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Visiting Parson Produce

Clinton can thank Presbyterian College for the presence of Daniel Parson and his organic vegetable farm, as his wife is on the faculty (literature with a Southern studies emphasis). Boy, if she has her students read the book in Faulkner’s trilogy where Snopes is chopping cotton at Parchman and seethes and plans his revenge, and her frat boy and coed students can’t quite grasp how that experience could turn your mind sour, she only need send them out to Daniel’s field on a hot July day and watch his workers hoe those long rows of okra, beans, and peppers.

Daniel’s naturally good upstate soil has become dramatically more productive, due to his rotation with cover crops. For lots of biomass, he uses Sudan grass. But he plants buckwheat to attract a variety of beneficial insects, including the syrphid fly.  Add to the nectar the copious (by insect standards) pollen production of buckwheat, and all of a sudden you have the protein the female needs to produce eggs. If you provide pollen sources in your field, syrphid fly females stay right there to lay eggs, which hatch into larvae that are ferocious consumers of aphids. A single larva can eat 400 aphids before pupating.

During the growing season, the cover crops compete with and suppress weeds, and hold the soil in place when we get heavy showers. At the end of the season, Daniel tills in the plant residue, which adds organic matter to the soil. Daniel says organic farmers are accused of feeding their soil rather than their plants, but the soil is the basis of it all. And as Ry Cooder reminded us, “The Farmer Is the One Who Feeds Us All.” Parson Produce feeds its CSA members weekly with the bounty from the garden and also takes those delicious heirloom tomatoes and other delights to the Greenville Farmers Market.

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