Unique research farm could make us more food secure in Anne Holt’s Tennessee

Anne Holt's Tennessee

Citrus from China, Oriental persimmons and other exotic foods are being grown on a farm in Summertown.  

Adam and Sue Turtle are research farmers with a passion for food security.  They work year round to find plants that grow well here in hopes of increasing the area’s food base. 

Cactus, catnip, sunny locust, cherry tree, golden rod are just a few of the plants they cultivate from all over the world. 

Plants like thorny dwarf citrus trees that yield a fruit that is fragrant, a little tart at first bite, but finishes with a sweet aftertaste. 

“It’s a monospecific genius of true citrus….native to China,” says Adam. ”I’ve been fooling with this species for forty years.”

What’s more exciting for Adam, this species can survive at 15 degrees below zero. 

“Why are we running trucks year-round from Florida, Texas and California to bring in citrus when at least 3 months a year we can grow our own?”

Growing more of our own food is what Adam’s farm is all about. Earth Advocates Research Farm is a nonprofit dedicated to finding plants to grow best in Middle Tennessee. 

“Middle Tennessee is a wonderful, wonderful….soil, climate, people,” says Adam. “But we drank the Kool-aid and bought into the fantasy that new is better. But most new is not tried thoroughly.”

Prickly pear cactus thrives in Middle Tennessee. The pads are edible in spring and Sue finds many uses for the fruit harvested in the fall. 

Sue Turtle says, “You can make syrup and jams and jellies. You can use it in all kinds of cooking.”

The Oriental persimmon also grows well in Tennessee soil.

“That’s one that surprisingly does okay here,” she says. “We’re at the edge of where it would really do because we’re not really warm enough.”

Chayote is a Central American squash. Air potatoes are good for soups and stews. Turmeric planted in May is ready for harvest here. 

“We need to be food secure,” says Adam. “Right now there is less than 45 days of food in the pipeline. We should be able to subsist comfortably, no hardship, on food grown within a hundred mile radius.”

You can buy Adam’s plans on the Earth Advocates Research Farm website. You can also drop by the Franklin Farmer’s Market on Saturday and he’ll show you how to plant them and take care of them. 

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