Spreading crops, word about healthiness

Published 5:07 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2019

As Ann Codrington wanders across and around her Nisani Farm, she knows this is her calling, passion and contribution.

The farm is as much about mission as soil.

On her farm, which is located in Phenix and encompasees 50 acres, Codrington always makes sure to grow Caribbean specialties such as lemon grass and hot peppers. In addition, there are specialty lettuces, artisan cherry tomatoes, many herbs, sweet peppers, cucumbers and greens like kale and Swiss chard.
“Ginger and turmeric are my specialties — ginger and turmeric for cooking, as well as plants and seedlings for those who want to grow their own,” she said.

For those who don’t know, Codrington is quick to share the attributes of ginger and turmeric, calling them “wonderful plants.”

“They make attractive potted plants while they are growing, and when it is time to harvest them you can look forward to healthier, tastier meals, drinks and desserts,” she said. “Sometimes people need help taking that first step. Few people know how to grow ginger or turmeric. I make it easy for people to get started by doing the hard part for them.”

And, ultimately, that’s what Codrington’s considers her calling — spreading the word and distributing the tools of healthier eating.

“It is absolutely worth it,” she declares. “It takes a little more time to prepare healthy food, but you and your family deserve the reward of fresh, tasty and healthy food.”

Codrington and her husband Bruce White purchased the farm in 2008, the culmination of a dream she had since the early 1990s when she and White, who works for Catholic Relief Services, were Peace Corps volunteers.

“I’ve always kept a small garden in my yard and try to garden every year,” she said.
Then some mutual friends, who were also returned Peace Corps volunteers, bought land nearby and suggested they do the same.

The first visit was all they needed.

“We knew instantly when we walked up the driveway that this was the place,” she said. “There is so much land with so many possibilities.”

“Our kids were all little, and we wanted them to experience being free to explore nature as they grew up. There is nothing like watching a bunch of eight-year-old girls wander off into the woods without worrying about them. Those children are now adults, and have a wonderful appreciation for nature.”

As for farming, the first year “we carved a very small garden out of the weeds, and this has expanded over time,” Codrington said.

Now, she notes, there are three high tunnels and a large fenced growing area on about 2 acres. And, she adds, they’ve planted a variety of fruit trees that are just beginning to bear. 

“Each year we expand our plantings, and hope to begin growing green manures for composting in one of our fields this year,” Codrington said.

If she could, she’d get every person to grow at least one edible item.

“You don’t need a huge garden,” she said. “I’ve seen apartments in the city with garden boxes in the parking lot for residents. I’ve seen people grow herbs in a pot on a windowsill. I’ve seen grow tables for the elderly so that no bending is required. We just have to take the time to plant, and ultimately, take the time for ourselves.”

Not that it has been easy. It hasn’t, and isn’t.

“I knew it was hard work — but I didn’t really have an appreciation for how hard it would be to use no chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and no artificial inputs,” she said. “But, perhaps the biggest challenge is finding a reliable set of buyers. When people think of small farms, they think of farmer’s markets and community supported agriculture. Those ways of selling produce are saturated, and it is hard to make a living as a farmer.”

And that’s why Codrington decided to branch into selling ginger and turmeric seedlings (she’s a grower for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange) “and making value-added products with my ginger and turmeric such as syrups, granola and condiments.”

But even with the challenges, she still declares her love for what she does.

“I love how meditative it is being out weeding — even though it’s a very repetitive job,” she said. “I love sounds of the wildlife. Most of all, the food that comes from my farm always tastes better. So it’s worth it.”