Farm-to-Resort: Agritourism with a Certified Organic Garden
Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort Organic Garden, Leavenworth
July 13, 2015
Looking up towards Sleeping Lady Mountain sits 67 acres of preserved land. Known as Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, the spot has a rich historical presence and is a hidden gem for travelers that come from across the country. Over twenty farmers and farm interns gathered to hear about the resort that has a certified organic garden on site. The two-acre, certified organic garden provides much of the produce and herbs used in our restaurants, as well as fresh flowers throughout the resort. Garden Manager, Amy Cummings and the resort’s Marketing Director, Lori Vandenbrink presented about the environmentally friendly gardening techniques utilized, farm-to-table application, agritourism and marketing.
Lori spoke about the history of the resort and importance of sustainability to the current owner of the resort which is why the garden plays an integral role in supplying the kitchens on site with fresh produce on daily basis. As an operating resort having a certified organic garden in the midst of guests can be difficult, but ultimately they feel like the benefits far outweigh any negative consequences. Guests are free to stroll throw the main garden at any point in the day to enjoy the flowers, herbs and vegetables.
Certified organic by the Washington State Department of Agriculture in 1996, the organic garden is managed by Amy and staff by using natural fertilizers and regularly rotating crops to improve the soil. The garden staff also works to attract environmentally beneficial insects, such as bees and ladybugs, to maintain the health and sustainability of the garden. Currently, the gardening team is preparing to extend the growing season through the use of a greenhouse and cold frames, which would provide fresh, local and organic produce to Sleeping Lady’s culinary team on a year-round basis.
As Amy leads attendees to their greenhouse, she stops to point the small garden boxes immediately outside of the greenhouse. Now empty, these boxes were the first things planted in the spring providing early mixed greens, radishes and herbs for the restaurant. Walking into the greenhouse we’re immediately greeted by heat, leftover seedlings from the start of the season and a hydroponic system. Pausing here for a few moments, Amy covers the basics of her hydroponic system . While not certified organic because the NOP requires a control point of soil to certify, Amy relies on the hydroponic system to grow butterhead in early spring and later in the fall.
From there, Amy leads the group into another greenhouse which has eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes growing. While she discusses the varieties growing in the greenhouse, and how she works with the culinary team to accommodate their needs while balancing what grows well in Leavenworth climate and their garden soil. Outside of the greenhouse, we pause to discuss deer control. Around the two-acre garden sits an eight foot fence, and the garden staff has had challenges with deer jumping over and digging under the fencing. Amy and her team planted buckwheat outside of the outer garden in hopes of deterring the friendly fauna from jumping the fence.
The next part of the farm walk focused on noxious weed control and composting both projects led by Amy’s garden team. A section of the farm has been covered with noxious weeds like garlic mustard, St. Johnswort, rush skeletonweed, and sulfur cinquefoil. As these weeds have been culled out of the garden area, they are put into piles to dry out and then mixed with horse manure from the resort’s horses and made into compost for the garden use. Compost is also made in The Earth Tub, designed by Green Mountain Technologies, designed specifically for on-site composting of food-waste. The Earth Tub is a fully enclosed composting vessel featuring power mixing, compost aeration, and biofiltration of all process air. Organic materials such as food scraps, manure or yard waste are loaded through the large hatchway in the cover. These wet organic materials are then covered with dry materials such as wood chips, shavings, leaves or small weeds to prevent odors and insure that porosity and moisture levels are ideal for composting.
During the walk, Amy spoke about the importance of bringing the community together with the organic growing practices and how important it was for their entire business to appreciate the growth of the garden. Throughout the walk, it was easy to ease the passion the team had for the garden, and also the sustainability of the entire resort.
Summary by Kate Nagle-Caraluzzo
This Farm Walk is supported in part by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2012-49400-19575. For more resources and programs for beginning farmers and ranchers please visit www.Start2Farm.gov.