By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
It’s about an hour before sunset. A truckload of deep brown compost has just arrived at Leaning Birch Farm. It sits in a heap near the garden beds and high tunnels that Dan and Rose Fera began putting in their backyard five years ago.
Nic, their son, greets me as I pull up, but his focus is on the compost. A former coffee shop worker and musician, he pays close attention to the aesthetics – the color, the texture, the smell. He thrusts his arms deep into the heap and pulls out a handful. He forms a ball and lets its crumble through his palms back into the pile. He then buries his nose into a handful, savoring its smell.
Leaning Birch Farm is among several new produce vendors at this year’s Saratoga Farmers’ Market. The Feras grow dozens of varieties of vegetables in approximately 1.5 acres of space. They use intensive, high-yield planting techniques to maximize their space, which as Nic notes, teaches that “you don’t need a lot of land to make a decent living.”
Nic grew up in Saratoga Springs, where his parents were renters. Dan restored violins and Rose worked as a clinical director for a special education school. All three had a flair for art and a fondness for fresh food. Nic began playing music at coffee shops, and ultimately worked in the business himself.
Dan and Rose had a garden and relatively low rent. Still, they yearned to build equity by doing something they loved. That desire led them to purchase a house in Broadalbin. The house came with a yard filled with good soil and abutted a pond. It also came with a mortgage that was nearly twice the monthly amount they had been paying in rent.
Dan had a plan: Pay the mortgage with garlic.
“I had heard somewhere that you could make $40,000 a year on an acre of garlic,” he said with a laugh.
Garlic as a sole moneymaker never materialized, but the idea helped the Feras see the hunger for fresh local foods. They began selling to restaurants, via a farm stand, and through a CSA. About three years ago, they joined their first farmers market, and now sell at markets in Schenectady, Glens Falls, and Saratoga.
“It’s a cool feeling to realize how many other people also are sitting down to dinner, eating our vegetables,” adds Rose. “We’re not just taking care of ourselves but our community, too.”
This week’s recipe: Ginger Sesame Salmon Salad