Market garden keeps people well fed
Just minutes from downtown Black Mountain, there are rows and rows of fresh vegetables ready to grace local plates.
Becki’s Bounty, a market garden tended and prodded by Becki Janes, is located close to Lake Tomahawk. Its motto is “A Little Garden with Big Ideas.”
Janes is a well-educated farmer who toils in the garden hours every day for months to grow beautiful produce for sale. The list of vegetables she grows on half an acre sounds like a seed catalog - turnips, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes, green beans, tomatillos, garlic, Swiss chard, eggplant, cauliflowers, winter squash, radish, potatoes, beets, pole beans, arugula, summer squash, okra, lettuce kale and hot peppers, cucumbers, daikon, spinach, sweet peppers, collards, Chinese greens, salad greens, carrots and cabbage.
“I am doing what I love to do,” Janes said. “My garden has become a driving force for me. It isn’t really large enough to call a farm. The easy part of what I do is grow the produce. The hardest part is marketing it.”
Census data shows that the average size farm owned or managed by a woman is 179 acres or smaller (men tend to run the larger ones).
Janes turned pro-gardener in 2009. Before moving to Black Mountain to pursue her passion, she was a project director for Eliada Homes and then, as director, took the reins of Mountain Hope Therapeutic Center, a 42-acre farm. Working at Mountain Hope reconnected her to farm land. In college, she studied veterinary sciences and agriculture and has a BS degree in biology, with a minor in agriculture.
Janes’ techniques in the garden involve using as little tilling as possible. She makes her own compost and potting soil, collects rain water and saves seeds.
“It isn’t as simple as turning on the faucet,” she said. “I have a small pond that supplies some water. I use an efficient way of irrigating called ‘drip tape.’ It is a conservative way of watering, but time-consuming. I am getting close to gardening all year long. January and February are the only months that I don’t garden.
“I start growing vegetables from seeds in February in the house under lights and am ready to go to the garden by March.”
Janes says that she cannot make enough money to support herself from the garden.
“I have other income, and the garden is a nice supplement to it,” she said. “What I do is not a hobby. A hobby cost you money but doesn’t make money. What I do is a passion. I enjoy a healthy lifestyle through gardening, and it reduces my grocery bill.”
She sells produce at the East Asheville Tailgate Market on Fridays and at the Black Mountain Tailgate Market on Saturdays. She sells not only produce but also eggs and dairy, plant transplants and specialty products such as seeds. She also sells fresh herbs, mulch and compost tea that she has made.
“Becki has expanded her produce operation every year,” Joan Engelhardt, manager of the Black Mountain Tailgate Market, said. “She’s particularly known for the many varieties of tomatoes she offers, both heirlooms and hybrids. She also sells tomato plant starts so you can grow your own.”
Jamie Cameron, a neighbor of Janes and a customer, has nothing but praise for her efforts.
“We are so fortunate to have Becki,” he said. “I can walk down the street and shop for produce, eggs and whatever else she has at the time. She is one of the most driven, passionate women for producing the very best foods that I’ve ever known. It is wonderful to be able to watch food grow from seed to plate. We get to see the whole process.”
Janes places communal learning ahead of profit. She wants to continue to learn from others in her garden as she instructs them. She also plans to host community classes.
For more, contact Janes at 775-9251 or email@example.com.