This week I had the privilege to meet with a young man who is a true steward of the land. His name is William Metts and he took a courageous leap of faith; he quit his job and started to farm his family land full time.
Farming is a fickle business. The hours are long, the income uncertain and the crops are at the mercy of the weather. Ask all the farmers who lost crops to the floods last year. Remember the pouring rain of last October?
Yet Will Metts listened to his inner voice and passion and started the painstaking efforts to transform land into fertile soil. And just to add drama to his courage, he decided to become an organic grower. Right here in Greenwood.
Organic agriculture is tightly ruled. No chemical pesticides and herbicides, no GMO, and the soil has to be fed with the right input. How strange this way of growing food is in itself traditional, the way lands were cared for by our great-grand-parents, yet there are so many rules to follow. In contrast, commercial agriculture has virtually no boundaries in their use of chemicals.
In our conversation, William mentioned when his father became sick, his family became aware of the quality of food we eat and how it can impact health. Nutrition starts in the soil, so he started working on a thin slice of land, where beds could run 100 feet long for easier tilling.
For continuous production throughout the year, Will set up a hydroponic system where he produces lettuces and leaf vegetables, like watercress and chard. He starts from seeds then transfers the plant in the hydroponic system.
Hydroponic agriculture is a method where plants grow, nourished by a mineral solution, in water, without soil. In terms of nutritional value, it can be equal or even better than traditionally grown vegetables; it’s all a question of how healthy the soil is. With the advent of high yield, commercial and chemical agriculture, our soils have been depleted to the point where nutrients have dropped by about 30% compared to the 1930s. Oranges have been analyzed and some have been found to have NO vitamin C at all because of soil depletion.
Growing leafy vegetables in his hydroponic system allows Will to have a steady income while working on his land. He also has a growing tunnel, where plants grow from the soil on a string system, which allow the “fruit” – like a zucchini – to hang from its stem instead of laying on the ground, subject to insects and humidity.
It’s quite an ingenious system, one I will try to imitate in my modest garden bed.
Two local restaurants in Greenwood, Inn On The Square and The Mill House, use Metts Organix’s leafy greens on their menu. I hope other local restaurants will turn to Will for their leafy greens and promote his vegetables – vegetables that did not travel on the back of a national food service truck, from a warehouse outside the state, from a commercial grower in California or Mexico. Eating local, sustainable and organic produce ensures maximum nutrition.
You can find Metts Organix products at the Uptown Farmers Market every Wednesday from 10 to 2. Follow him on Facebook here.