At the Market
Where to Go and What to Get Around the Upstate
In light of our feature on the revolution in sustainable food service going on with Bon Appétit Management Company (page 22), I wanted to take a closer look at the Furman Farm—a quarter acre of organic and best practice farming led by Bruce Adams, worked by students (both volunteers and interns), and managed this year by my daughter, Furman freshman Sophie Friis.
While Sophie certainly grew up in a house where the food on the table was treated with care, working on the Furman Farm is her first glimpse of the whole picture, a daily business that supplies a farmstand and CSA program in high season, a dining hall year round, as well as oversees an extensive pre-and post-production food waste composting program, compost that, in turn, enriches the soil she works. It’s a neat little hands-on learning experience. She’s become the kind of kid who tells me what kind of insect eggs are still on the leaves of kale I’m bringing home from the other guys.
On the grounds of the David Shi Center for Sustainability, the farm incorporates rows of vegetables and herbs, arbors of berries and grapes, a newly constructed high tunnel (like a temporary greenhouse) that houses the beginnings of an aquaponics system that will allow frost tender vegetables to be grown all year. In spite of the chill, there are students perched on upturned crates in the rows, harvesting spinach and kale that will make its way onto fellow students’ plates.
Bruce, a fourth generation farmer originally from North Greenville County, has a big smile and an easy laugh, the kind of man you hope your kid gets to learn things from. “We go through the dining hall, delivering stuff, we’re like celebrities,” he says. “They’re like, hey—whatchu got?”
I ask what he’ll be growing in January and February. “Those are two hard months,” he says. “Collards will still be strong, kale, some arugula and spinach. On the flip side, we may have what’s in the high tunnel, aquaponics.”
An aquaponic system grows plants in a soilless environment, fed by the waste products of fish. It’s a pretty ambitious undertaking still being dug out in the high tunnel. 15 different vegetable varieties, planted at one-week harvest intervals, will allow the farm to continually offer something different to the dining hall. It also offers the possibility of expanding the CSA program to a year-round offering.
Both the high tunnel and the aquaponics operation are new to the farm, and student-driven innovations . “Two brand new things, back to back,” Sophie says, “married perfectly.”
Bruce says, “This job comes to be about so many other things than what’s growing.”
I look at my daughter, how proud she is of what she’s doing, and how proud I am of her. Of course, it’s about more than food, or soil, or how much land you have to work with. Like a good meal, a farm is as generous as the people who make it.
3300 Poinsett Highway