This season, Countryside is taking the opportunity to visit the farmers and farms who participate in our markets. We do this to verify that farms are producing the products that they bring to markets, as well as get to know them better – to learn more of their stories, their techniques, their successes and their challenges. We want to share what we’ve learned with you! Eating local is not just about geography, it’s not even just about flavor, nutrition, and ecology – it’s also about supporting a person and the small piece of the earth where they have planted themselves.
~ from erin, Director of Local Food Programs; photography by Fitzwater Photography
When Serena and I visited with Floyd at Red Basket Farm in July, we asked him, "Why did you get into farming?" His answer, with a wry smile, was: "I didn't have a choice." He didn't need to elaborate on this to us for it to make sense - Floyd has the unique combination of passion, determination and resilience, optimism and ability to see opportunities, flexibility, responsiveness and innovation that make farming the perfect fit, and everything else unsatisfying.
Red Basket Farm operates on 15 acres of owned and leased land in Kinsman, Ohio - 65 miles to the west and little north from Howe Meadow, almost to the Pennsylvania line. Floyd started the farm in 2005 with a focus on naturally-grown and nutrient-dense produce. The business has grown through three sales outlets - farmtoyou, direct to consumer sales at markets and a recent transition from a CSA model to a pre-order/farmstand model; farmtoschool, a program that Floyd helped build from the ground up (pun intended) with school partners and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health; and farmtoprofessional, providing produce to excellent restaurants. Along the way, Floyd and Amy met and Amy has become both a business and a life partner.
Red Basket produces year-round using almost 20,000 square feet of high tunnels. High tunnels are greenhouse structures where you plant directly in the soil. They provide enough warmth and protection to grow lettuces and other greens, small root vegetables, and other hardier crops through the cold and snow. These are absolutely essential to winter growing. They are also often used through the main season as well, to bring high-value, heat-loving crops to harvest sooner. They also proved invaluable this past spring/early summer when consistent sogginess delayed - and kept on delaying - getting into the fields. Floyd and Amy were able to use his high tunnels to get crops in the ground. Red Basket still felt the impact of the weather, but not as much as it could have.
Three standard high tunnels at Red Basket.
Check this one out! It's basically 5 high tunnels connected - this requires less materials and maximizes the growing space. The gutters are ingenious!
Inside the big high tunnel. The crop in the lower left is watermelon. Floyd doesn't usually plant watermelon in the high tunnel, but they needed to get in the ground and the fields were too wet.
At the time of our visit - which was mid-July - it had finally been dry enough that Floyd and Amy were getting caught up on getting things in the fields.
Amy driving the Water Wheel Transplanter.
While Floyd and Amy were strategizing which crops to put in in the remainder of the space that had been tilled and laid with irrigation and plastic, I explained to Serena how the Water Wheel Transplanter works. (Left) The big wheel that Floyd is lifting (Right) will be mounted between the two seats on the back of the equipment. These will roll along the ground as the tractor moves forward and make a hole for the person riding to put a plant. The wheels come with different spacings and sizes of the spikes for different crops. There is a hole under each spike, which waters the divot for the new plant. This can be an exceptionally efficient way to get plants in the ground!
Out in the field, I noticed some newly emerging plants between crop rows and asked Floyd about them.
Floyd explaining his tractor pathway cover crop trial and the fascinating world of soil organisms.
He was cover cropping his tractor pathways with a combination of Buckwheat and Sorghum Sudangrass. Both are great for weed suppression, water retention, erosion control, and for green manure to add nutrients back into the soil. Buckwheat, I learned, also helps to develop mycorrhizal fungi populations. (To way oversimplify it, mycorrhizal fungi are soil organisms that form a symbiotic relationship with plant roots. This improves water and nutrient uptake - making healthier and more productive crops. Stronger and better developed root systems also help improve and maintain soil structure.) Floyd and Amy work to incorporate regenerative agriculture practices where they can, while still maintaining the level of production the business needs.
What the visit to Red Basket highlighted for me are the strengths and characteristics that Floyd and Amy, and therefore their business, have that keep pushing them forward. They have an unwavering belief that what they are creating positive change for themselves, their community, the food system, and everything else that spans from those touchpoints with their work. Farming is inherently risky and frustrating. Raising nutritious and flavorful vegetables has even more potential pitfalls. Floyd and Amy take every challenge and frustration as an opportunity to learn, to hone their approach, to problem solve and find a better way to keep making more and better impact.
Want to SEE and EXPERIENCE Red Basket Farm?? Red Basket Farm and Peter Allen Inn are hosting a Farm to Table Dinner on September 22nd ~ check out the details here.
You can find Red Basket Farm veg at Howe Meadow Farmers’ Market, every Saturday, 9am-12pm, through October 26th.