Hey folks. Cafe Nola was covered in the Gazette again, this time they ran a full length article about what we're up to on the farm. It's a great article that you can check out here:
(click above to see article with photos)
The garden project is being spearheaded by Nola manager Doug Powell, 30, who has had experience apprenticing on a small organic farm near the base of Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson with a friend.
Last week, as the sun beat down on him, Powell wrapped up work at the farm, wandering among the beds, rattling off names of his babies — a small sprout of swiss chard struggling through the earth, a green shoot of Boston Bibb Lettuce peeking out.
He said the main purpose of the garden isn't to supply the restaurant's sandwiches with tomatoes or side dishes with fruit. What he really is focused on is growing heirloom vegetables for nightly specials.
Examples include Romanesco cauliflower, an unusual-looking cross between broccoli and cauliflower, and heirloom tomatoes: Cherokee purple, gold medal and Japanese black trifele.
"I'm thinking with [the chef] in mind," Powell said. "What he can make — specials out of stuff you can't get anywhere else."
It's not just about vegetables. The farm has 27 chicks, and hopes to eventually house about 50 hens that would provide for the restaurant's egg demand. The chickens will be fed food scraps from the restaurant and their waste will be used to fertilize the garden, which will then make produce, that will again produce scraps.
When the plants are more self-sufficient, the hens will be let loose in the garden, an easy, clucking pest-control solution. The coop's roof runoff will go to rain barrels with a reservoir to water the plants.
Not yet at the farm are also two male Nubian goats. Customer and kitchen leftovers, rinds, shells and scraps will go toward feeding them
"They do so much for you and they need so little," Powell said.
The garden is located Marie Landau's farm in Mount Airy. Landau said her granddaughter, Alex Landau, works at Nola, and she had already met many of the staff before the garden idea came up.
A former gardener herself, when Landau heard of the garden, she offered up a plot of her farm.
"They said ‘What are you going to charge?' and I said ‘Are you crazy?'" she laughed. "I'd pay them to come out. They're all so nice, these young people. I like just watching them."
Landau bought the property 28 years ago with her husband, Vincent, who died last year. "He loved working with his hands; I think he would love seeing these kids," she said.
Landau herself was an avid organic gardener long before it was popular, and was one of the many that has provided ideas for the garden.
Powell said he's found multiple resources, both online and through local people with advice.
"When you first start doing this, everyone wants to talk to you," he said.
The garden is driven by experimentation, both by known factors, but also with a little bit of hope.
"We're interspacing what grow well together," Powell said. "Herbs and flowers keep the bad pests away and invite the good pests."
Alex Landau is in charge of the flowers and herbs.
"She on bug prevention," Powell laughed. "That's how it works—we all can expect one another to do a good job."
Powell, the day manager at the café, includes the garden as part of his job. But the volunteers, ranging from seven to one or two at a time, come once or twice a week doing the grunt work.
"People seem eager," Powell said. The garden has even turned into a family affair, with owner Dave Snyder's mom babysitting chickens until they were ready for the coop, Alex Landau's dad digging fenceposts and even Powell's daughter and dog roaming the property.
The garden will ideally be around a half-acre, a plot on a vacant hill on the property that overlooks picturesque rolling pastures, a reflective pond and a tangle of woods.
Though Powell has experience, he said there are no plans to be certified organic. "I don't see the point," he said. Though the garden doesn't use chemicals, he said the garden is mostly for Nola and there was no need to prove the organic nature to themselves.
Downtown Frederick Partnership Executive Director Kara Norman said she was not aware of other local restaurants that are growing their own produce.
Many restaurants take advantage of the local farming community, using the produce and meat for their menus, she said.
"I would not be surprised if it was in long term plans," she said of some where a garden may fit the business model. "Gardening is a big commitment and so is a restaurant."
The legal hoops the garden had to jump through weren't very extensive. Powell registered the chicken flock and the produce is a product under a tax ID he procured for the farm.
The project isn't without its bumps. Earlier in the spring a poison ivy sneak attack took out some for a few days, a baby chick died after being mailed to Frederick from a supplier and miscalculations with bed sizes have resulted in more work to maximize the space in the garden.
If all goes well, Powell said future plans could include involving classes from neighboring schools in the development of our seasonal crops, the garden would expand and a tranquil pond at the foot of the hill could even serve as a fish farm someday.
Experiments with season extending are underway. "It really forces ingenuity," Powell said of gardening, which he dubbed an obsessive compulsive's dream.
E-mail Angie Cochrun at firstname.lastname@example.org.