Welcome to the February Word from the Warehouse, the monthly newsletter from GrowFood Carolina, where you can find out what is happening in our warehouse, learn more about one of the 100 growers we work with, and hear about how our work supports the mission of the Coastal Conservation League.
We are excited this week to bring you the first Word from the Warehouse of the new year. It’s a big year for us because 2021 marks 10 years since we opened the doors at GrowFood with only five farmers. We are proud of our accomplishments and growth and are optimistic and prepared for our next steps.
As always, please feel free to reach out to me with feedback and ideas on how to make Word fromthe Warehouse better.
South Carolina has had a great year for citrus production, with more late season varieties such as Valencia oranges and Washington navel oranges just now making their way into the warehouse. In addition to citrus, we have an abundance of colorful root vegetables including purple daikon radishes, rainbow carrots, and different varieties of beets. And, of course, we still have many varieties of winter squash available.
One squash variety that we always get excited about is the popular butternut squash, which likely has origins in Latin America. This sweet and nutty squash is often considered a winter squash because it’s available in the winter. But the butternut squash we see in South Carolina in February was likely harvested in the middle of the summer.
A squash can stay fresh and edible up to year as long as it is cured properly. That’s done by placing freshly harvested squash in a warm space with good air circulation for at least 4 to 6 weeks, which allows it to dry out and the excess moisture to evaporate. The squash is then stored in a cool, dry place until it’s ready to be enjoyed. The curing process actually makes the squash better. The rind thickens so it is stronger and more protective. And much of the starch is converted to sugar, so the squash becomes even sweeter and more delicious.
Butternut squash is among the many crops Katherine “Peanut” Belk grows at Wild Hope Farm in Chester, a small town between Columbia and Charlotte. Wild Hope was established about three years ago when her parents decided to retire and start a farming operation on the family land.
The family was interested in running a sustainable business that turned a profit and could pay employees a living wage. They also wanted to use sustainable and organic agricultural techniques on their land. So far, they have been successful in both areas.
Peanut, with the help of Rachel Klein and Shawn Jadrnicek, who previously worked as themanager of Clemson University’s Student Organic Farm, doubled production every year until last year, when Wild Hope reached its goal of producing on 12 acres. They believe that is the sweet spot for their operation.
The team also has been able to use a regenerative farming practice known as organic no-till farming. This method restores nutrients to the soil, prevents erosion, cuts the cost of labor and fuel, reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, and stores carbon dioxide, which helps to reduce global climate change.
Instead of the typical practice of stirring up bare soil after a crop has been harvested, the no-till method requires planting a “cover crop,” such as clover, buckwheat, or rye, during the off-season that is not intended for harvest.
When the Wild Hope gang is ready to plant a new crop, they bring out the “crimper,” which is a weighted instrument attached to a tractor. They roll the crimper over the cover crop so it bends those plants over flat, terminating their growth while leaving the root structure intact. Theprocess provides a layer of mulch.
After the cover crops are crimped, the team plants the new crop by hand into the rows.
Wild Hope Farm began working with GrowFood in 2019 and the relationship has flourished. GrowFood has helped Wild Hope Farm’s products, like the tasty organic butternut squash, reach new markets, helping their business expand.
We are thrilled to partner with a family farm that shares similar values about sustainable agriculture and reducing its impact on climate change. These values are consistent with the rest of our work, particularly our energy and climate work, which focuses on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and addressing climate change at the local level.
One way we act on climate is by finding solutions to address the root causes, like using cleaner energy rather than burning fossil fuels. We worked alongside partners in 2019 to help pass theEnergy Freedom Act, which removed obstacles to expanding solar energy in our state. We continue to work hard to make sure the act is implemented in a way that makes South Carolina more competitive for clean and renewable energy.
We also evaluate all of our work to make sure it contributes to the resilience of our region, state, country, and planet. Climate change is not just coming, it’s here. We are working to help shore up our landscapes and communities so they can withstand stronger storms, increased flooding, and more intense heat. So, it’s about a lot more than butternut squash. But don’t forget to savor thesquash. It’s delicious!