Nestled in a beautiful corner of Appledale, Bee Greens Plants is an organic bedding plant farm that sells thousands of annuals, vegetables and herbs wholesale to local stores and directly to customers. They specialise in heritage and open pollinated tomato plants, because as Hamsa Eliza Gooderham, one of the business owners, pointed out, “People love tomatoes”. But for her, this is more than just a business. “We want to support people to grow their own food as much as we can. So not only do we sell the plants, we want to educate people about growing their own food, doing it organically and saving seeds.
Work starts in February when they start their seedlings off in a small ‘cubby’ room with heat tape and fluorescent lamps, protecting them from the sub-zero temperatures outdoor. In March, they move the hardiest out to a heated greenhouse, and dutifully get up during the night to stoke the fire. In April, some plants are moved into a second unheated greenhouse, and when we visited at the end of May, the trays were bursting out onto tables outdoors. They are certified organic, and strive to source as many materials as possible locally. Hamsa saves her own seeds on the farm, and also buys other local and organic seeds where possible, to grow the hundreds of different plants on sale. She also works with other local greenhouse growers to ensure fair pricing and that everyone is being supported in their businesses.
Despite having many years of market gardening under her belt, taking over the Bee Greens bedding plant business three years ago had its fair share of challenges. “As a gardener, there’s a sensitivity to what the plants need and what the soil is doing,” Hamsa pointed out. “But growing plants in plastic pots is a whole other thing; it’s so different. You’re playing god way more in here.” But she’s clearly found her feet, as shown by the abundance of beautiful and healthy plants filling the greenhouses.
When asked about her favourite things about running the farm, she wasn’t short of answers. “The plants give me a lot and the people coming to the farm.” she replied. “We get to connect to the community on a one-to-one level, and talk gardens and food. That’s pretty special. The other part that’s rewarding is having a job you feel good about.” She talked further about her enjoyment of the farming lifestyle; “It combines a lot of things; right livelihood, politics, spirituality, love of nature. There’s so much involved in being a farmer, and it’s a lifestyle choice that I’m excited for.”
Hamsa is also a passionate advocate of the importance of eating locally. “It boils down to health; health of your body and health of the planet. And there’s way more joy in going to cut a head of broccoli from your garden than going to buy one from a supermarket. Shopping in your own garden feels really good.”
So what’s her message to eaters? “Eat more veggies, slow down, give thanks,” she replied with a big smile.