I'm sitting here at the computer just having finished mixing my seed starting mix. Earlier today, I met with my favorite nursery and florist in town about providing cut flowers and herbs for their floral department. In between now and then I was nervously sitting at the bar of one of my favorite restaurants hoping they'd take the risk and join me for the Chef CSA--and they did! These are all milestones for me. It's my first season and everything feels important. I wouldn't have it any other way.
There are a few questions I keep in the back of my mind no matter what I'm doing for this market garden business. One of them is "Why Herbs?". I'm a veggie lover and while I also enjoy herbs, they've never been my focus until now. I've always grown basil and a few years ago I fell head over heels in love with salad burnet and lemon thyme. But, they played a supporting role to whatever veg I was growing; tucked into unoccupied corners, forgotten spaces, or places where not much else had success. Now, they are the backbone of what I'm doing.
The shift came one day when I was sitting on my patio swing with my dad. We were talking about ways that I could go out on my own. How could I start growing things to sell and become a more active member of our growing food community here in Richmond? Sidenote: I personally feel that EVERYONE is part of the food community because EVERYONE eats food. So, let's place the emphasis instead on the growing aspect. The swing is in the front yard and as I looked around me, the words "I think I could have enough space here to make it work" came out and it was almost like just saying it was enough to seal it for me. The idea never left my thoughts but I did have problems figuring out how this new space would look.
We have FANTASTIC farmers here in and around Richmond. We need even more but what we have is already really great. From urban to rural growers, we are quite lucky. I knew that I didn't want to attempt to compete with these guys. I couldn't if I tried. What if I could complement the great stuff being grown on our local farms? Flashback to Sneed's Nursery some warm day (I'm there all the time) and I'm buying a Mexican Tarragon seedling to fill a hole in our herb spiral. Little did I know that planting that little guy would lead to all this. Those leaves found their way into Perk! Bon Air's Cherry Tarragon relish that they put with their house made greek yogurt (Have you had some? YOU SHOULD.). Still unclear about how to proceed, I spoke to my friend Stephanie who pointed out that tarragon is hard to come by at the markets and very expensive (and not very good) at your big grocery stores. Why not focus on other herbs like tarragon? With a little under half an acre, I could grow a decent amount of harder to find stuff.
So here we are. The house I share with my husband and two cats is becoming an herb focused market garden. But, beyond this question of why herbs is another one. Other than selling these tasty morsels to restaurants, farmer's market goers, and other small businesses, why does it matter?
Well, I think it matters because we have an awful lot of grass in this area instead of garden spaces and the balance needs to be tipped in the other direction. I hear it all the time; people want to get started growing their own food whether it be one tomato plant, one bed, or going whole hog--but it's intimidating. So, for me, besides growing herbs, offering some sort of example of what can happen when we see our yards as places of beauty but also of production, empowerment, and healing is of utmost importance. You don't have to do it like me. It doesn't have to look like this for you. But, I hope this can become a place where people can come to get ideas and feel a little less nervous about home gardening. Our yards have incredible potential and so do we. My goals and the place I have access to have pointed me in the direction of herbs but everyone will have a different experience. What matters is having the experience.
So, for me, that's why HBG exists now. That's why my house on .45 acres in the middle of a pretty nondescript suburban neighborhood is changing. It's changing me, too. So, long story short, there's my answer to "Why Herbs?". The journey that I take with market gardening will inevitably yield so many more questions but for now I'm looking ahead on the cusp of the most exciting and nerve wracking Spring of my life and I have zero questions that this is going to the experience of a lifetime.
Come visit me this season at the Market at Magnolia Green on Saturday mornings starting in late May and stay tuned for a small but mighty list of the folks who will be using HBG's herbs in their lovely establishments. And, I see some classes on the horizon that I will be sure to post here. Here's to a great (and sweaty) first year!