Last week I visited the farm of Dave and Nancy Weiss up in Middletown, Md. Since 2005 the Weiss Farm has sold beautifully fresh seasonal and hard-to-find vegetables, lush leafy greens and herb plants at the West Frederick Farmers’ Market. So when they invited me to come help them with planting on the farm, of course I said yes! I visit their produce stand at the farmers market every Saturday without fail.
Now I have to admit that I’m a bit of a princess. I say “a bit” because while I don’t like bugs or getting dirty, I don’t mind getting sweaty out in the heat and humidity. Nancy instructed me to bring a hat to keep the gnats away and gloves if I wanted (I skipped the gloves). Mike (my partner) suggested that I wear light colored clothing and blue jeans. When I got to the farm, I was sprayed with Deep Woods Off spray to keep away the gnats. That ended up being a wise decision (even though I’m pretty anti-chemical!) since the gnats were out in full force.
Fields of Kale, Rhubarb and Herbs
I was in awe during the tour of the heated greenhouse, high tunnel and plastic mulch fields. The plants appeared larger than I imagined and the kale, rhubarb, herbs, and lettuce swayed and rustled in the wind. And I couldn’t help but feel slightly envious of the Weisses’ ability to simply pick produce from their fields whenever they want to. Imagine being able to walk out of your house to pick the side vegetables for your family’s dinner that evening. The Weiss family gets to do that whenever they want – talk about farm to table!
The farm has two 15-year-old goats, two Belgian geldings, chickens, ducks, and Buck the Chesapeake Bay retriever who loves the stream. They grow unique, specialty, hard to find produce: artichokes, heirloom tomatoes, fennel, greens – kale (curly, red Russian, Lacinato), mustard, Swiss Chard, collards, lettuce (butterhead), kohlrabi, herbs, long beans, hot peppers (Fish peppers, cherry bombs, habaneros), sweet peppers (pimento peppers), etc.
One of the trip highlights was getting to ride the farm’s big green John Deere tractor to plant pepper and cucumber plugs, which are seedlings started from seeds sowed in tray cells until the plant and roots grow large enough to be placed in the earth. I was as excited as a 10 year-old boy.
What the Planting Process is Like
We began the planting process by loading trays of pepper and cucumber plugs (which Nancy starts growing from seeds every February in the heated greenhouse) on the tractor rack. Next Dave pumped water from the stream into the yellow water storage containers on the tractor. Water is just as essential during the initial field planting, as irrigation is to support growth during extended dry periods until harvest. I learned that roots travel deep to reach moisture, thus not necessary for the top of the soil to be moist.
The tractor has a rotating wheel that pierces the plastic mulch, dispenses water, and creates a hole for the plant plugs. I placed the plug in the hole; Nancy pressed the plant into the hole. When the plugs in my rack had been planted we reversed roles. Since I was a novice, the tractor moved slower than normal, but Nancy assured me not to worry about the slower than usual pace.
Next we planted a variety of beans, dropping anywhere from two to four beans into each hole in the ground. This planting was easier and more meditative then planting the plugs of peppers and cucumbers.
When we returned to the house after nearly four hours of working out in the fields, I wasn’t tired or hungry at all. Instead, I felt invigorated, thirsty (I guzzled water like crazy in their kitchen), but most of all I was deeply appreciative for the chance to spend the day working the farm with the family.
Why We Need More Farms (and Food) Like This
Throughout the day, Nancy and I talked about various topics. A common theme was our struggle of watching the health of our parents decline and their ultimate death. We both believe that our current medical system is broken. Whole foods and nutrients can alter the course of chronic disease and have more healing powers than conventional medicine. We discussed how when our grandparents’ generation died, they usually passed quickly either in the hospital or at home after a terminal diagnosis. But our parents’ generation aren’t dying quickly. Rather, they’re suffering for many years with chronic diseases that compromise their quality of life, year upon year.
Nancy, Dave and I share a similar passion, to improve the health of people in our communities by promoting whole and nourishing foods. The Weiss farm produces the food and as a nutritionist, I help my clients stop eating refined foods and eat the real food that comes from farms like the Weiss family’s. Eating whole foods is key to living a long, healthy, and mobile life all the way to the very end.
Nancy and Dave invite you to visit their booth from 10 am – 1 pm at the Saturday West Frederick Farmers’ Market. You’ll be amazed at the unique variety of the produce they grow and sell with love!
Does the thought of shopping at a farmers market sound like too much of a challenge? Do you want some help finding out how easy it is to cook what you buy? Then jump over to my nutrition consults page and let’s set up a time to chat, schedule a tour of the market or one-on-one cooking class.