Wed, April 08

Organic Farming—a legacy that speaks for itself

leg-a-cy: a thing handed down by a predecessor

In many ways, farming is a legacy.

The legacy can be found in the knowledge it takes to raise a successful crop, or it can be found the land, as in the family farm, and sometimes it can be found in the seed stock—or all of the above.

In reality, many of the ancillary ingredients that make a farm, are hand-me-downs.

And all farmers have their own way of putting those hand-me-downs to use.

Lindsay Schramm, an organic farmer from Cottonwood, and Charles and Elanora Jordan, of Clarkdale, are perfect examples of how these legacies are used, nurtured and passed on.

Schramm’s legacy of choice is heirloom seeds. They are seeds from plants that have been in cultivation for at least 40 years.

For the Jordans, their legacy came in a much more traditional form. Charles and Elanora have maintained a series of family farms for the last 40 years.

Every Thursday night this summer, Schramm and the Jordans, and the fruits of their legacies can be found at the Farmers Market in Old Town Cottonwood.

Each in their own way is responsible for passing on a legacy of the tried and true ways of the small farm.

Many of the seeds Schramm collects and propagates have lost their popularity due to their inability to compete in a market dominated by factory farms. Yet, she collects them, grows them, experiments with them, and in the end she nurtures them and passes them on.

Four years ago, Lindsay and her parents, Bill and Jone, purchased a 14-acre farm in Cottonwood. What started as a little garden has become in Lindsay’s words, "An all-consuming, everyday, 2-acre cultivated garden with a one acre orchard."

Not to mention a greenhouse.

Lindsay’s mother, a PhD, has been researching alternative medicine for a number of years, and Lindsay’s interest in the subject eventually took the form of organic foods.

"I have always been fascinated with eating and how the foods we eat affect our health," Lindsay said.

A disciple of whole foods grown from traditional seed stock, Schramm's garden is a testament to her belief in the benefits of an organic diet.

A walk through the garden and the greenhouse reveals her varied interest in both the production and preservation of strains of plants, long ago vanished from the grocers’ shelves.

"I grow anything I can grow," Schramm said.

Her garden includes 15 types of tomatoes, eight different melons, 10 varieties of peppers and a list of other garden greens, herbs and plants, too long to list.

Her growing methods incorporate modern understanding and traditional wisdom.

"The secret lies in achieving a balance with the soil, the seeds, the water, and the nutrients. If it’s all working you don’t have to worry about a lot. A plant can defend itself against predators if it is healthy," Schramm said.

The results of her methods speak best for themselves. A taste of her produce reminds us that not only have the traditional strains disappeared so has the taste.

The Jordans are not so traditional with the seed stock, but in every other aspect their farm reflects the care and pride that go with growing wholesome produce.

Charles set his early roots in farming by raising hay on the family ranch and custom baling hay for other farmers in the Verde Valley.

"I have probably baled hay on every hayfield in the area at one time or another," he said.

Elanora taught school in Camp Verde but eventually returned to her farming roots.

Now they farm the land Elanora’s family bought in 1960.

Their methods are also organic, and their crops include a wide variety of "plain old vegetables" (once again too long to list) from their 2-acre field and fruits from their orchard.

The Jordan’s use a traditional farming method, popular in the South, called strip farming. It employs 10-foot wide strips of cultivated vegetables alternated with 10-foot wide strips of land left wild or planted with a cover crop.

"The wild sections harbor many beneficial insects that help to keep the bad ones in check," Charles said. "It works most of the time, but it’s still an ongoing experiment."

Once again, the results from this farm speak for themselves.

Anyone interested in recapturing the delights of traditionally raised produce needn’t go to all the fuss of dealing with invasive weeds and troublesome insects—they need only show up in Cottonwood’s Old Town on Thursday evenings.

The Farmer’s Market, now in its fourth year, begins at 5 p.m. every Thursday in the parking lot next to the Old Town Theater.

By the way, Lindsay Schramm and Charles and Elanora Jordan are not the only organic farmers selling their produce there. Check it out.

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