- [Narrator] Julie Berbiglia introduces us to Cult2vate, a nonprofit whose mission is to feed the hungry, and also those who hunger for a fresh start in life. This farm is achieving both goals. Sheri Gramer finds a lush and peaceful plant palette in this garden in Springfield and Troy Marden visits with a couple of garden enthusiasts who have color filled flower beds in both the front and backyard. First a farm using good agricultural practices and great humanitarian service. - Well, a little trivia here, whose agricultural department has the only working farm in the entire United States? Well, ours does. And we're here at Ellington Agricultural Center to find all about the working farm that's called Cul2vate. And I'm here with Joey, who is the executive director and founder of this fantastic garden. And let's start out with the big numbers. How big is this farm? - This farm is eight acres. So it's right here, as you mentioned on the bottom, right behind TWRA at Ellington Ag Center. The mission is always been to provide a place that people can link together and helping their neighbor, loving on their neighbor, doing it in tangible ways. That's what our mission is. In the two and the name is, growing food and growing people. So we have grown about 50,000 pounds on this side this year. 50% of that goes to acute hunger relief and in and around middle Tennessee, primarily in Davidson County and the rest of it is sold through fresh point, which is Cisco's distribution arm for fresh produce to provide a living wage for addicts and guys coming out of incarceration. So they work here and generate an income and they're able to get their feet back under them. So. - Wow. And what a beautiful place to do it-- - It's amazing. - And great horticulture therapy. - Oh, yeah. It's amazing to see what the soil and the plants do for the guys, as they're trying to figure out their next steps and adjust some life decisions. And they just need to build a little bit of money, more than money build some confidence. And so the soil and the plants give them that opportunity to work at their own pace, but also feed others and heal themselves at the same time. So - What a great program. Okay, well let's start in the spring. So you're growing market crops. - Yes. - As well as things that people are going to want to eat. - Mmh hmm. - So tell me about what you're growing? - In the spring, we start off probably about mid March with some cold crops. Your broccolis, your cauliflowers your cabbages, brussels, things like that. After, I like to say, around May the 6th, 7th, 8th, we get out of that false fear of losing crops. We start planting the corn and the beans and the potatoes and all the stuff that goes through the summer months. And then in the fall, you'll see crops out here right now. It's obviously end of October. We've had beautiful weather this year. So we've got a lot of the cold crops back in. So the cabbages and the broccolis and stuff but we're also seeing our pepper crops, as you can see extend on through probably to the end of the month based on the weather forecast. And we're still producing volumes every week. So we've had a great year to be a farmer this year. - Tell us how on a space this large, that you're keeping the soil healthy and keeping the plants healthy, crop rotation? - Sure, that's a great question. I came back from Africa. I did this over there for five years and I was actually trained over there in this. So no formal training, no academic degree in agriculture but just figured out that I love the dirt and I love the plants. And it was a way to connect with people that really neutralized any discussion. People got to eat and people get hungry regardless of what their political or religious views are. So it was a great conduit to meet people there as it is here. We take this land and try to steward it to the best of our abilities. That is cover cropping. It's out in the field that you drove past when you came in here. You got a lot of cover crop mixtures that go into the winter to put the nitrogen and stuff back into the soil. We will come through actually during the year and do soil samples and take them up to the Ag extension office. The proximity gives us the ability to take soil samples up there and figure out, okay, what is it exactly missing? What have we taken from the soil? And what can we put in that field the next growing season that will replenish what we've taken out with the prior crops. So we do a lot of that rotational farming and moving things around. We do have 20 garden plots. So we do have the ability to move things around and get creative on that side. So. - What do you do in the winter? - Well, we did have greenhouses and we have a boiler system that was given to us by Boiler Supply in Nashville and they hooked it up. And I tell you, it's one of my favorite pieces because it provides that radiant floor heat to the plants and keeps our soil temperature where we need it. The Tennessee department of Ag through a grant program with the FDA gave us the ability to put some lights in the greenhouse to extend the illumine hours that the plants need. So we actually can grow all year around. It's a really cool place to work in the winter because the inside of that greenhouse is a nice 65/70 degrees and lit up regardless of how cloudy it is on the outside. So I actually enjoy the season of fall and winter as much as anything, 'cause it's just different from being outside in the cold. You actually got a place to work around the plants and they look healthier than these actually. So. - In the greenhouse, I see that you have these amazing tomato and pepper plants. - Mmh hmm. - So one of the things I'm wondering is, how in the world are you managing to get the tomato plants pollinated? - Good question as well. Most people don't ask me that question. In the greenhouse, we do have pollination issues. We need plastic and everything's intended to control the environment from ceiling to floor. So if you notice in the greenhouse, we'll have the plants that are actually trellised up to a cable. We take advantage as much as we can of ceiling to floor height. So we've got 13 foot ceilings. We try to grow those and layer 'em in a way that gives us four to six months of growth. But, you know as much as I'd like to say we did it with some system or app or something like that, we just take a broom handle and we go down through there and we tap that line once a week and the plants shake just enough for them to pollinate flowers underneath them. So. I was taught that in South Africa. - That's fantastic. Now tell me about these gorgeous brussels sprouts and collard greens. - Well, we have, as you mentioned in the tomato and pepper houses, we have the heat and the lights. We also have two houses that there are cold hardy. We have a plastic over them, but we do put the vegetables in them this time of year, that don't require the 55 above temperature. So they've got a little bit more of an ability to to weather longer, get enough light, the brussels, the collards, the kale, stuff like that. And what's fascinating about that is, I grew up here in Dickson, Tennessee. So I am Tennessee. And I didn't know you could grow stuff through the winter if you didn't have heat and stuff, but there are plants that we literally, lettuces and kales and stuff like that that we'll sort of leave alone and they'll just keep growing and they'll just keep growing, and the next spring, you still got stuff coming off of them. So it's crazy how strong some of these plants can be in this environment. So - That is fantastic. Now, what about your watering system? How are you keeping all of this nice and hydrated? - Each plot has an irrigation point to it. It's ran through the system on the computer and then we do an injection system for the greenhouses that mix the nutrients that the plants need. Plants in the greenhouses are grown in a perilite white rocky material that allows the water to leach through and the plants gets the nutrition that it needs. So we've got to keep them on a cycle, every two hours of a few minutes of water, but every square inch of gardening space here has the ability to be watered at any given time off of an iPad. And that just keeps us able to... The summers are unpredictable, the winters are unpredictable here. So if we need five minutes of water let's say on the cabbage, we can run that with just a push of a button. So - Wow. You've got a really interesting mix of, basic nature and technology. - Yeah. Trying to walk that line of, you know, like, what is it that these people and the men that we serve are coming out of these backgrounds that would keep them interested. A lot of 'em come from the distressed counties around the state and whatever and they've seen farming. There's not a whole lot I can teach 'em again. I wasn't trained as a farmer. So they usually end up teaching me to be honest. And it's that mix of what keeps them intrigued. Now, some of them are very smart, and they like the technological side. They wanna learn how we're doing this and how we're doing that. Other guys just wanna be with the plants all day long. They just wanna stay out with the plant. So we find that generally the mix of guys that come in here they work out their strengths and the farm just serves as a place where they can heal. So. - What a beautiful way to use a farm. Feeding people completely in all ways. So you are a complete plants to food to sending it out process. - Yeah. Seed to need. - Seed to need. - So your people are going to pick everything and package it? - Mmm hmm. Yeah. It's so we are a Good Agricultural Practices certified. So it's called GAP. It allows us to distribute to fresh point and then places that retail that food and get it into the local restaurants, which some of the best chefs in Nashville are using our food. And also it allows us to make sure that from a sanitation and control process, that we're getting food to everybody that's clean. That's a big problem lately. You get these food scares across the country. So what we do is we bring it in in a flow process, we check it, we sort it, we grade it, we pack it then in the cooler, which is a fairly large cooler in there, we stick the seed to need portion that's going to the under-resourced communities or food deserts on one side. The other side takes what fresh point is gonna come and get sometime during the week. So it works out wonderful. Anything like this has to have a million different partners and people. I do have the benefit of just getting up and talking about it a lot of times, but this is a collaborative effort of many people that decided to join hands and join arms regardless of what their views might be and just love on their neighbor, man. Just try to help the guys that come through the program and try to help people that need food in Nashville. So. - Is there any kind of overwhelming favorite food plant? - For me, we grow more tomatoes than we do anything. And the joke on the farm is, Joey doesn't even eat tomatoes. So I don't like tomatoes, but that tends to be a niche market that is pretty easy to grow. So as far as me, I love the brussels. The brussels to me are a