Saturday, February 28, 2015

Growing on the Edge

Green Edge Gardens

Southeast of Columbus, a stone’s throw away from Athens, lies an organic farm that blurs the lines between the seasons, producing nutritious food year round. The story of Green Edge Gardens wasn’t without a few twists and turns along the way, but one thing has remained constant: the mission of providing local food, employing hard working Ohioans, and educating others who wish to follow suit.

In 1984, owner Kip Rondy purchased 120 acres with the humble intention of growing food in Southern Ohio and started off by making homemade pasta prepared with his farm fresh eggs. A few years later, he met his soon-to-be wife Becky and they began traveling between his farm in Amesville and her home in Cincinnati. It was in Amesville where they developed a partnership with a neighboring farm and worked with Seeds of Change, selling their organic squash seeds to other gardeners and farmers. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, they couldn’t ignore the fact that the landscaping business founded by Becky was booming. It was with some reluctance that the couple ultimately decided to step away from farming and focus their efforts on establishing a garden center. In-step with the center’s plan, the acreage in Amesville was put to use and the couple built a perennial greenhouse. The structure, equipped with plumbing circulating hot water underneath the soil kept the root zone of their plants happy and growing even as temperatures outside started to dip. With their efforts primarily focused in Cincinnati, Becky and Kip were renting a portion of the Amesville property to a budding young farmer growing a business of his own. This hard working tenant vended organic produce at the Athens Farmer’s Market as well as supplied to several restaurants in town, demonstrating that one could still make an honest living by working the land. After seven successful years, an opportunity in Chicago led this ambitious farmer to sell his established operation, and Becky and Kip jumped at the chance to get their hands back in the dirt. The business they purchased, Green Edge Gardens, became their sole focus; it was time to move the perennials out and the vegetables in.

By 2012, a portion of the picturesque rolling hills that make up Green Edge Gardens housed ten high tunnels bursting with life and thanks to the hot water system they had put in place in their original building they enjoyed the benefits of an extended growing season. Over time, experimentation led to the discovery that food, including 40-60 types of certified organic vegetables such as salad greens, micro greens, mushrooms, hearty greens, potatoes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, peas, asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, sweet peppers, zucchini, beans, squashes, could be grown during the winter months simply by covering the tunnels, which provided heat-trapping insulation. Becky and Kip used their abundance of produce to establish the Athens Hills CSA program. The CSA was a culmination of their long-term vision to offer consumers a wide variety of Athens-centric products, with “partner items” including dairy products from Snowville Creamery, Sticky Pete’s Maple Syrup, fruit from Cherry Orchards, baked goods from the Village Bakery and CafĂ©, and a soon-to-be-added locally roasted coffee.

When you look just below the surface, Green Edge Gardens is much more than an organic farm. Becky and Kip are opening eyes as to just how much quality food can be sustainably produced from a relatively small piece of land, even in the dead of winter. It is their hope that not only will their willingness to be transparent with their process inspire other Midwestern farms to develop a more regional food supply chain, but also that the adoption of their principles will aid in the growth of financially sound farms and entice today’s youth into becoming tomorrow’s generation of farmers.

Rutabaga

The Green Edge Gardens rutabaga (pictured left) traveled 83 miles to Columbus, while the rutabaga (pictured right) traveled an unknown number of miles to Columbus.

References

Health Benefits of Rutabaga

Rutabaga Gratin

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