When Middleton Place late last year hired a pair of farm managers to work its fledgling one-acre production garden, the site didn’t just hire somebody with organic farm experience: It hired somebody with organic farm certification experience.
Partly because Amy Talarico knew the ropes, and partly because the garden was located on an unmolested patch of land, Middleton sped through the certification process, last month earning its official organic designation. The certification came as good news to the farm, which this spring coped with the same drenching storms that destroyed crops across the region.
“We got absolutely murdered by the rain,” co-manager Frank Beaty says. “The old-timers we know said they hadn’t seen (anything like) it in 30 years, so we don’t feel so bad about the lackluster product.”
The farm’s now at the start of its second growing season: The beans, peppers, okra, eggplants and other crops are destined for the Middleton Place Restaurant, where chef Brandon Buck hopes to eventually strengthen his menus’ historical dimension by using heirloom varieties appropriate to the site’s interpretation period.
“So far we have not out-produced the restaurant,” Beaty says. “It’s my goal to do that.”
Surplus produce will be donated to food banks, but the farm serves a purpose beyond production, according to spokesman Warren Cobb. “We’re a plantation, and we’ve been growing stuff for hundreds of years,” he says. “This furthers our educational mission.”
Before Middleton can stage extensive programs at the farm, Beaty says he and Talarico need to get the area cleaned up — “I’m about to attack this field with a manicurist’s eye,” he promises — and its plants thriving. Their goal is to exceed organic standards by growing biodynamically.”
Some of the (biodynamic) practices sound kind of wacky, but the sum total of these practices seems to work really well,” he says. “The bottom line is it trusts the land you’re farming.”