Root Bottom Farm, located in Marshall, NC, is the epitome of phrases like “less is more” and “small is beautiful.”
LOCATED ON A NARROW ISLAND of property hemmed in by a creek on one side and a road on the other, the farm unfolds in a subtle manner, revealing a cornucopia of carefully arranged crops which will produce delicate flavors, textures, and colors throughout the year.
Owners Sarah and Morgan Decker have worked to create a selection of crops, which could satiate the palates of even the most discerning eater while also satisfying the conscience of the most concerned environmentalist. Root Bottom Farm’s crops are essentially separated into two sections on the property, with one side being oriented toward perennial crops and the other side being oriented toward annual crops – with healthy scatterings of beautifully landscaped areas and flowers to be sold for cut flowers and floral arrangements. As Sarah puts it, “With the amount of space that we’re working with, we grow a large variety of crops.”
Everything is organically grown using “no spray” techniques. The farm functions as a labor of love with Sarah, Morgan, and one full-time intern providing the bulk of the work necessary to sustain day-to-day operations and to engage the more long-term goal of transforming the property from a former hoarder’s haven into a functioning farm. The couple can recount a number of stories about reclaiming the farm from its past – noting that the property previously had outbuildings filled to the ceiling with junk and four vacant mobile homes, one of which was completely filled with Christmas memorabilia.
In reviewing Root Bottom Farm’s crops and products, Morgan speaks highly of the role that microgreens have played in establishing the farm, “Microgreens have made us a little different, and that’s what made us unique and attractive to managers of markets.” Additionally, he says that microgreens provide the basis for multiple restaurant accounts. Sarah frames it saying, “Microgreens put us on the map.” The farm has also begun offering some value-added products including pesto and a garlic butter aptly named “Dragon’s Breath.
In addition to sales at farmers markets and restaurants, Root Bottom Farm operates what Morgan terms to be an “ESA” (or E-mail Supported Agriculture) program as opposed to the more traditional CSA box. The ESA set up acts as another market opportunity for the farm, one that allows them to capture the seasonal population changes of the local region. Customers who subscribe to the weekly e-mail blast get a notification letting them know what is available on the farm; the customers in turn select what they would like and it is delivered later in the week at a designated pickup point. ESA offers Root Bottom Farm’s customers the ability to interactively make choices that cater to their produce needs, while also allowing them the flexibility to work around vacations and variations in their weekly schedules.
The ESA concept is not the only thing that sets Root Bottom Farm apart. Over the course of the summer, Root Bottom Farm will be hosting three farm-to-table dinners on the property. The meal will feature 100% local Madison County cuisine – vegetables from Root Bottom Farm, meats from Dry Ridge Farm and breads from Smoke Signals Bakery. Vegetarian and gluten free options will also grace a table filled with farm products harvested the day of the meal. Chef Dava Melton of Blessed 2 Cook will tie all of the ingredients together into a family-style meal. The events will also include a tour of the farm and entertainment following the meal. Dinners will be held rain or shine.
The intent behind the dinners is to form a relationship with the farm’s customers and to create an opportunity for communal gathering. The proceeds garnered from ticket sales for the dinner will raise the capital necessary for Root Bottom Farm to construct a root cellar, because as Sarah puts it, “A farm focused on root crops should have a root cellar”. But the dinner is more than an attempt at crowdsourcing capital; it is a chance to present the farms products in a different venue, to highlight the local community and the products that it offers. Sarah adds, “The money is going toward our root cellar, but people are going to remember coming together for these dinners and passing the food around.”