Delicious. Local. Organic. An afternoon at Blue Clay Farm

September 04, 2015  •  2 Comments

Allow me to introduce Melanie Harvey - music lover, foodie, and the head gardener of Blue Clay Farm in North Augusta, SC.  A recent graduate of the University of GA's Agriculture program, Mel has taken on the feat of running the urban, organic farm for the farm-to-table restaurant Manuel's Bread Cafe.  One afternoon spent learning about the farm, and I am hooked on gardening!  I snapped a few pics and interviewed the gardener on the organic lifestyle to share this experience with you!

Keep reading - Mel will show us the daily duties of running a farm and discuss organic farming.

Mel at Blue Clay FarmsMelanie working at Blue Clay FarmHere is the head gardener for Manuel's Bread Cafe farm-to-table urban, organic farm, located in North Augusta, SC.

"Organic gardening might not be easy but it feels so good to know where your food comes from and whether or not chemicals have been used in the growing process. Your yield isn't as high as compared to conventional farming but you reward your body and the Earth by committing to not using chemicals."

Expert TIPS on ORGANIC farming success:

  • NO chemicals/pesticides.  "Organic gardening begins when you realize that anything inorganic should not be in the equation. When you realize that not only are these conventional chemicals killing our Mother but they are also killing us. These chemicals though, they aren't just taken up by plants. They leach into our soils and eventually end up in our water, polluting our water sources as well as depleting healthy habitats and ecosystems for so many different organisms. Also as far as pesticides go, one of our biggest concerns about using pesticides is bee colony collapse disorder. We are slowly losing our bees to pesticides and it is just awful. Without bees we cannot grow most of the colorful veggies you see in stores. Bees are needed to pollinate our plants! The most common pesticide used by home gardeners is 7 dust. It is one of the worst. Because it is in the form of small granules, bees mistake it for pollen and take it back to the colony and can potentially kill an entire colony!"
  • Practice sanitation. "Remove ANY dead, diseased, dying matter from your garden and BURN IT! Because disease is rapid and can spread in a matter of minutes. Also, make sure your plants don't stay wet for long periods. To do this, make sure you water early in the day so the sun will have plenty of time to "dry" your plants off. Most disease is spread only while the leaves are wet."
  • Healthy Plants. "Use proper amounts of fertilizer, and compost for your plants. Make sure your pH is correct. Every plant has a different requirement to ensure its maximum growth potential. Many plants have the same requirement and can be planted together but always check before planting. Also, try to minimize open wounds. What this means is that any opening or wound in a plant is the perfect pathway for a disease or pathogen. Plants release an odor when damaged (the smell of cut grass for example) that insects are extremely attracted to (some beneficial some just pests). Sometimes when I get an unwanted wound I will wrap it with and old pair of pantyhose or some tape to protect it."

Blue Clay-0014Farm Fresh EggsThere's nothing in the world like fresh eggs from the farm.

Adding some chickens to your farm is a great idea if you love having fresh eggs!  You will have to feed/water the chickens daily and they will produce some delicious eggs.  The cafe sets aside kitchen scraps to feed the chickens a nice snack.  You may also consider using scraps to make a compost heap to use with your planting beds.   

You can visit the farm to see the Ameraucana chickens, guinea fowls and goats.  Yes, that is a blue egg! There is also a bunny named Einstein that hangs out in the chicken pen. 

Blue Clay-0010Mel feeds the chickens and goats a little treatDaily feeds the chickens and goats, and collects the eggs from the coop.

Currently, the farm has eggplant growing (purple and white!), okra, carrots, beets, radishes, green beans, onions, horseradish, rosemary bushes, basil, pear trees, an olive grove, peaches, papaya, strawberries and several other fresh herbs and vegetables.  Blue Clay-0022Fruit/Vegetables on Blue Clay FarmEggplant & Okra with beautiful flowers. Fresh herbs & vegetables are scattered all over the farm as well.

Okra produces these beautiful yellow flowers and grows in the traditional green, as well as red. Look out for some okra recipes at Manuel's Bread Cafe coming soon - I saw some yummy okra growing! Okra is great pickled, fried, or in soups.

