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Story and photos by Hal Goodtree.
Cary, NC – On Monday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Culinary Farm at SAS Campus. This gem-of-a-garden supplies fresh vegetables and fruit for Herons, An and the SAS cafeterias.
I had heard about the farm at SAS a while back. Two years ago, the effort got a full-time Culinary farmer. Her name is Maggie Lawrence and she gave me the full tour on a bright morning.
“This is a culinary farm,” Maggie told me. “Everything we grow is for the table.” The farm supplies fresh-picked, organically grown vegetables and fruits to The Umstead Hotel, Herons and An Restaurant. The farm also supplies produce to the employee cafeterias at SAS and The Umstead.
“This is a late-spring garden,” Maggie told me. She’s growing broccoli, fennel, lots of lettuce, turnips, beets, peas and a whole lot more.
I saw cilantro blossoms and red vein sorrel; comfy, tarragon and chervil; opal basil and red Russian kale.
Maggie showed me red bok choi, Napa cabbage and rainbow chard. She has blueberry and blackberry shrubs just getting started with hopes to produce fruit in a couple of years. She even has a small stand of asparagus for future production.
The culinary farm also includes plants like Salvia and butterfly bush, grown not for the table but to attract pollinators like wild honey bees and butterflies.
Looking toward summer, Maggie plans to grown different varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes and other hot weather crops. She even grows produce for the Hotel bar, including mint and the aforementioned opal basil. “I’ve been consulting with a mixologist,” she explained.
The plot I saw was one of two on the SAS campus. Maggie and her co-worker Ariel Greenwood plant, pick and cultivate it all themselves.
As a guy who loves gardening, it was heaven. But all too soon, we all had to get back to work. Maybe I’ll get invited to visit again.