A Healthy Economic Boom: Sustainable Gardens
If you think growing a substantial amount of food for sustenance expired with the pilgrims and pioneers, it may come as a surprise that several Moore County gardeners are engaging in creating a sustainable environment.
"Most people have food fear," says Maureen Sutton. "People don't trust their food anymore, and that's why the idea of growing my own food is very exciting and healthy."
Sutton, an ESL teacher at Robbins Elementary School, has taken permaculture workshops.
"The theory is that at least half of what you grow should be edible," she says. "I am fascinated with the idea. Nothing is more interesting than seeing firsthand how crops grow, like my heirloom summer seedlings."
To properly enhance the crops, Sutton also has a beehive.
"It's amazing how the bees add to the crops and the yield," she says.
A drip line irrigation system, a three-bay compost system and any other available system can be found on Sutton's landscape.
With the assistance of the Moore County Agricultural Extension, Sutton and other gardeners are attempting to organize a farm tour.
"Hopefully we can work it out so that people can visit our farms in April 2009," Sutton says. "Everyone involved has the knowledge and capability to share their information with county residents and tourists. Gail Scott, in Vass, who is a landscape designer, grows food; Lyuba Shearin has a marvelous garden with food crops. And Jan Leitschuh, a landscaper and grower is also going to be involved. This will be a group effort to create a 'sustainable Sandhills.'"
On her seven tenths of an acre Sutton grows all kinds of food.
"I harvest okra, peppers, eggplant, herbs of all kinds, tomatoes," she says.
Sutton grows a Jerusalem artichoke bed, Rose of Sharon for edible flowers, a potato bed, onion sets, lettuce, and kale.
"I have 10 laying hens and three guineas," she says. "My hens are black Australorps, an Australian mix. They are big, black and gentle -- very charming."
Apple trees, pecan trees, three plum trees, two pomegranates, and a fig tree are on the property.
"I have to move 15 blueberry plants and the fig to the front yard where it is higher and drier," she says.
Sutton also owns a medlar tree, a treasure that dates back over 2,000 years and was often spoken of as "a pleasant sweetness of fruit." Medlar trees are difficult to find except in a few private gardens. It is somewhere between a pear and a hawthorn and blossoms in May. It is regarded as a dessert fruit and the one fruit that goes best with wine. Even the pulp is used to make a chilled mousse.
In the next few months Sutton will begin her "sheet" mulching program.
"This is a progressive series of layering," she says. "I toss lime, leaves, recycle everything with heavy newspaper. Then the worms and mushroom spores take care of everything."
Sutton also plants buckwheat, rye and clover.
"I cut these at the base and lay them flat," she says. "Then I plant my seedlings into it all."
For Sutton, growing food is a good clean obsession.
"I love returning to the land," she says. "When I retire I will spend all my time working on the land. Recycling is so important. I am a water conservationist and I use four rain barrels to collect and save water. Most importantly, I am a chemical-free grower. Everything is clean and natural."
Last year Sutton constructed a raised garden bed for the Malcolm Blue farm.
"This year I will probably do more work for them," she says. "I also sell my seedlings, and I make batches of worm tea which everyone loves and uses for fertilizer. I have my own worm bin. I use only recycled bottles and recycled pots. It's amazing when you feed the worms a lot of scraps, and worm tea comes out of that. They work very hard in their bin."
Sutton does everything by hand.
"I have no large equipment, just one of those claws, a few shovels and a ho-mi, a Korean hand tool that works wonders," she says.
Food sustainability has become her obsession, she says.
"I hope to continue to grow clean and healthy food for many years to come," she says.
Contact freelance writer Anita Stone at email@example.com.
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