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Weaver Street Market is committed to bringing you the freshest, best tasting foods available.
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maplespringgardens.jpgMaple Spring Gardens - Cedar Grove, NC
by Cat Moleski, Features Editor

Fresh, organic, local tomatoes from Ken Dawson's Maple Spring Gardens have long been a seasonal favorite at Weaver Street Market. Located on 61 acres just north of Hillsborough, Ken along with his partner, Libby Outlaw, have been providing local Farmers' Markets and Weaver Street Market with close to a hundred varieties of organic produce since 1984 when Ken became a full-time organic farmer.

One sunny morning last week, I visited Maple Spring Gardens to see what was new on the farm. Ken pointed to an outdoor workstation where his niece, Sara Fuller and her summer helper, Adam Gori, were sorting leeks and potatoes into boxes. Boxes also lined a small storage shed nearby and each was receiving bundles of produce. All these boxes were for their newly initiated Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Sara writes a weekly newsletter for the CSA and has been the Assistant Farm manager at Maple Spring Gardens for four years.

CSA's have been springing up all over North Carolina and the United States. They're a great way for people to get fresh, local produce while providing a consistent source of income for local farmers. Ken's first delivery to his CSA customers was the first week of May and his season is 25 weeks long. He offers two levels of participation: small for $11/week or large for $21/week. What appears in the boxes varies from week to week depending on what's in season. There's more variety in the spring while the summer evens out and in the fall the cool weather crops appear again. Today the boxes were filled with Roma tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, basil, Japanese eggplant, potatoes, sungold tomatoes, squash and peppers. As we move into fall, the boxes will have green beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, beets, and cabbage.

I asked Ken how the CSA was doing and he said, "I'll tell you what I tell any young farmer who asks a similar question, "Don't evaluate your chosen profession in August or you'll quit and get a desk job." So Ken will wait until the days are shorter and the nights are cooler before he'll reflect on how the CSA fared this year. He was however willing to tell me that the CSA has been very good for the farm and that they will be offering it again next year. If you're interested in participating you'll need to watch their website, www.maplespringgardens.com, this fall for the sign up time. Last year they sold out in thirty days.

As Ken and I walked the farm, he talked about his commitment to organic farming. He's been farming organically since 1972 and has been certified for 10 years. Organic Certification is expensive, and at times seems like there are way too many hoops to jump through, but for Ken, it's worth it. He chose the land he has now with organic farming in mind. He knew he enough land to allow a buffer to protect the farm from whatever his neighbors might be doing. I scan the horizon in a circle and see that all his land is ringed with trees. He keeps maps of his fields, and notes about plants, fertilizer, seeds, and other things. "It's what you do in your field that makes you an organic farmer. Its what you do in your office that makes you a certified organic farmer," he says to explain why the inspectors are mostly interested in his field notes and records of purchases when they visit each year.

As an organic farmer, Ken follows the ebb and flow of the seasons. He, his family, and his employees work hard during the spring, summer and fall, with a little break in the winter. Resting when the earth rests, "is a sustainable life," says Ken. This winter they will travel to Italy to attend the Slow Food Convention, where they will have an opportunity to meet growers from around the world and hopefully come home rested and ready to start the cycle all over again.
By choosing from our thoughtful range of authentic foods you will be supporting small producers and local farmers as well as enjoying some of the tastiest hand-crafted products in the area.