challenge to grow, number one. Anybody that's tried to grow them know that they're a challenge. You'll see that they're looking pretty good right now. So it's a good time for you to be here. Maybe next week they won't be so good, but I love them. They cook up well in the cast iron, and my wife and kids love them. So that's my favorite farm food. And you mentioned people, last year we had 3000 people from 24 States volunteer on this farm. So it brings people from all over the United States and one and a half to three hour volunteer service kind of projects. And most of the corporations in Nashville, they'll send their people out for their serve days or whatever. So it's a great blend of people and corporations and faith based community. And we get everything out here. I tell people we've got an eight acre place, it's on the Tennessee Ag department land. So it really is Tennessee's land. So, we just invite everybody to come down and check it out, pick Some food, take it home and eat what's local here. So. - Joey, this is so amazing. - Thank you. - I pretty much want to literally dig in and stay right here. This is amazing. - Well, I appreciate that. - So, wow. If you're not inspired yet, I would be surprised. But if you wanna know more and be even more inspired go to cul2vate.org and read all about the wonderful things that are going on right here in Tennessee at our agricultural farm. We're in Springfield, Tennessee today, at the home of Charlotte and Jim Gray You are in for a treat. We're gonna see some wonderful things. Everything started with one plan, a water feature around a tree, and guess what things evolved as all gardening does. It became whimsical and magical throughout the garden. And I can't wait to show you. And here's Charlotte Gray. and we are in her backyard and it's wonderful. It's shady. It's nice and cool today. It's gonna be hot. So Charlotte, I want you to tell me all about your ferns. You have quite a few native ferns. - Yes. We started planting some of these ferns back when we first built this house in 1987. It was a totally wooded lot. And we managed to try to clear a space without hurting the trees. Some of the first ones we planted actually came off of the red river with a young man that had a local nursery that did few of the dendrites and shrubbery that we planted. And they did so wonderfully back here. Some of these are 30 years old. Some of these right in here-- - And what are we looking at right here? - This is a native Christmas fern. My husband's sister and her husband have several hundred acres up in Camden, Tennessee. And these ferns are so prolific on it that we have brought back. Every time we go, we'll kind of get a trunk load sorta of 'em and just continue to plant. Bugs don't bother them, nothing bothers them. - So tell me about some of the other ferns besides this one that's back here. There's some ostrich fern up against my house that gets big like the tail of an ostrich. And it likes really wet conditions and deep shade. If you like that condition, that's the fern for you. The ferns that you see behind me back over towards the fairy house back there, they're called Sensitive ferns. I dug those from Camden and brought 'em and they just liked this sort of condition. - And they curl up when you touch them? - No, they don't. - Okay. So it's a different kind of Sensitive fern? - It's a different kind of Sensitive fern. It got its name from the early colonists. Evidently, it's an old native fern for this area. - Okay. - And they called it Sensitive fern because it's so sensitive to the cold weather that it's the first thing to go in the fall. - And I see you have some Solomon seals, some variegated. - Yes. There's variegated Solomon seal that sort of hangs over the pond, has a little white dripping bale like flowers on it all spring, but it stays green like that all year. And then there's the John Solomon seal that planted itself that was I guess on this property, and eventually the conditions were right. - And you have some wild ginger? - Wild ginger is an interesting little plant. That's a wild flower. There's probably a hundred varieties of wild flowers back here which is one of my favorite hobbies. - I know you said we just miss bloom time for those. - You just missed that. April is the best time to get all the wild flowers but this little heart shaped flower we might see around mixed in with this vinca is wild ginger. And it has a little flower that lays on the ground. Doesn't smell good. So it'll attract the ants to pollinate it but it just comes up and sort of feels in bare spots like a little round cover. In fact, it planted itself on the lower pond down there, right next to the Lily pads. And you would think that it's a Lily pad up there. - Right? - But it's really not. It's this little wild ginger. - And I see you have several varieties of hydrangeas. - We do. The Oak leaf hydrangeas are in the fullest bloom right now. - Charlotte, I want you to tell me about your fairy house here and how it came to evolve. - Well, when we put in the pond, we wrapped the stream around that big red Oak trunk, and it was just sort of a part of the water feature. It was such a big trunk but as the 30 years passed and it stretched it's two really big arms that it had towards the sun right over the wing of our house over there. And when we had a big crane out and had to take down another tree, we decided we probably should take it down for safety sake. But I said, only if you will leave me a good four feet because I think I see a fairy house in the offing. And if I can't have that to put in the