Rows of empty beds line fallow fields waiting for the bountiful harvest to come. In the summer, these beds will overflow with freshly-grown cucumbers, melons, peppers, eggplants, and more. A hint of things to come are the arugula flowers basking in the sun next to a greenhouse, waiting to be picked. Leaves are just starting to sprout on tomato plants standing under grow lights.
Rooted Heart Farm owner Courtney Swearingen grabs one of the tomato flats. “You’ve gotta take caution because there could be one last freeze,” Swearingen said. “We trick them by using greenhouses. I start seeds in there in little flats and then transplant them out into the fields.”
Rooted Heart is one of the farms that is a part of Cardo’s Farm Project, run by Amanda Austin. These farms provide organic produce to various local restaurants including Barley & Board, Chestnut Tree, and Hannah’s Off the Square.
Any remaining fruits and vegetables are sold at the Denton Community Market, open every Saturday between the months of April and November. Rooted Heart Farm welcomes those who want to visit the farm and learn about growing their own produce. College students, regardless of major, can apply for internships at the farm, which is how Courtney Swearingen got involved.
“I worked with Amanda and started as a student intern in 2013 – and just kept coming back,” Swearingen said. “That’s how I decided I wanted to be a farmer.”
The farm plays host to service projects and encourages volunteers to come out on Mondays and Wednesdays to help with field work. Beginning in March, Wednesdays are designated harvest days. Visitors can enjoy farm tours, even when working is not on their mind. But for those interested in growing instead of just buying their own foods, volunteering is the path to hands-on knowledge and farming experience.
“The internship and volunteer work is more learning by doing,” Courtney said. “It’s not classroom style – you’re actually out in the fields working. We’ll talk about stuff. I’ll explain everything before we do it. Why we do it, how to do it.”
Locally-sourced produce is more than a current culinary fad. It’s evolving into a practical and healthy lifestyle choice for more and more people. Cardo’s Farm Project shows how it’s done and teaches anyone the DIY route to good, fresh food.