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A couple’s secret to success

Maple Creek Farm – Virtual farm Tour

 

(Editor’s note: The annual Rutherford and Polk counties’ farm tour is being staged online this year. Farms can be visited weekly at facebook.com/ncfoothillsfarmtour/)

 

Like the settlers of the 1800’s who headed west in search of gold, Beverly and Bruce Aiken were looking to write the next chapter of their lives when they passed through downtown Rutherfordton. They knew instantly this was where they wanted to build their farm.

They loaded up their honeybees and left Charlotte three years ago. Just seven miles west of the downtown that they fell in love with, the Aikens bought 12.5 acres and began building their homestead farm.

In just three short years, they have transformed property that bore no resemblance to a farm into a highly organized hydroponics operation producing 75 pounds of lettuce and microgreens weekly that is sold to several restaurants as well as at the Rutherford County Farmers Market and to regular buyers on their email list.

“I love harvest day the most,” said Beverly. “It’s extremely satisfying to harvest lettuces that amaze people with their taste and crispness.”

When you walk past her booth at the farmers market, you can’t help but fix your eyes on the luscious greenery, vegetables and herbs on display. What you don’t see is all the work leading up to that.

Prep work for the market begins 10-12 days in advance.

“We plant microgreens, timing them just right, and keep them happy and healthy under grow lights and nutrient water until the Friday before Saturday’s market,” Beverly said. They cut, wash and package the day before to ensure freshness, and they pack the van and truck the night before with all the supplies they need. Then at 5 a.m. Saturday when the roosters are crowing, they are up and packing the coolers.

While the hydroponic production of greens occurs year round, during the summer they harvest from their conventional garden an array of vegetables, including tomatoes, okra, beans, peas, cabbage, kale, collards, turnips, broccoli, carrots and sweet peas, to take to the market. Along with that mix, they grow basil, cilantro, parsley, thyme, oregano and dill.

In addition, they have free-range chickens laying eggs to collect for customers and honey from their seven bee hives.

The hydroponic portion of their farm includes a 900-square-foot greenhouse.

No soil is used to grow plants hydroponically, which results in cleaner, bigger, healthier and faster growing plants. A plant that might require 12 weeks to reach maturity in a soil-based garden is ready to harvest in as few as eight weeks.

Their farm is also home to two Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs, three barn cats, five hogs rescued from a pig farm in eastern North Carolina, seven dairy goats and 40 to 50 chickens.

What’s the secret to their success and happiness? Love and romance.

When they are sitting on the back porch and Bruce is talking to the goats, they can recall the romance of renewing their marriage vows atop the Eiffel Tower four years ago.

Who knew.

Submitted by Larry McDermott

Bruce and Beverly Aiken with some of their goats at their Maple Creek Farm and Apiary in Rutherfordton. (Contributed photo)