Blue Clay-0027Mel cuts some okra for Manuel's Bread Cafe recipesCutting some delicious okra for the cafe. Check out the beet tattoo. The girl was born for this!

Blue Clay-0001Baaaaaaaaad goats!Life on the farm - Bring in the goats!

There is always endless work to be done on a farm - Clearing away weeds, replanting beds, cleaning the animal pens, feeding animals, harvesting the bounty, watering and caring for plants, growing new seeds...

The rewards of farming are also endless.  Look at that smile!  Being outdoors in nature is beneficial for your body, mind, and spirit.  

"Being a farmer/gardener is such a rewarding hobby/occupation. Being outside with nature is in itself therapeutic... but by putting trust, patience, and love into Gaia (Primordial Goddess of the Earth) in return for her bountiful blessings is the pathway to the most beautiful relationship you could ever imagine. A relationship everyone should have, which is, respect for this Earth and love for our Mother."

Blue Clay-0070Blue Clay Farm GreenhouseThe baby seedlings are sprouting! Once they get a few inches tall, they are moved to the raised beds to grow and prosper.

 A huge part of maintaining this farm is growing the garden.  Mel is currently planting seedlings which she will move to the raised bad to grow for her fall harvest.  She gets them started in the greenhouse. She makes her own planting soil with a mixture of mushroom compost, perlite, vermaculite, and peat moss. She also propagates new plants from trimmings.  (A great example is the strawberry tower). 

Mel has some seedlings started in the greenhouse to be planted in the garden in mid - September.  

Good ideas for new crops this time of year:  kale, mustard greens, collard greens, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, leeks, butternut, spaghetti, and winter squash. Sounds delicious! Blue Clay-0063Manuel's Blue Clay Farm Growing fresh, organic food for Manuel's Bread Cafe.

Something really cool that I learned from Mel is a technique called Espalier to get the best fruit production. This is an ancient planting strategy of forcing a plant to grow on a trellis, which creates a beautiful frame and saves space while increasing production. It comes from the Italian word spalliera, meaning "something to rest the shoulder against." (Thank you wikipedia). Here are the pear trees being trained to grow up a trellis using this Espalier technique.

Blue Clay-0042EspalierPear trees taking the shape of the trellis.

There is a grove of olive trees on the property, planted in potters.  The olives are growing juicier by the day. They will be harvested and used in salads for the cafe. 

Blue Clay-0046Olive grove & Onion bloomsEverywhere you look is fresh, alive, and growing.

Another tree on the farm is my personal favorite.  I think everyone should have an icon - the FIG tree - in their garden! Just pick them as they ripen, and enjoy.  Blue Clay Farms has a gorgeous fig tree that is covered in fruit. If you've had any fig dessert at the cafe, chances are it was grown right here on the farm.

Blue Clay-0089Take a bite!Delicious figs fresh off of the tree at Manuel's organic Blue Clay Farm

The atmosphere makes it tough to leave.  It's so nice to have a little garden tucked away.  I'd encourage everyone to grow your own garden patch  no matter how little room that you have.  

Blue Clay-0005Beautiful scenery and delicious eggsWhat more could you want!

Lastly, here is the meeting area, greenhouse, entry road, and border fence of the farm.  I hope you enjoyed this tour of Manuel's Blue Clay Farm and meeting farmer Mel.  I'm sure she would appreciate help if you wanted to get experience working on an organic farm!

Do visit the farm and cafe if you get the chance! Have a great day, Laura

Please comment below if you wish. 

Blue Clay-0020The views of Blue Clay FarmHere is the meeting area, greenhouse, entry road, and border fence at the farm.


Deborah Tonini(non-registered)
i have an organic farm in Jackson SC. I do square foot planting with the same soil mixture as this farmer. I love tomatoes right off the vine and although I have planted them for thirty years my yield is not up to par. Is it just too hot here? Love to grow organically.
Melissa Jarrard(non-registered)
Great article! Love the farm!
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