When Beau Wagoner and Clayton Long worked together as landscapers, Beau nick-named Clayton, “the garden gnome” due to his stature. Now, the two are working together again on a new venture as “Gnome & Son’s” Farm, as part of Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Incubator Farm Program. The pair originally got to know each other through horticultural classes at NC State. Now, Clayton owns his own landscaping business and Beau works at the IFFS Teaching Farm, but both were itching for more space to grow their own gardens.
Both are "foodies" love to cook and grow gardens. Beau says Clayton grew some awesome tomatoes last year in a little spot between his house and the next, with only 3 hours of direct sun – quite a feat!
Not only are Beau and Clayton appreciative of the increased space to grow, the proximity of the incubator plots at the IFFS Teaching Farm makes it much more convenient to farm – it’s a lot closer for Beau to where he lives than where he was farming previously.
Beau says he’s always had a green thumb, and used to help his mom in the garden. He studied horticulture and got into farming primarily out of a desire to know how to provide for himself – to feed himself, and his friends and family, as well as to know where his food is coming from.
He knows how much better food tastes fresh from the field than from any grocery store, and “when you’re growing your own, that’s the freshest it gets.”
What are they growing?
Gnome & Son’s just finished harvesting a crop of radishes and spinach, and are also growing mesclun lettuce mix, red and golden swiss chard, and a couple different varieties of carrots, summer squash, and cucumbers.
They’ve built a trellis for the twining cucumbers to grow up, over, and hang down. Growing this way, the cucumbers provide shade to the squash below them, and decrease the likelihood of disease for both crops. Keeping the cucumbers off the ground reduces soil-borne disease, and the increased airflow will hopefully reduce powdery mildew that often plagues squash plants.
They’re currently in the process of building a different type of trellis – for their “determinant” or bush tomatoes, and another for their “indeterminant” or vining tomatoes. The vining tomatoes will climb up the trellis and spread out a little wider in the beds –hopefully providing enough shade to grow some shade-loving leafy greens later in the summer.
Other summer produce plans include dwarf okra (smaller in size so as not to block the sun for their neighboring incubator farmers), and a couple varieties of beans. But Beau and Clayton are already planning for the fall as well. They both love brussel sprouts and are hoping to get them in the ground early this year.
Freshness is important to Gnome & Son’s. They’re currently selling produce at the IFFS Farm Stand (on Tryon & Dover Rd. Thursdays & Fridays 12-6pm and Saturdays 9a-1p), and they harvest the morning of. What they don’t sell, they donate to IFFS’s Culinary department to use in the job training program, Catering with a Cause, or cooking meals for kids.
Gnome & Son’s is really just getting off the ground, but would love to eventually be able to market to restaurants as well.
A growing, engaged community
With 17 incubator farmers now in the program, Beau says, “we have a growing, engaged community…it’s a joy to work with people who are engaged in what they’re doing.”
“Each one of the incubators WANTS to be here and wants to learn,” Beau says that he can see the techniques that others are using and also offer wisdom and ideas from his own background and experience.
“I’ve been farming for five years now and I learn something new every time I put my hands in the dirt. It’s a science, but it’s also an art form.”
“Farming by yourself is not something most people want to do,” but the incubator program provides an environment where new and beginning farmers can bounce ideas off of each other, and look out for each other’s plots as back-up support. What does Beau like best about the Incubator Farmer program?
“It’s the community aspect of it…people pulling together for a common cause.”