Sunday, May 19, 2013

Farm in the City

Swainway Urban Farm

You say tomato, I say tomahto... The simple pronunciation of a word is just one example of how your individual background depicts your distinct way of doing something. At Swainway Urban Farm in Central Ohio, their way is just as unique as our varied everyday jargon. Here, they are growing not-so-common-to-Columbus certified organic crops from a modest plot of land smack dab in the heart of the city center.

In 2006, Joseph Swain purchased his current property; covered in tall grasses and weeds it barley resembled the lush green space it is today. He started a small personal garden and was shocked at the quantity of food being grown on such an unassuming space. As things expanded and his production rapidly increased, Joseph realized there was enough food being produced to turn his hobby into a full time business and jumped at the opportunity to become an urban farmer, providing the community with the fruits of his labor. The Swainway brand was born of a combination of Joseph’s surname and his penchant for doing things his own “way,” and to get the ball rolling he tilled the entire backyard and in the spring of 2010 constructed his season extending hoop house. Another early decision facing Joseph and the future of Swainway was deciding what to grow on this urban farm and, in turn, offer to his eager patrons. Due to their notable absence at local farmers markets and their pure square foot value, Joseph committed to providing year round nutrient-dense mushrooms and microgreens. Coupled with his production of unique produce is Joseph’s passion for the soil, as he vowed to take care of the land and became a certified organic urban farm. It is important to Joseph to use organic seeds and organic soil for everything he grows, thus breaking from the standards of conventional agriculture. As we were discussing that the added paperwork required to be a certified organic farm was worth the effort, Joseph reiterated his dedication by stating, “healthy soil, healthy food, healthy us”.

Currently, the majority of Swainway’s crops are being grown in several temperature controlled rooms of Joseph’s home on the property. In fact, while visiting the farm, I peaked through the back window to see the endless shelves of bright green micro radish, kale, and pea shoots. To keep his beautifully delicate oyster mushrooms at the market all year long he uses straw columns to make production more streamline and not as intermittent. Using every square inch of his property is imperative and Joseph was proud to announce that he was expanding his operation. Swainway Urban Farm recently partnered with Northridge Organic Farm, and the pairing will enable them to provide a greater offering to their customers. Don’t worry, Swainway promises to keep supplying unique crops like micros and mushrooms, but with the added acreage they will be able to dedicate a portion of their space to experimenting with new crop varieties unique to the Central Ohio market. So where can you find Swainway Urban Farm produce? Getting your hands on the Swainway harvest is as simple and easy as visiting the Clintonville, Worthington, or Westerville farmers markets.

Swainway Urban Farm isn’t just growing micros and mushrooms on their micro-sized farm. Joseph is happy to share his knowledge during his farm tours and encourages you to plant your own garden. For the past four years, he has been offering a vast variety of potted certified organic seedlings including numerous heirloom tomatoes (slicing, paste, salad, cherry), various sweet and hot peppers, and herbs. This year, to make things easier on myself, I opted to purchase Swainway Urban Farm’s pop-in-the-ground ready starters and let them do most of the work for me. Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto; one thing is for certain – once you visit Swainway Urban Farm you’re sure to leave equipped with delicious food and plants to grow your way, and you won’t be calling anything off!

Oyster Mushroom

The Swainway Urban Farm oyster mushrooms (pictured left) traveled 0 miles to Columbus, while the dried oyster mushrooms (pictured right) are distributed by a domestic company in Los Alamitos, CA 2,250 miles away and are a Product of China thousands of miles from Columbus!

Not only are oyster mushrooms a flavorful addition to many dishes, but they are packed full of cancer fighting properties, antioxidants, protein and will help lower your cholesterol.


5 Health Benefits of Mushrooms
How Mushrooms Keep You Healthy

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Click on the recipe cards to print your copy: