Omega: Your website says, “Great cooking starts with great ingredients, and great ingredients start with great soil.” Can you explain what you mean by that?
Sue: Great soil is the basis for health in plants and in people. You need to monitor your soil and make sure that it's balanced. We do soil tests twice a year and we make sure that the amendments we put in the soil help the plants be healthy. In this way we grow great vegetables that have the most amount of nutrition possible.
People often don't take dirt seriously enough. Taking care of the soil is a cumulative process that I don't think we even know the extent of yet. It's the basis of good farming, whether you're growing grain crops or vegetables.
Omega: What does good soil look like, smell like, taste like? How can you tell soil is good?
Sue: The scientific approach is to take a soil test and to analyze the major elements and minor elements in it. Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous are the major elements that most people look for, but there are a lot of minor elements, too, that are important. A good soil has a nice, crumbly texture. It has the right amount of air in it so the plants can breathe and the roots have room. It has a healthy biology to it as well—there are a lot of living organisms in healthy soil, including earthworms, mycorrhiza, and other fun microscopic things.
Omega: What do you love about farming?
Sue: There's so much I love about it. You get to work outside. You get to work with your hands. You get to see things really grow before your eyes. I still think it's the most amazing thing to take a tiny little seed the size of a pinhead and plant it in the soil, grow a plant, and get 30 pounds of food.
You couldn't possibly get bored farming. It's a different farming season every year. The challenges of last year are always fresh in your mind, and you want to do a better job of it this year, so there's always a bar to rise to. The weather is always challenging at some point in the season, so you need to be able to make challenges part of your life and embrace them.
You have to have a little bit of a gambling personality, too, because not much is in your control. You have to be a risk taker. You've got to be able to turn on a dime. If plan A didn't work, be ready to try plan B, C, or D.
Omega: Omega strives to provide a healthy diet to our participants. You're a big contributor to that. What vegetables do you supply to Omega?
Sue: I've been working with Omega for about four years now, and we grow zucchini, squash, beets, and carrots. It has been a fantastic ride all the way. It’s great to be involved with an organization that’s always striving to serve local, healthy foods en masse. It's not an easy task, and I admire all the people who are involved with it because it's a lot to organize a lot of small farms with so much diversity and coordinate all of that into a menu plan and make it work as well as you do.
Omega: We seem to be seeing a global shift to local and natural foods. From where you're sitting, why do you think that is?
Sue: I think people are becoming more conscious and more informed about healthy eating. I think some of it is just because it's popular right now, but I think people are becoming more educated about it and are more concerned about food as medicine. Food really has an impact on your body, on your mind, and on your spirit.
© 2017 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies