'Farm Up the Street' Tour Focuses on Sustainable Living Options
BY MARY ELLE HUNTER
Special to The Pilot
Under the banner of "Bringing Sustainability Home," the second annual Urban Farm Tour gets under way Saturday, April 10, in Moore and Cumberland counties. Nine stops on the tour are featured in Moore County, and 10 sites are available for viewing in Cumberland County this year.
Sponsored by Sustainable Sandhills, gardeners and farmers will welcome visitors to show how they are helping the environment by methods designed to weave rural elements into their lives with such things as laying hens, beehives, edible landscaping, healing herbs and flowers.
Retired educator and Moore County resident Maureen Sutton, who has dubbed her place The Farm Up the Street, is one of the stops on the Urban Farm Tour. Located on Page Street just two blocks west of the library in downtown Southern Pines, her property of not-quite an acre boasts an amazing variety of fruit trees and vegetable gardens, as well as nine laying hens and five guinea hens.
Sutton has done away with all the ornamental plants and grass that formerly enhanced her property.
"I want all of my landscaping to have edible characteristics, vegetation that produces food or shrubbery and trees that bear fruit," says Sutton.
One of her ongoing projects has been the creation of a sizable pond to catch rainwater to be used to water her plantings. She doesn't want to use city water for this purpose because of the elements it contains. Consequently, a large pin oak tree was removed, and her son laboriously dug the pond on its previous site. She was faced with the challenge of setting up a watering system, preferably without the use of a pump requiring electricity.
Another challenge was the rather steep slope of the property in back of the house, solved by terracing the ground to provide beds for planting seeds and seedlings of the various crops this determined gardener carefully tends.
"I cultivate buckwheat to keep the bees happy, and I have learned how to promote worms in the soil, a must for a good garden," she says.
Sutton first discovered how valuable worms can be in the gardening process by attending a seminar in Greensboro on permaculture. Since that time she has added to her knowledge by going to Cooperative Extension workshops given in Moore and surrounding counties. She even makes and bottles "worm tea," which she sells at the farmers market. The liquid, a potent natural fertilizer, is produced by soaking worm droppings in water.
Fig trees and a pecan tree dot the property, and an arbor supplies support for vines of peas and beans. Arugula, cucumber and several beds of asparagus are among the vegetables that have been planted. Nearby is a thriving plot of Jerusalem artichokes, most of which have already been harvested and sold at the farmers market. Peppers, tomatoes and eggplant are also growing on a wide swath of ground, and along the arbor are kiwi and passion fruit, complemented by blueberry, blackberry and raspberry bushes and strawberry plants.
Maureen Sutton's gardens will be at their peak by the end of June, gradually yielding all sorts of fruits and vegetables. She calls herself a political gardener, and says she got really serious about growing food in the last six or seven years, as she learned "about the policies of agribusiness and the way our supply of food is controlled."
A chiminea, or freestanding outside fireplace, serves as a receptacle for yard debris, turning sticks and roots into ashes, that in turn can be used as natural fertilizer. A strategically located firepit in the middle of an outdoor patio can be used for the same purpose, as well as providing a measure of warmth for a gathering on a cool evening.
Most of Sutton's daylight hours are spent in weeding, planting, thinning, watering and coaxing the varieties of fruits and vegetables to grow and flourish. On the rainy days, or when there is inclement weather, Sutton can be found at her computer, searching the Internet for additional crop-growing information, and planning ways to improve her dedication to a sustainable lifestyle.
Tour hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. As an extra added attraction, free "getting started workshops" will be held from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. after the tour ends. The workshops will be held at >Gulley's Garden Center in Southern Pines >(445 SE Broad St.) and at Bell's Seed Store in Fayetteville (230 East Russell St.).
Tours start at the Aberdeen Elementary School in Moore County, and at the Cape Fear Botanical Gardens in Cumberland County. Detailed maps and directions will be available at both locations.
Tickets in the form of Sustainable Sandhills buttons are $5 for adults, with children under 12 receiving free admission and are available only on the day of the tour. They may be obtained at the starting locations and also at the following sites: in Moore County - Southern Pines Community Garden, behind the Armory on Morganton Road and Southern Pines Elementary School Garden, 255 South May St.; and in Cumberland County - Pauline Jones Elementary School Garden, 225 B St., Fayetteville, and Fayetteville Academy School Garden, 3200 Cliffdale Road, Fayetteville.
Pinehurst writer Mary Elle Hunter may be reached at email@example.com.
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