More than Gazpacho: Farming the Soil to Sustain the Ecosystem

This post was written by guest blogger, Karen Stakun, Brand Manager at Promega Corporation.

When I arrived at the garden that morning, I was completely focused on the clusters of ripe tomatoes I’d hoped to see. I was there to take photographs, and the red, ripe fruit was going to be the star of the show. In every direction, there were long rows of plants: raspberries, peppers, okra, cabbage, fennel and kale. A black pickup truck pulled up to the edge of the Promega garden and a pair of well-worn work boots landed hard on the dewy grass. Mike Daugherty introduced himself as a Master Gardener, Master Composter, and member of the Promega culinary services team.

Mike laid out black plastic crates at the end of each row of the tomato garden. There were 700 bed feet of heirloom slicers and paste tomatoes to be harvested. Seduced by the intense red, orange and yellow of the juicy tomatoes, my thoughts immediately drifted to visions of BLT’s, caprese salad and gazpacho soup. As he hand-carried 3 or 4 tomatoes at a time and laid them in the crates, Mike called my attention to all the other things that were going on around the fruit.

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How Does Our Garden Grow?

It’s the time of year in the northern US when you start to the miss green grass, ample daylight and warm breezes that are still months away. The promise of spring’s renewal and seedlings sprouting from the snow-covered ground seems too far out to even indulge in a daydream of better weather.

But then again, I’m not a farmer.                                                    

The Promega Culinary Garden at Bluebird Farms.

Now is the time of year when farmers are reflecting on last year’s harvest, making decisions about changes that need to be made and planning for the upcoming growing season. This work includes choosing what plants and varieties will be planted, estimating how many of each are needed and ordering the seeds. Crop rotation and cover crops are also part of the considerations.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may know that Promega has a culinary garden that supplies some of the produce for our cafeterias on the Madison campus. During the growing season our Culinary Gardener, Logan Morrow, oversees the operations of Bluebird Farms with the help of his colleage Mike Daugherty.

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Nothing Beets Locally Grown

Celebrate National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month by adding more color to your plate. Not only are fruits and vegetables tasty, but they provide a variety of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber to help you feel energized. Fruits and veggies also help reduce the risk of many diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure and certain cancers. Widely recognized healthy eating tips urge individuals to consume mostly plant based foods, eat 4-5 cups of fruits and veggies every day, and avoid processed foods.

Ways to Get Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: Farmer’s Markets are Radish

A great way to purchase fresh fruits and veggies is by attending a farmer’s market. Farmer’s markets are community centerpieces. Shopping at markets helps support local agriculture and recirculates money back into the community. Many times, shoppers can find food that is pesticide-and herbicide-free. Since food is sourced from nearby, shopping at a market helps save the energy and petroleum that is used to ship food around the world. Plastic waste can also be prevented, just remember to bring your own reusable produce bags. Continue reading “Nothing Beets Locally Grown”

Our Glorious Kitchen Garden

Having never grown a vegetable garden, I took advantage of some planting space in the Promega community garden in June 2010. Since most of my yard is shaded, this was the first time I had the opportunity to dig up soil, sow seeds, weed, water and harvest produce. I now have a greater appreciation for the effort it takes to place a ripe, beefsteak tomato on my plate. During this experience I learned that 1) I thankfully had two garden experts in my department, 2) not all winter squash is as edible as it appears on the seed package, 3) one gallon of water weighs 8.34 lbs. or 3.79 kgs, and 4) mosquitoes can form mushroom clouds when you disturb their shady garden retreats.

Looking toward the 2011 growing season, I was a bit skeptical when I heard that Promega’s Manager, Culinary Experience and new Head Chef, Nate Herndon, was overseeing the preparations of the employee community garden in addition to a new kitchen garden. Little did I know what culinary inspirations Nate and his staff would create for our three on-site cafeterias.  Continue reading “Our Glorious Kitchen Garden”