Local farmers 'Grow, Cook, Learn' as they serve community
Would you want to know that the produce you are buying is healthy and free of pesticides and fertilizer?
Greg and Carole Lolley are working to make that possible. They are the owners and operators of Mayim Farms, an all-natural and pesticide-free crop farm.
The couple, originally from Enterprise, came to Elba five years ago with a dream of starting their own natural farm. The Lolleys always enjoyed growing their own food and decided to start the farm to grow natural produce with no threat of harsh chemicals.
Today, Mayim Farms, located on the outskirts of Elba, mainly produces market vegetables, like peppers, watermelon, and tomatoes.
They use aquaponics, a water-based system using the waste of certain fish to give nutrients to the plants, to grow some crops. This system, through a series of passages and containers, provides both the fish and the plants what they need to grow and be healthy.
This summer they are most excited about experiments with a more unusual plant, the Moringa tree. This green and leafy plant produces a special super food that has the reputation of being one of the healthiest plants in the world. The plant is native to tropical and sub-tropical regions far from Alabama.
Lolley explained their excitement when one of their Moringa trees survived cold weather. “We suspected it could be a bit more tolerant than the rest.”
His enthusiasm grew when he realized what this could mean for farmers and when Auburn University showed an interest. “Through a relationship with a third party, the Auburn plant research lab volunteered to verify and quantify the ability for this particular tree to withstand a cooler environment and continue to produce leaves,” Lolley explained.
Because of the Moringa tree research and a great growing season boosted by plentiful rain, the future of Mayim Farms seems to be looking up.
Mr. and Mrs. Lolley are passionate about the natural growing practice and believe that everything that grows is meant to be there. “We strive to operate within the laws of nature and our creator,” he said.
Contrary to some traditional practices, the couple does not pick weeds when they appear in the garden area nor do they fertilize the plants. Instead, Mayim Farms uses indigenous microorganisms. “We use the indigenous microbiology along with plant-based compost grown on the farm to add nutrients to our soils,” he explained.
“We concentrate on growing our soil, and the produce is the benefit not our focus,” he added.
After fully establishing the farm a year and a half ago, the couple is now focused on more than building their soil. The farm’s slogan “Grow, Cook, Learn” is proving to be true.
One way they do that is by providing educational workshops for the community on topics such as drying and canning food, soil biology, and compost tea making.
Mayim Farm has hosted home school groups, beginner farmers, and farmers looking to be more natural in growing practices. The couple has also gone into Elba City Schools to share about what they do.
“We usually have workshops about four times a year, each quarter or season,” he said. Teaching about soil biology is his favorite. “Soil biology is the key to everything including your health,” Lolley said.
The farm is now working toward providing overnight workshops with groups camping on the land.
Community involvement goes beyond educational workshops. The Lolleys were a vendor at the 2017 Rockin’ the River Festival. They have volunteered time to the Giving Garden and recently donated $100 to Restoration 154 to help specifically with the Giving Garden.
Having firmly established the farm a year and a half ago, Mr. Lolley said he plans to retire soon from his job and operate Mayim Farm full-time with the goals of enhancing the current acreage and introducing new plants.
Mayim Farms has also joined several online farmers markets to better serve their community. These markets are built for niche growers providing local, chemical-free fruit, vegetables and more. Customers can order produce of their choice and pick it up at local sites.
Those in the Daleville/Dothan area can order online from Market at Dothan, http://marketatdothan.locallygrown.net/. Residents in the Elba/Enterprise area can place their online orders at Slow Food Elba https://slowfood.locallygrown.net/
For more information about Mayim Farms, check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/mayimfarm/