I met this really cool chick at a Market Manager training I attended earlier this year. Kristin and I had a lot in common plus she is one of those people who smiles and welcomes you into conversation the first time you meet her. She is very passionate about growing healthy food for not only herself, but also her community. She started Motley Crops in an effort to feed her community healthy foods. She got me involved with the Cary Downtown Farmer’s Market earlier this year, which she is not only a farmer/seller at the market, but also part of their management, oh and she has a full-time job. Here is Kristin Bulpitt’s story, owner of Motley Crops.
Question: What made you decide to start your own company, Motley Crops? I know you’ve always had a garden but what prompted you to sell at the Cary Downtown Farmers Market (CDFM)?
Answer: I’ve shopped at the CDFM for years and saw it go through a lot of moves and various vendors, “booming” times and “leaner” times. It seemed like a low pressure good starting point to see if I even liked selling at a market. Turns out I LOVE it:) I had a small CSA through work one year, I learned a ton through that and this market has taught me so much about market growing/selling.
I’ve always grown using organic methods and there is definitely a desire for locally and sustainably grown food in our area. It’s a way for me to provide just a small amount of healthy food for people and integrate into the community a bit more.
Question: Tell me about your garden(s) and how you went about finding local plots of land to grow your delicious produce.
Answer: I own about an acre near downtown Cary, but I can only grow crops on about 1/8 of that acre. I started farming and quickly outgrew that area so I planted a small garden in my neighbor’s back yard to increase production. Motley Crops actually began with those two small plots of land but I realized I needed more space. One afternoon I was talking with a local farmer (whom I admire tremendously), lamenting the lack of available, affordable, farm-able land and he suggested I look on the Wake County GIS website to get ideas for locating people who own larger plots of land to use for farming.
He’s to blame for this thought of utilizing free space on neighboring properties for purposes of producing food. But I got to work and contacted those people with larger plots of land and a couple of them agreed to let me farm on their land! Amazing how people will work with you if you just ask. The Wake County website is kind of creepy helpful, you can see how much land someone has and if it’s cleared or not. Before this I found I had a lot of interested folks but they only had very small plots of land to offer. Since it’s just me doing this, I would have spent way too much time jumping from small plot to small plot instead of doing what I love, farming. The GIS website allowed me to measure free space out to get a sense of availability.
It seemed like once I started looking there was empty space everywhere just WAITING to be a garden. And it seems unfortunate to just water, fertilize, kill weeds and mow constantly when it could be productive and feed people great nutritious food!
This year, I also have a nice space in Apex where I have bee hives and am growing less labor intensive crops like garlic & winter squashes, etc. The downside to this farming approach is each plot takes time to build good soil and I spend time traveling to each site. The upside of maintaining several plots of farmland is the relationships I’m building with people letting me farm their land, and I get to grow food without owning farm land, which can be really expensive.
Question: What plants or seeds have you planted, what are you selling?
Answer: At various times I have kale, chard, raw honey, tomatoes, summer & winter squash, pea shoots, fresh-cut flowers and herbs, ginger, peppers, radishes, beets, salad mix, and possibly mushrooms if the weather cooperates.
Question: How has the weather affected your gardens/business this year, what about other farmers, do you think they are affected as well?
Answer: Everyone knows this spring/summer has seen so much rain, my land has only dried out in the last few weeks. The rain has set me back by at least a month and a half in the growing season. I can’t imagine many farmers that have not been affected by the amount of rain we’ve had this year. This massive amount of rain causes root crops to rot in the ground, pollinators can’t pollinate because they can’t get out in the rain, and the chances of disease are higher because of the damp conditions. Honestly, I feel very fortunate I have a day job right now because this has been frustrating as a farmer. It’s very hard to make a living strictly farming in a good year, but this is especially true in a bad year like 2013 with so much rain. I encourage everyone to keep supporting your favorite farmer, because if ever they need support, it’s this year.
Question: Tell me about your involvement with the farmer’s market, and why you think it is an important part of the community?
Answer: Having lived in Cary for 7 years now, I see a community that really wants a place to be together, maybe it’s because I’m a farmer and biased, but I feel like our Farmers Market has so much potential to play that role. CDFM has a fantastic group of dedicated customers and a growing group of new customers each week. Our vendors are awesome and will only continue to grow. Over the winter, after the 2012 market, a group of us worked hard to get a bit more organized, hired a (volunteer) market manager, and started important conversations with the town and community members. I think despite the spectacularly crummy growing weather, our farmers have brought the best they could to market and we’ve been supported. We are working on getting a Board together and working with the Town to find a permanent place for us to be. The market has gotten sponsorships this year which is new and will help us to grow. I’m very hopeful for the future of our market.
Question: What do you personally do to stay healthy?
Answer: In short. Healthy food, lots of exercise, solid sleep and good friends. I love food, especially beautiful, colorful food. I’d rather have a zingy kale salad than a piece of cake (exception definitely made for Sweet Temptations carrot cake!). My husband and I are vegetarian and love to cook, we try new things out as much as possible. We are so lucky now to have a ridiculous amount of options at our fingertips with food blogs and websites with recipes. My favorite thing to create is a salad/casserole mix, basically a whole slew of things thrown into a dish together. It’s exciting to eat, beautiful to look at, and nutritious.
We are also active running, biking, chasing dogs, moving trees around the yard, putting up fences, taking down fences… that kind of activity helps us to sleep like the dead at night, which is really important too for healing! And good friendships make your heart smile – what’s not to love about that!?
Thanks to Kristin for taking time out of her busy life to do this interview with me. Check out her Facebook page and all the lovely things she sells at the market from week to week. I also encourage people to support your local farmers, thank them for the hard work they do, and buy whatever you can because what they have is so much fresher and more delicious than what you find at the grocery store, even if it was a bad growing year. Stay healthy y’all!