Gaia Herbs' Vegetable Program: Free Vegetables All Season Long for Our Employees and Community

Published on April 24, 2024

By Gaia Herbs Farm Team

Gaia Herbs Farm Team

The Gaia Herbs farm leadership team, which includes Kate Renner, Abbie Dillon, Zachary West, and Laura Collins, shares quarterly updates about the latest news, updates, and progress on our organic farm in Brevard, North Carolina. 

Did you know that Gaia sets aside five acres of farmland each planting season to grow vegetables for employees through The Employee Vegetable Program? We distribute the produce through a free Gaian farmer’s market twice a week, where employees can choose their own fresh, organic vegetables as part of their benefits package. It is important to us that Gaians live a healthy lifestyle, and eating vegetables is a huge part of that!

Recipes and tips are also included in weekly communications and as printed signs set up at the market. Unusual vegetables such as kohlrabi, Tokyo bekana, fennel, and senposai usually need a bit of explanation and recipes to give people inspiration to try some of these lesser-known veggies. We also love diversity, so we grow around 150 different varieties of veggies- for example, this year we are growing 16 different types of tomatoes! 

In addition to the free farmer’s market, we also provide vegetables for the farm kitchen, who supplies special meals for employees, farm tours, visitors, partners, and executives. They utilize most of the vegetable varieties, but also use herbs like stinging nettle (grown for our supplements) in pesto, spanakopita, and scones. Stinging nettle is not only beneficial to our bodies but also makes a great substitute for spinach! 

All leftover vegetables are donated to several organizations in our community and surrounding areas, such as Bounty and Soul, Sharing House, and Bread of Life. In 2023, the total amount donated was 9,000 pounds—almost five tons! That is a lot of fresh, organic vegetables that are going to families in need. 

At this time of year Laura (me!), Luis, and Emeterio are busy at work transplanting the last of the spring crops. This past month, we have been busy seeding summer vegetables in the greenhouse for transplanting later, as well as planting potatoes, onions and root vegetables directly into the field.

After the last frost, which is around Mother’s Day in our region, we will be transplanting our summer crops that we have seeded- tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil. We will also be direct seeding squash, beans, cucumbers, okra, melons, winter squash, and sweet potatoes. We like to grow a little bit of everything to provide diversity in our market and for our employees’ diets. 

People often ask me what I grow- to which I reply, “Everything except brussels sprouts and cauliflower” (which is pretty much true). However, I am always looking for new, fun things to grow for our employees. Last year I introduced luffas, which are a member of the gourd family. These large zucchini looking fruits have a long growth cycle and will eventually dry out. Once dried, their skin is peeled, revealing a beautiful, natural sponge. They were a huge hit with everyone so we will continue to grow them for the Employee Vegetable Program. 

For this year, we will be trying our hand at dry beans- pinto and black beans to be exact. We purchased an old timey combine last year which we will use to harvest the beans once the pods and seeds dry out. This will be an experiment as our growing region can be quite wet with around 100” of rain annually! That makes this region a temperate rainforest. Along with rainy weather, our humidity tends to be quite high, but it is always fun to experiment to see what can grow well here. 

Working at Gaia Herbs is great in so many ways, but to me, the best benefit of all is the free seasonal vegetables offered annually. It greatly reduces my grocery bill, and the bounty is usually plentiful enough to allow canning, dehydrating, and freezing vegetables to enjoy summer’s taste all winter long. 

Want to learn more about working at Gaia Herbs? Check out our careers page.