The MacAllers run Four Leaf Farm in Rougemont, ten miles northeast of Hillsborough. Helga MacAller described the small farm as “a mixed farmlet”: beds, potted plants, and greenhouses crowd into the space around the house.
At the top of the driveway is a nursery of bedding plants, perennials, and herbs, split into shade-loving plants and sun-lovers. Plant sales were what got Tim and Helga back into farming after a long hiatus: they’d quit when they had children. In 2002, their son was in the Ag program at Orange High, and they started selling plants at local farmers’ markets. Now they also grow vegetables in greenhouses through the winter and in the beds surrounding the house. Additional row crops are grown on rental properties—things like potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers that don’t require everyday attention. There’s a kiwi vine and a raspberry patch. The MacAllers use each space two to three times per season; they have new plants ready to go as seedlings, not seeds, when the old plants are done. The intense rotation allows them to maximize the production of their small space.
The greenhouse is the home of the MacAllers’ pea shoot production: when we met them in 2008, the MacAllers were planting ten to twelve pounds of pea plant seed twice a week. The seed germinates into pea shoots in about two weeks; the curly green leaves are tasty on salads, with a mild flavor and substantial texture. Harvested pea shoots remains are used as compost along with other scraps. The MacAllers use drip hoses and lots of mulch to keep the weeds out and the moisture in. Where they do use black plastic in place of mulch, it’s a biodegradable brand.
Learn more at http://www.fourleaffarm.org/.