Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Three days a week, the farmers of The Garden Farmacy climb out of bed early in the morning and step through the fields, knives in hand, to harvest the produce scheduled to be delivered to Jacksonians the same day.
Marbury Jacobs and Taylor Yowell co-own and operate The Garden Farmacy, a locally owned, whole-foods farm that sells "naturally grown" produce. It is part of a growing trend toward eco-farming, which aims to combine modern food science with a respect for nature and biodiversity with a goal of ensuring healthy farming and healthy food, soil, water and climate.
A native of Madison, Yowell studied organic farming across the U.S. before purchasing 6 acres of land in western Hinds County, and in 2015, The Garden Farmacy sprouted. Jacobs and Yowell own and work the farm full-time.
"Marbury and I start everything from seed in our greenhouse in Bolton," Yowell says. "This is our land. We are the farmers, the harvesters, the sellers."
Although The Garden Farmacy does not classify itself as an organic farm—the term is strictly regulated, and Yowell doesn't hold organic certification—Yowell believes that the farm's processes are "beyond organic." The Garden Farmacy uses neither fertilizer sprays nor pesticides; in fact, they use no chemicals of any kind.
"It's a belief system," Yowell says. "We wanted to connect with our food. We're not trying to attract customers with fancy words; we take the concept to heart. We're eco-farmers."
Yowell and Jacobs use only hand tools (no tractor) and natural earthworm castings to enrich the soil rather than fertilizer.
"We are so intent on what we're doing, and 'eco' is an overall word for how we grow things and how our setup works," Yowell explains about their process.
The first harvest of 2020 unfortunately coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown and social-distancing measures. The Garden Farmacy's main produce clients, farmers markets and chef Derek Emerson's restaurants—CAET, Local 463 and Walker's Drive-In—were closing their doors.
"We had a lot of fresh produce, and far fewer clients, so we tried to come up with a safe way to sell it," Yowell says. "We decided to let people order and pay online, and offer pickup just like a grocery store."
Since The Garden Farmacy services a large metro area, they added another pickup location, Fondren Farmacy.
Husband and wife team David Prichard and Bridgette Auger help manage the Fondren branch—which is located on Hawthorn Drive and provides curbside pickup services—and even grow some vegetables and flowers of their own as they apprentice under Yowell and Jacobs.
In addition to selling seasonal vegetables and medicinal herbs, The Garden Farmacy also offers fruit-tree, vegetable and medicinal-herb plant starts, dried herbs and medicinal teas such as peppermint and yarrow. The bulk of their produce sales comes from the Vegetable Share program, a weekly subscription to fresh seasonal foods for 16 weeks of the year—10 in the spring and six in the fall.
Jacobs and Yowell hand-pack every box and deliver them to locations in Ridgeland, Madison and Jackson (including Fondren Farmacy).
A typical week's Veggie Share contains one pound each of yellow squash, lemon cucumbers, green slicing cucumbers, whole garlic and Shishito peppers; two large bunches of Swiss chard; a handful of lemon balm; and a generous bunch of holy basil, a popular herb heralded as sacred in India that grows well in Mississippi's hot climate.
"Very few people have ever heard of holy basil, but it's so delicious. We include some to introduce people to it," Yowell says. A Veggie Share subscription is eight or 10 weeks (depending on the season) and costs $30 per week. Veggie Shares for the fall are now available through the farm's website.
Fondren Farmacy not only acts as a pickup point for weekly subscribers but also receives all the extra produce and sells it farmers market-style and through curbside pickup. Tomatoes have recently become available, and in July and August, even more pepper varieties will be available.
"Our produce represents what's available in Mississippi and what we can grow here sustainably. It's harvested day-of, in-season, nutrient-dense and chemical-free," Yowell says. "Our clients know and appreciate the absolute freshness of our produce."
For more information on The Garden Farmacy, visit thegardenfarmacy.online.