• Lifestyles

Mueller’s Vegetable Farm

Updated: Jul 26, 2019

By Katie Collins lifesnews51@gmail.com Follow Katie @KatieCollins47

David and Jackie Mueller in the fields at their farm in Damascus. See the related photo gallery. Lifestyles photo by Katie Collins.

DAMASCUS - There was a time when Jackie Mueller and her husband David planted their vegetables by hand, one at a time. At their farm recently, Jackie laughed after recalling how they started farming 15 years ago.

Today, the owners of Mueller’s Vegetable Farm in Damascus remembered how their livelihood and passion developed from a garden they grew one summer. David though, was already familiar with farming, since he grew up on a dairy farm and together, they later managed his parent’s farm before building their own vegetable farm.

The start of the farm

After a three-year search for the right land, the Muellers discovered the property that was just pastured lots. Simply, David says the family removed the weeds and went to work. Initially, they used a string and stick to keep the rows in line, but the number of rows were deceiving. Eventually, a waterwheel planter was purchased and now, Jackie says its “amazing” how much is accomplished in an hour.

Weather, a continuous challenge

Weather is one of the greatest challenges of farming Jackie says, since it’s always “unpredictable,” and now they are a month behind because June’s weather was what May should’ve been. The weather wasn’t any better last year, since many plants “basically drowned,” when the rain was trapped under the plastic, causing the roots to sit in water, affecting their nutrient intake.

A lot of the farming happens in the Mueller’s four greenhouses, allowing them to start growing earlier, and it also offers better control of the vegetables since they can manage the weather more. The greenhouses Jackie says, make such a difference that she questions why everyone doesn’t use them. A key to the greenhouse is that “vegetables love heat” according to David. But the successes of the family’s vegetables, both agree, come from Jackie’s soil that consists of nightwalkers and more. The onions for instance, are the best they’ve ever had. Jackie describes the onions as “beautiful.” A self-proclaimed “wood freak,” she is disappointed when the weeds continue even inside.

In addition to the many vegetables that include, but aren’t limited to: spinach, sweet corn, tomatoes, beets, cauliflower, and thousands of peas, there are fruits that include: blueberries, cantaloupe and peaches to name a few.

Protecting the crops

The plastic that covers the crops, David explains is an effort to control the weeds. The plastic though, also aids in protecting the vegetables from disease, since blight is carried in rain. While the Muellers don’t spray their foods often, David did say they spray when the bugs are bad. This year for instance, the cucumber beetles have been an issue, or there may be slugs and snails that affect the beans.

Covered in plastic to protect the crops of disease, rows of vegetables grow in fields of Mueller’s Vegetable Farm. Lifestyles photo by Katie Collins.

Because the side effects of GMO aren’t known yet, David says the family doesn’t cross-pollinate their vegetables. Plus, he notes that his family eats the foods too, so such aspects of the industry are just as important to him. Since they do have to spray at times, although the vegetables are washed, he strongly suggests people also wash their vegetables when they get home, as an additional precaution.

Lessons learned

Over the years the Muellers have learned a lot, such as not to plant individual requests because they may be the only customer who wants it. So, today they are very specific with their vegetables, such as the beets that Jackie calls “beautiful.”

To keep the season going, some vegetables are planted in sessions, which allows for two to three cuttings of leaf lettuce for instance. Every year the growing season concludes around the end of October, and then the process starts over and the vegetables are replanted in the spring. The key to growing good vegetables, Jackie believes to be time whereas David believes it’s time and patience.

Before meeting David, Jackie figured milk came from the store; but once together, she worked on her father-in-law’s dairy farm. While they could manage with Jackie being a respiratory therapist, the couple questions how much is enough because they like to travel and they recently bought more acres. So, they have 70 acres total, that’s used to farm, hunt and fish from their three ponds.

Where to purchase the foods

Aside from the stand in Beach Lake, the Muellers have a stand on the farm and they are at the Milford Farmers Market each Sunday at the Columns Museum. There is blueberry picking for the public every Friday and Saturday. Jackie says those days, are just about blueberries because they are a short crop, lasting a mere two weeks, possibly a month.

The farm stand runs on an honor system and David is usually there by 9:00 to restock, which means customers are likely to get fresh foods daily.

For David, he enjoys farming because it allows him to be outside, its generally quiet and seeing the finished foods, knowing they all started with a single seed is “amazing” he says. At the end of the day, after planting thousands of seeds and pulling endless weeds, Jackie says that offers a feeling of amazement and pride because of what they’ve accomplished and, knowing how great the farm looks.

For more information about the Mueller's Vegetable Farm Market, they can be found on Facebook.

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