Lifetime farmer Stuart Rouse and conservationist Bud Sessions make a great organic produce team, and share knowledge with clients at local farmers’ markets and through their store, Green Seasons Garden Center. Sessions and his wife, Holly, manage the center, and offer almost everything an organic or hydroponic grower could imagine. The garden center’s Facebook page inspires and encourages organic growers to stretch creativity in their own homes and community gardens.
Using products from Green Seasons, Rouse organically cultivated 5 acres of the family farm, “Daisy-May,” in Teachey, NC. The farm of roughly 150 acres dates back to the early 1800s for the Rouse and Wells (his mother’s maiden name) families. This year Rouse is selling his organic harvest to three farmers’ markets in the greater Wilmington area: Poplar Grove, Wrightsville Beach and River Bluffs at Porch’s Café (Castle Hayne). He enjoys talking with customers and sharing organic farm practices.
His harvest includes red-skin potatoes, sun-gold grape tomatoes, German Johnson, Cherokee Purple, Taxi (a yellow tomato), Mortgage Lifter heirloom (a pink variety), San Marzano Roma, and Red Morning tomatoes. He sells Clemson spineless okra, flat Dutch and Jersey pointed-head cabbage, watermelon, and French breakfast radishes.
“I start with Harmony fertilizer, which is mostly nitrogen, and side-dress with bone meal,” Rouse says. “After getting a free soil test at the New Hanover County Arboretum, I also spray calcium, if needed. For weed control, I use a one-row cultivator, which attaches to my tractor and turns the weeds upside down. Any weeds left are hand-pulled and chopped with a hoe. Spinosad and Dipel are used for insect control if necessary.”
Rouse is proud of the eggs produced by his Coturnix Quail. They are cage-free and fed a non-medicated feed and supplemented with crushed oyster shells, kale and crickets. His eggs, green tomatoes and Romanesco broccoli, a rare and desirable vegetable, are sold through the Feast Down East Food Hub at the historic train depot in Burgaw.
Feast Down East—a nonprofit that works with local farmers—helps place farmers’ products in restaurants, health food and grocery stores. Farmers take their produce to the hub twice a week. Feast Down East provides marketing and distribution, as well as educates farmers on industry standards.
“We give produce boxes at cost in an effort to get produce to market undamaged,” says Zach LaVere, Food Hub manager. “We also work with a local food bank to supply excess eggs in an effort to combat food waste. We are hoping to take vegetable donations to food banks this fall.”
Sessions and his assistant, Micah Bland, are planning for fall by helping Graham Cole with the Wilgrow community garden on the corner of Castle and 4th streets. Cole is using earthworm castings, “nature’s fertilizer,” to enrich the soil, plus amendments from Green Seasons Garden Center.
“I’m planting 700 cabbage, collard, and cabbage-collards (a variety of collard that forms a tight plant like a cabbage),” Cole says. “The way it works is those who help propagate the plants are welcome to share the harvest. Bud and Micah are really helpful in making this garden a successful growing experience for the Wilmington community.”
Lisa Fial, who recently moved from the San Francisco Bay Area, appreciates the staff at Green Seasons, especially since she was looking for an organic gardening supply store upon her relocation to the South. “These guys are the best,” she praises, “always able to answer my questions and recommend just the right products.”
For the garden lover, Green Seasons provides a compost tea brewer made by Cole, which provides probiotics for plants. There are multiple trays of nutritious wheat grass under grow lights, Fox-Farm soils and fertilizers, oxygen pumps and coco coir products for hydroponics, tools and gro-blocks that promote root growth and drainage. The most unusual aeration containers have multiple holes along the sides; these pots stimulate root growth as opposed to root spin in conventional pots.
Outside the center is a 2,000-square-foot garden. One of Sessions’ favorite vegetables, Brussels sprouts look very inviting. Also there are specialty varieties of tomatoes and peppers not found in the big box stores. Sessions is planning to build a greenhouse on site, and he is also available to build customized greenhouses at clients’ requests. Numerous health stores and restaurants use his products, for which Rouse is grateful, including Catch, the Little Chef Food Truck, Lovey’s Natural Foods & Café, Tidal Creek Co-Op, and Pure Life Health Food and Vitamin.
Sessions’ Candied Jalapenos
3/4 lbs fresh jalapenos, washed
2/3 c distilled vinegar
2 c white granulated sugar
1/2 c water
1 clove of minced garlic
Dash of turmeric
Celery seed to taste
Bud strongly suggests wearing gloves when preparing the jalapenos for this recipe.
Slice the jalapenos into 1/8-inch rings. Boil sugar, water and vinegar, and stir until sugar has dissolved. Add peppers and other ingredients and let boil for 4 minutes. For hotter candy, boil jalapenos for a shorter time; for mild candy, boil jalapenos longer.
Scoop jalapenos into a 16-ounce jar, and pour syrup on top. Let refrigerate for two weeks. Then, dig in!!! This dish may be served as a condiment or as a side for greens.
Better Than Your Mama’s Potatoes
Provided by Rouse’s girlfriend.
6 medium-sized red potatoes
3/4 c light extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c garlic powder
1/8 c parsley flakes
Sea salt to taste
Heat oil in frying pan on medium. Slice potatoes into 1/4-inch cubes and add to pan. Add spices and stir frequently. Cover the pan between stirs. Cook until the edges of the potatoes develop a nice crisp.
Green Seasons Garden Center is located at 100 Spartan Road off of north Market Street; (910) 399-1157.