centerpiece crook of the pond, then I'll be sad 'cause I am a tree lover but it might be the best. - Well, it looks great. I wanna talk about the hostas. I was surprised to see 'em actually growing in the stream. - People might not realize this but those hostas have just been the dirt root ball sort of stuck in a crack with rocks around it. They've probably been there a good five or six years. They just grow in the water with no pot. In the winter when the frost gets all of the hostas, you just clip it back and then first thing in the spring when your other hostas start coming out those hostas will spring right back up in your pond. - And what other flowers do you have planted in between the rocks over there? - Well, if you go and get you a six pack of impatiens or if you've got a bigger spot, you'd get a little bigger one. They are perfectly happy to just take them right out of that six pack and stick them in between a rock that'll secure 'em where the bottom of the little dirt ball there is touching the water and they will just grow and bloom and they'll get large, like they would be. - Well, it's a nice sort of punch of color. Sheri I noticed you had several Japanese maples as well as some Japanese painted ferns too. - I Did. The thing about a Japanese maple is all about structure and the Japanese maple that's there by the pond where it starts to overlook the lower falls, you'll notice the big crook in it where the leaves hang right over and shade the waterfall as the spring comes off. And then there's several others in the yards. The largest one has been here for 30 years but it hasn't grown. They stay small. They are Japanese maples so they are smaller. - Sheri, I've really enjoyed visiting with you today in this cool spot in your yard. And I've also enjoyed the water feature and your beautiful ferns. Thank you for having us. - Well, thank you for joining me in the garden this morning, and I enjoyed sharing with you. - Gardening doesn't have to be complicated and this garden really has it all. Annuals, perennials and they're thriving in the heat of the summer. Can't wait to show you around. So Brian, you have different kinds of plants in the garden. Tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind what you do. - Well, I try to go for something like I like to refer to it as controlled chaos. I like a full garden and I like to incorporate a lot of natives and I like to incorporate a lot of ornamentals as well. - Yeah. - And just looking at the site and knowing that this area in the front of the yard gets a lot of full sun. I like to make sure that I'm putting stuff out here that's gonna survive and do well. Make this like a Prairie condition area where things can take the heat and the humidity. It really bakes in the afternoon here, so we try to-- - So to that end then you have things like the blanket flower? - Yes. - Butterfly weed, - Mmm hmm. - Purple coneflower. What are some of the other favorite things that you've got here that really have thrived for you in this situation? - [Brian] There's four varieties of blanket flower. There's the Blazing stars, which has done really well this year. It's already-- - Going to see... But the plant still looks good. - [Brian] Yeah. The plant looks great. - It is mid summer, late summer. So a lot of those June things have kind of gone by but the plants are still green. They're still looking good. Lots of pods on the Butterfly weed. And that's an important thing but you also still have a lot of blooms. There's cosmos that are still flowering down here. - And Daylilies have been doing really great here. There's some Coreopsis still blooming back here. - [Troy] And then that big, beautiful Russian sage. That's a really drought tolerant plant too. Some of the best ones that I know are just planted out at the end of the street by people's mailboxes and you know they never get any care out there. - [Brian] Absolutely. - And so when it comes to low maintenance gardening, that's a great one. So you mentioned that you grow a lot of things from seed. Tell me a little bit about your seed starting process. - Well, I usually try to start things especially if they're gonna be permanent in that location. I try to start them in that area. So like the echinacea or the Purple coneflowers, I started in that spot last year. Of course they were only about a quarter of the size that they were this year but they still bloom the first year. And then this year they were spectacular and just made a really big impact. So that in the Butterfly weed-- - [Troy] So you actually, in the case of a lot of your wild flowers, you just sow them right in the garden and let nature take its course? - [Brian] Yes, I sow as much as I can. And of course, you're only gonna get about maybe 20% that are gonna make it but I've had really good success with it. So I'm really excited about doing it that way. - [Troy] There are a few things in this bed. It's a little shady or over here, we're under a tree. I would imagine though, that by late afternoon this probably gets a pretty good shot of sun. - [Brian] It does. - [Troy] So we have some Asters beginning to bloom. One of the earlier Asters. - [Brian] Yes. - [Troy] And then there's a really beautiful Lily over here. - [Brian] Those are Henry's lilies. And there are a variety of Tiger lilies from Japan I believe. - All right. But it's a really unique flower the way that it curls back so fast. It's really fun. So Christopher, you're a little bit more of the vegetable and herb gardener. - Yes. Yes. - So take me through and show me. We've got herbs here in front