Newarker turns Barksdale Road yard into an urban farm – Newark Post


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Matthew Carey has transformed his small Barksdale Road yard into an urban farm, with the front and back yards covered with tomatoes, squash and other vegetables instead of grass.Carey sells the produce to local restaurants and stores, as well as to everyday Newarkers.Carey was inspired to create a farm after learning about the agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto, objecting to the company’s copyrights on genetic material and the possible negative health impacts of genetically modified crops.He felt that growing his own organic food would be a great way to avoid the problems of industrial agriculture.“You can’t present a problem without presenting a solution or else you’re just playing with your own muck,” Carey said.The business is named Ava’s Matoes, after his daughter and her nickname for the vegetable when she was younger.A native of Landenberg, Pa., Carey began farming a few years ago at a community garden in West Chester Pa., quickly growing a strong tomato crop. He learned a method of tomato growing, the string method, from Chef Mark Eastman, the owner of Chef’s Haven in Hockessin.Carey moved to Newark three years ago because Ava’s mother was originally from the area.He worked seasonally in a restaurant in the U.S. Virgin Islands, He saved around $20,000 and while flying home in March 2020, he decided it was time to create his farm.“I got on my phone and ordered $5,000 of growing supplies,” Carey said. “It was a real, ‘Am I going to do this am I not?’ moment. I bought the greenhouse, microgreen trays and seeds.”Carey he grew around 2,000 plants last year – 800 in Newark, 1,200 on a farm in Maryland – while working full-time doing tree work.“It’s so easy to underestimate what it takes to really build a business,” he said.Carey currently sells produce to Newark Natural Foods and the Bardea Restaurant in Wilmington.Carey said the hardest part about urban farming is trying to fight against pests, from bugs to small animals, because he has no control of the environment surrounding a small farm.“It’s very difficult to control for pests in an urban environment; it’s almost impossible,” Carey said. “In a field, the bugs only thrive where you allow them to. In a city, any species of bugs that you attract by growing are going to survive. They’ll find your neighbor’s bush or something.”Carey is almost entirely self-taught, leading to many difficulties when he began as a farmer. For example, when he first tried to make potting mix, he kept using dirt and failing, before figuring out a ratio of one-third an airy medium, one-third compost and one-third peat moss.“I feed those plants like I feed my gut. They get their probiotics, they get their minerals, they get vitamins, everything,” Carey said. “There are 12 different supplements that I feed them.”Carey begins the plants in his greenhouse before the plant is more mature and able to survive.“When a plant is in its baby phase, it wants humidity,” Carey said. “It’s a great environment to get plants going.”In his first year of planting, Carey lost around half of his harvest, mainly to pests and rodents. He began growing his tomato vines higher above the ground so they would be less vulnerable.Carey said his large investment helped keep him committed to the business. Now, farming is his full-time job.“When you invest in $5,000 of soil mix, there’s really no turning back,” Carey said. “Stuff needs to grow in there. And the longer stuff grows in there, the more valuable those pots are. I’d be foolish not to at least be committed to those pots.”Next year, he plans to fence in his garden and continue experimenting with soil mixes and other techniques.Carey hopes to expand his sales of microgreens, which are vegetables that are harvested within a couple weeks of germination.“Tomatoes are the shiny object. I knew in the back of my head it would be difficult to compete with greenhouse tomatoes,” Carey said, adding that microgreens are more marketable and have better nutritional value. “That is 40 times the nutritional value of their mature counterpart.”Carey has also started experimenting with recipes for different prepared foods centered around his tomatoes, including tomato sauce. This year, he made tomato chips, an umami-rich snack made by cooking tomatoes for around 14 hours, that he hopes to begin selling.“They’re basically tomato confit,” Carey said. “They’re slow-cooked in olive oil at a very low temperature.”Carey incorporates the chips into other foods, such as sauce and a greek yogurt dip.“I love working in the kitchen. I love fine dining, fine foods,” Carey said. “This might might be my niche.”Carey hopes to grow his business, possibly moving it to a friend’s farm in New York to use a larger plot of land.Those interested in purchasing produce from Carey can call or text 610-470-3945.Newark Neighbors is a biweekly column that spotlights everyday Newarkers who have an interesting story. Know somebody who should be featured? Contact reporter Matt Hooke at [email protected]

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