Organic garden and market work hand in hand

Barbara Hootman

Roots & Fruits Market in Black Mountain is living its dream of supplying produce from the garden to the market to the customers, all within a few feet of where it was grown.

Roots & Fruits (, an organic goods shop in the old Lindsey House near downtown, has a large vegetable garden with a hoop-type greenhouse in the side yard. Greens are growing there now (winter slows the production of greens but doesn’t stop it). The colorful flock of chickens in the backyard lays eggs for customers (not really, but they buy them).

Shop owners Kyle and Sheila Nuccilli have owned the property for two years, having purchased it from Harry and Elaine Hamil who had the Black Mountain Farmers Market on the site. Kyle is a graduate of Warren Wilson College.

“We grow about 40 percent of the produce that we use at the Juice Box Cafe (the food truck at the shop) and in the market,” he said. “About 60 percent of what we sell comes from local sources, with much of it as close as 20 miles.”

Kyle is the on-site gardener who keeps the gardens and hoop house producing.

“I got a lot of practical experience working in the gardens at Warren Wilson College,” he said. “I majored in outdoor leadership and psychology, and it is me you see digging in the garden, getting the beds prepped for spring planting. It is exciting.

“I want this place to be an educational model offering the cleanest, freshest food around. I want people to know that they can make a real difference with just a small garden to grow food. I am creating a common space focused on community and food.”

Phin Worthington, from Portland, Oregon, volunteers in the garden. He is studying sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson. His friend Maggie Weber is actually doing in the garden what he is learning in the classroom.

“It is definitely the most unique garden that we’ve worked in,” she said, “because of the connection to the market and customers. That’s what we always look for.”

Elisha Lee, Roots & Fruits manager, isn’t a gardener. Nor does she enjoy taking care of the chickens. But she appreciates what the garden and the chickens add to the business.

“The garden with fresh produce and vegetables is vital to what we do at Roots & Fruits,” she said. “We have a goal to lower our (carbon) footprint. We certainly know our farmers well. ‘From seed to harvest’ is our philosophy in action in the market, and it is a good selling tool.

“I’m not a farmer, but what goes on here has opened my eyes to the hard work,” she said. “The kale and greens are probably the most popular produce throughout the season. People love fresh greens. There were over 50 different varieties of vegetables grown in the garden last year.”

Gavin Dillard, a regular customer, is a professional restauranteur from Los Angeles. He was a food critic for 12 years on the island of Maui, Hawaii

“Roots & Fruits is the closest thing we have to a Black Mountain co-op,” he said. “I order cases (of foods) there and get excellent discounts. Food-wise, last summer was a tremendous boon. Short of the very limited though excellent menu at Dobra (Tea), Roots & Fruits is the only place that I feel comfortable eating. Roots & and Fruits is far from gourmet cooking, but it is simple and healthy, and a fun meeting place.”

“My goal is to try to become a ‘go to’ market for the community,” said Sheila Nuccilli, who calls herself “Mama Nuccilli.” “My passion is to be an outlet for local farmers,” she said. “We have gotten a lot of positive feedback from the community about what we are trying to accomplish.”

Roots & Fruits currently offers fresh produce, organic meats and eggs from more than 30 local organic farmers.

“We are truly excited and blessed to be located where we are,” Lee said. “I can’t count the number of times people walk through the door and say that the place was Grandma Lindsey’s old place. They also tell me she would be so happy to see what we are doing with her house and land.”