of us. - We do. We decided to have the herb garden close to the back door so that when we're cooking we just come out here and pinch off whatever we need. - Right. - We do grow several different types of basil from pineapple basil to standard basil, purple basil. Thyme, mint. We got some oregano, some chives, pineapple mint as well. - Yeah. A bunch of stuff here. And then flower garden beds sort of incorporated. You've got things just incorporated all together. - Yes, absolutely. We've got the annuals mixed in with more basil here. I like color, different height and the depth for it. Once the basil is gone, you still have the Balsam impatiens going up until about the first frost. - Right. And the Balsam impatiens just recede themselves and come back. - [Christopher] They Do. And you have to thin those out next year. - [Troy] Right. You take them out where you don't want it. - That's right. - Yeah. - That's right. - Yeah. So one thing that I've noticed immediately is that you didn't just plunk square beds down in the middle of the backyard. - [Christopher] That's right. - [Troy] You've given the beds some shape and some design. Talk to me a little bit about your philosophy and how you went about that. - Well, I wanted a bunch of interests and a little bit of rooms created within the garden. As you're digging out the bed, you wanna have an even organic flow to your design. I don't do square beds because there isn't any visual interest to that. So when you do have curves and you create this one round with the Lincoln rows in the middle, it almost feels like this is the Rose's own garden. - Right. So we had a little room up there and then you and I have just come through kind of a narrow path that squeezes you down and then it pushes you out into the next room. - That's right. - I think that's a really important thing for people to know and to take note of. - That's right. And then it leads you right into the sitting areas for guest to come over for barbecues and grillings. - Well, one other thing that I liked that you guys have done is this screening that you've done across the back. And I would imagine by the end of the summer that'll be lush and full and-- - [Christopher] It will, it will. - [Troy] Those purple hyacinth, bean, vines and-- - [Christopher] Yes. Last year I started those by seed and had too many on one fence and it tore it down. So this year, it's just one bean per each one. In the middle we have the Moon flower. - [Troy] All right. Tomatoes, obviously you're doing well. You've got lots of fruit starting to set. Have you harvested any yet? - I have. I've done three harvests already. These are all heirlooms. I've got Mr. Stripey and it gets about this large. I got German queen and I've got San Marzano. - Okay. So three different kinds. - Yes. Yes. And behind us, we've got all the peppers. The bell peppers and the jalapenos, the bananas. - I know that you have some things in the garden that really recede themselves. Tell us a little bit about some of those plants and kind of how you manage 'em. - Well, the Balsam impatiens were obviously an heirloom that we bought and started in a very small area of the garden and it receded everywhere. So they've kind of taken over but they've been a blessing for some of the plants because they're shading some of the perennials that need it. - Right. And they're a great filler plant. Balsam impatiens also called touch me not because when you touch that little seed pod it pops open and flings it seed everywhere. And then the Moon flower or the Datura. - [Christopher] Those are actually a volunteer plant that we got from a friend that had given us some Irish divisions and they came up and I was really surprised and really pleasantly surprised cause I wanted to grow them. I'm growing another variety over there. So these have been awesome. They've been doing fantastic. Like the other day, there were 12 blooms open in the-- - Right, and they love the heat. This is their time of year to be really happy. - Absolutely. - Christopher, I know you mentioned to me that you guys do this because you love it obviously, but that also the neighbors really have enjoyed this, that people drive by and comment or walk by and comment. - [Christopher] That's right. - [Troy] Do you get a lot of people just walking by or walking through to see what's blooming today? - [Christopher] Well, a lot of people walk by and they give us great compliments and always tell them, stop by, walk through the garden, we designed it for that. We designed it for the neighborhood people to come and enjoy. We have had a few people stop by and just take their time and just mesmerize in it. - Well, that's a great thing. And I wanna thank you for letting us come and see the garden, giving us this little garden tour and to thank you also for just sharing. I think that's one of the things that gardening really to me is all about, is sharing it with other people. - Absolutely. - That's right. - Thank you. - Thank you. - [Narrator] For inspiring garden tours, growing tips and garden projects, visit our website at volunteergardner.org or on YouTube at the Volunteer Gardener channel and like us on Facebook.
April 08, 2021
Season 29 | Episode 12
On this episode of Nashville Public Television's Volunteer Gardener, Julie Berbiglia introduces us to cul2vate, a non-profit whose mission is to feed the hungry, and those who hunger for a fresh start. Sheri Gramer finds a peaceful plant palette in a Springfield garden. Troy Marden visits with a couple of garden enthusiasts who have color-filled flower beds in the front and back yard.