Worthing Couple Launches Sustainable Garden
Dakota Digest - 07/09/2012
By Kealey Bultena
Open up your refrigerator and look at the produce you have stored inside. Chances are you picked up those carrots and cucumbers at the grocery store. While your fresh produce is healthy, buying it at the supermarket doesn’t guarantee it’s grown nearby or without additives. In this Dakota Digest, meet a family striving to help South Dakotans experience the difference of locally grown food.
It’s a blustery day in rural Worthing. The wind whips through the grass, and the sun is blinding. But it’s time to work.
"It’s a lot more manual labor. We’re out there hands and knees pulling everything by hand," Aymee Dyck says.
Aymee has long blond hair swept out of her face, dirt under her fingernails. She and her husband Danny grow more than forty kinds of vegetables and fruits. They don’t use any pesticides or herbicides on their produce, and they have plants in an acre of South Dakota soil. Danny offers a tour.
"We have 400 feet of tomatoes, which is lots of tomatoes," Danny says. "This is basil right here." Danny realizes he’s done the math wrong, and Deep Root Gardens actually cares for 800 feet of tomatoes. Add another 800 pepper plants plus sweet potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, squash and onions. The list keeps going.
They spend long days cultivating their crops and trying to keep the rampant weeds from choking their plants. It looks like a lot of work, but Aymee says they have a good goal.
"The majority of our food, our monthly bills goes to food. We like to buy local and organic foods, and sometimes that’s hard to get," Aymee says. "And so we figured if we could do this for ourselves, why not other people?"
So Deep Root Gardens formed. The couple organized a CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. People purchase shares before the growing season. The money they front helps with costs for the garden. In turn, for 18 weeks, CSA members get boxes of fresh produce – whatever’s ready to pick.
When they’ve harvested the ripe crops, Aymee and Danny bring them to a Sioux Falls farmer’s market at 8th and Railroad. People who aren’t part of the CSA can buy surplus produce, and members pick up their boxes under the tent. Heather Adams bought into the CSA to support her friend Aymee. At $15 for a half share, it sounds like a significant up-front investment.
"he food is delicious. It doesn’t taste anything like any of the grocery store food that you would purchase," Heather says. "The cost, eh, getting together and trying new recipes and having the excitement of it, that’s a gift in itself. So it’s hard for me to even look at the money."
She and her boyfriend bought his mom a share for Mother’s Day. Anne Hanson says she cooks with more fresh ingredients because they’re automatically in her kitchen. She’s learned new recipes and invigorated some old traditions.
"I have a recipe for a salad that I’ve made for years, and it’s just greens mandarin oranges, scallions, parsley, celery and carmelized onions. It’s just the world’s best salad," Anne says. "And the first time I made it using their greens, everybody’s going, this salad’s never tasted so good! I’m not making that up! It just was a completely different salad using these fresh greens."
Back in the country, gardener Amy Dyck says her work challenges people to eat foods naturally ready throughout the summer.
"The time of the year that we have things. People say, wow you have that really early this year, or they’re asking for things that wouldn’t be in season right now because they’re used to going to the grocery store and it always being there," Aymee says.
Aymee says people are surprised at some of the fresh vegetables they can grow in South Dakota.
Aymee: What do you do with kale? Or garlic scapes. That was kind of the biggest, what is that?!
Danny: Yeah, everyone wants to know what a garlic scape is.
Aymee: And what to do with it.
Aymee walks to a row of crisp, green shoots more than a foot high. To get bigger, better garlic, you need to lop off a bulging shoot at the top of the plant. The bulb is buried underground, and the scape seen bobbing in the wind sucks energy away from the garlic clove.
Aymee: It’s just like garlic, so you can cut it up and just use it just as you would garlic.
Danyy: Dice it up in a salad. Stir fry it.
Aymee: But they’re just kind of crazy looking.
After the lesson, it’s time for the day’s big project: harvesting the garlic. Danny says they could damage the garlic if they pull it right from the ground, so he loosens the soil around the cloves.
"I’m just lifting them in the soil with this fork, and she’s just pulling them out," Danny says.
They’ll clean and dry and cure the bulbs plucked from the ground. All the while, the couple educates their kids. Sporting fluffy blond hair, their son tromps along with his dad as we tour the plants. He points out a few ripening tomatoes.
The tomatoes are still more of an orange hue that the bright red of mature fruit. But he’s got three of them in his hands already, so they’ll go toward lunch. The rest of the tomatoes have a little ways to go before they’re really ripe.
"Our kids are great, great helpers. They love to help harvest, sometimes a little earlier than they need to be. They’re kind of our taste-testers as well," Aymee says. "They’ll pick a carrot and, Nope! This one isn’t good! So we know to give it a little bit longer."
With three kids, a dog, a bunch of chickens, and an acre of chemical-free crops, Aymee and Danny Dyck have their hands full. But they say they’re happiest with those hands in the dirt, growing food for local families.
Find more information about Deep Root Gardens at the CSA website. Aymee and Danny say they're happy to help people find local CSAs all over South Dakota.
Visit Dakota Rural Action to learn how you can participate in community supported agriculture.
Click here to play Real Media: