Hoping to score some scorzonera for your stir-fry tonight? Good luck finding the seasonal, coconut-flavored root, unless you're a member of Rita's Roots Community Supported Agriculture program. And as of an announcement yesterday morning, Charleston's reigning queen of veggies will soon bid us farewell.
Rita Bachmann, who founded the Lowcountry's first CSA program three years ago, is relocating to land near Richmond, Va. Rita's Roots and Thackeray Farms were unable to come to a monetary agreement over her usage of their Wadmalaw Island land for her organic vegetable farm.
"Watching the movement for clean, local foods grow endlessly has truly been special," says Bachmann. "As tough as it is to walk away, sky-high land prices, a limited farming community, and a lack of resources have made the possibility of starting over again here a daunting task."
Bachmann began farming in the Lowcountry on Johns Island in 2006, achieving USDA Certified Organic status at the tiny Full Circle farm on Bohicket Road with little more than a thousand dollars in seeds and an Earthway Seeder. She's since had to relocate three times due to the difficulties of establishing a sustainable landowner/sharecropper relationship, all the while growing her reputation as a source of delicious, local vegetables for both CSA customers and many of Charleston's top restaurants. Her CSA feeds as many as 200 families a year with fresh produce, and she prides herself in growing seasonal varieties like the scorzonera root, which her CSA members received in their boxes this week.
Rita and her partner, Riad, depart for Virginia in February, where they'll be able to rent land without the risk of dismissal. "We've found really inexpensive farmland that we can rent, where the ball will be more in our court as opposed to being at the mercy of a landowner."
"It's been an amazing experience growing organic vegetables in an area deemed to be impossible for organics," says Bachmann. "I am so proud to have served this community for the last few years. It's not about the money, but about the act of making a difference in the way we eat and view food and about being a steward to the Earth."
Bachmann's notification e-mail to her CSA members encouraged them to plant gardens of their own, and offered her assistance to anyone getting started in their own backyards.
Rita, you and your roots will be sorely missed in kitchens around the Lowcountry.