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Organic vegetables thriving at Honeywood Farm

By Kay S. Pedrotti Lettuce, carrots, broccoli, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes and cabbages are just a few of the first organic vegetables ripening at Ed Mitchell’s Honeywood Farm gardens ‘“ but there’s much more to come. He and his family, wife Amy and daughter Isabel, started developing organic growing methods about a year ago. He says, ‘It’s been quite a learning process ‘“ just looking at all the tomato varieties in the seed catalog can make you dizzy. A constant struggle is to keep the biodiversity in balance so we can grow without chemicals. Right now we’ve had some problems with cabbage worms and caterpillars but we’re treating with organic materials to keep the damage to a minimum.’ Already a vendor for Pike County’s Wednesday Market, Mitchell hopes to start retailing produce, eggs and chickens by June. He is raising about 100 Free Ranger (a breed name) chickens in mobile coops, moved around the fields frequently so the birds have fresh grass. There are about 40 Rhode Island Red layers in his egg house and several Tamworth pigs almost ready for processing. Biodiversity includes companion planting of beneficial flowers and plants, mostly to bring in insects and pollinators to protect the crop plants and help them grow healthily, Mitchell says. He’s using cow manure composted with other materials, fish emulsion and bone meal as fertilizer, along with a liquid created in a compost tea brewer. ’Every grower has their own mixture for the liquid result,’ says Mitchell. ‘Some ingredients like molasses may be considered strange but that’s up to the individual ‘“ and the brew can always be changed.’ The visible white cloths on the 40 plant beds in front of Ed’s barn on Highway 18 are called floating row covers and help protect against insects and too much sun, as well as conserving moisture. Mitchell also has an extensive greenhouse for developing seedlings for flowers, tomatoes, herbs and other plants. An open field behind the barn will be home to ‘some corn, bush beans, okra, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes and peppers,’ he said. He also plans for soybeans and hopes the kudzu bug plague will not be a big problem. A part-time employee who lives on the farm, Vicki Bailey has managed a small garden for several years, learning about organic growing and teaching Ed what she’s found. ’She’s been a terrific help,’ Mitchell says. His cousin Peter Mitchell moved down from Chicago, Ill., to help start the business as a full-time employee, Ed says. ’We started this to nourish our family, the farm, those around the farm and people in our community. It’s not something you’d go into for the money ‘“ if we can survive financially that would be great too. We’re all eating healthier,’ Mitchell adds.

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