Here in Central Virginia, many people are saying goodbye to heavily processed foods and manufactured medicine, instead turning toward a more natural way of living. Some choose this lifestyle for its health benefits, while others want to be more environmentally friendly. For those who are just starting to live naturally, it can often seem confusing and overwhelming without some guidance from someone who is experienced.
John and Roberta Mann, former residents of Norwich, N.Y., are hoping to share their wisdom and expertise with those who are interested in a natural lifestyle. As certified natural health professionals, the husband and wife team have nearly 33 years of farming experience.
While living in upstate New York, the family operated a greenhouse and herb business. They tried to be as self-sufficient as possible, growing their own food and butchering their own animals. The Manns stayed away from man-made medicines. John, who is a natropathic doctor, helped the family cure any ailments with natural remedies.
“We believe herbs are the way to natural health,” said Roberta. “Herbal medicine is really important to us.”
The Manns moved to Palmyra in 2000 and continued their lifelong quest to live off the land. They raise and butcher their own lambs and free-range chickens, and use the organic eggs for everyday cooking. Using timber cut from their own trees, the family built a barn and two-story cottage, accompanying the house that was already on the property. In April 2012, they opened their new greenhouse. The unique design features sides that can roll down, preventing the plants from overheating during extreme temperatures.
Known as Sage Garden, the greenhouse is home to a wide variety of culinary and medicinal herbs, heirloom vegetables and flowers, hydroponic lettuce, and Roberta’s specialty—Berta Beans Microgreens.
“We love sprouts ... but they’re void of any nutrients,” said Roberta.
Disappointed by the slimy consistency of grocery store sprouts, Roberta dedicated her time to developing a better kind of sprout, one that is not only more pleasing to the eyes, but is also more nutritious.
“We said ‘Let’s start to experiment with fibers,’” said Roberta.
The process of creating Berta Beans involves soaking a pet cloth in an organic seaweed solution. Organic seeds are placed on the cloth inside a container, and within 10-14 days, depending on the temperature, the sprouts are ready.
What sets Berta Beans apart from other sprouts is that they continue to grow in their container, which serves as a tiny greenhouse. They can last up to two weeks in the fridge and require no maintenance. If left on the counter, they will require some misting. Because the sprouts aren’t pre-cut, they retain all their nutritional value.
“Microgreens aren’t really a new thing, but ours are alive,” said John.
Berta Beans come in about 10 varieties and are available at Rebecca’s Natural Food, Foods of All Nations, and Integral Yoga. Broccoli and Friends is the most popular flavor, along with the Asian Hot and Spicy.
John’s specialty is the hydroponic lettuce, a lettuce that grows entirely in water and requires no soil. This process of growing lettuce takes between 30-40 days. Sage Garden offers variety packs of lettuce and heirloom tomatoes, which are perfect for salads. Just one variety pack can offer four varieties of one vegetable.
In October 2012, the Manns began hosting educational workshops at Sage Garden. Their first classes covered such topics as immunity building, digestive health and cooking. They will be offering more classes starting in April and can even host private workshops for special groups. With just 8-10 people per class, the Manns pride themselves on being able to give each student individual attention.
“The classes have been very successful,” said John.
The beautifully landscaped gardens on the property have served as the location for a number of weddings, as well as herbal luncheons. The Manns hope to offer garden tours in the future and possibly host outdoor classes.
On April 14, Sage Garden will offer a one-day class about starting your own backyard chicken flock. Hands-on instruction will be given. A course on vegetable gardening will take place on April 27, which focuses on pest control, organics and harvest tips. On May 11, the Manns will host a class on herbs, followed by herbal tea and refreshments in their garden. Unusual varieties of herbs will be available for purchase.
The Sage Garden greenhouse will be open for plant sale starting April 27. They will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, email email@example.com or call (434) 589-4706.