Columbia Farmers Market

the farmers behind the market

Next Market Date: 
January 22
 
9:00 AM
-
12:00 PM

The Sage Garden: First-generation family farmers turn dream into reality

In 2017, Brandt and Erica Parker, along with daughter Amelia, took the first steps toward their “dream of having a market garden and providing healthy food to the community,” Erica said. The Sage Garden is now alive and flourishing on two acres in Hallsville.

With only a few vegetables, Erica began selling at Columbia Farmers Market in 2016. She kept learning how to grow and sell vegetables by doing it while Brandt kept reading and researching to gain more information. Between the two of them, they built up their infrastructure, enabling them to be more efficient and sustainable.

While not certified organic, they adhere to organic growing practices, using compost, cover crops, and heavy mulching to add nutrients to the soil and to retain water. Erica and Brandt specialize in growing greens and roots. Specifically, they focus on salad greens and lettuce, such as salanova lettuce, a variety that can be used as a head lettuce or easily broken up into a salad mix. Their goal is to provide lettuce all year long at the summer and winter markets. To keep the lettuce growing, and delicious, they use different techniques in different seasons. During the hottest months, to keep the lettuces cool and prevent it from becoming bitter, they use shade cloths and overhead irrigation. In the winter months, they use a high tunnel, caterpillar tunnels, and row covers.

Erica and Brandt appreciate the farmers market for many reasons, including the atmosphere. 

“It is a Saturday morning tradition to be at market conversing with other farmers, listening to music, engaging with the people of our community, and educating people of all ages on the varieties and nutrition of our produce,” Erica said. “Columbia Farmers Market enables us to make a career of growing vegetables, rather than a hobby. It also opens us up to meet many local chefs and restaurant owners, which in turn grows our business."

For Erica and Brandt, farming is more than a job. As first-generation farmers, they’ve learned by trial and error, but it has been worth it. They enjoy watching the process, from “the seed going in the ground to a child biting right into a carrot at our booth,” Erica said. “We feel that what we are doing affects many people in our community in a wonderful way.”

The Sage Garden’s products are featured at local restaurants and grocery stores, including Nourish Café and Market, Main Squeeze Natural Foods Cafe, Barred Owl Butcher & Table, Clovers Natural Market, and Hy-Vee locations.

Check out The Sage Garden's website at thesagegarden.org.

“Columbia Farmers Market enables us to make a career of growing vegetables, rather than a hobby. It also opens us up to meet many local chefs and restaurant owners, which in turn grows our business."
-Brandt & Erica Parker

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