvest. soon to be hung for our winged friends stopping by the garden.

Hanging elephant head amaranth. These really added color and a new dimension to the luffa tunnel.

Bright like the sun

West beds. Sunflowers and a cover crop row of cow peas.

Prickly pear cactus. I transplanted these from a nearby field to start a sort of interpretive bed in the garden.

Passion flower

Typical daily harvest mid-June.

enter the garden

This is most of what you see upon entering the gate, there are 6 raised rows to the left of the tabby structure.

nasturtiums/micro greens

Early morning in the garden.

Tiger melon, ground view