Local gardener prepares for upcoming season

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Harry Taylor — Contributing Writer

Warm days, cool nights, daffodils and crocus blooms ― harbingers of the rebirth of the earth cycle after the cold winter months just passed.  Seed catalogs and garden supply displays spawn visions of abundant, glorious blooms and savory produce waiting for harvest.

For Jane Elliott of Garnet Creek Road, it is simply a transitional phase of the local niche she has carved out for herself in the local community and the Franklin Farmer’s Market. The winter months have been a flurry of baking and producing holiday and seasonal works of culinary artistry. Now, even though her North Carolina certified home kitchen still exudes a radiant, aromatic burst of mingled herbs and spices reminiscent of grandma’s kitchen at Christmas, preparation for her gardening is under way. The baking  equipment in the long wooden trough (for lack of a  better  word) that dominates the picture window in her kitchen/eating area gives way to an abundant array of seed trays sprouting up plants to fill her garden, raised beds and multiple containers.

Jane is one of a growing number of small gardeners and farmers who bring their fresh fruit and vegetables to  the local Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning ― food that has gone from garden to market to the consumer’s table within hours instead of possible days and weeks.

Her education and entrepreneurship, though important to her, were not the catalysts that generated her participation in the local farmer’s market selling not only garden produce but also her culinary specialties. Her place here is not defined only by her life, but also by the generations of her ancestors that preceded her.

Her grandparents,  Carey and Gertrude Patton and Ben and Vera Stuart, kept large gardens  which provided not only fresh produce for the summer months, but the excess was canned and preserved to feed the family through the winter. Her grandmothers were, by necessity, skilled in the culinary arts, passing these skills down to their children and grandchildren.  (Incidentally, her grandparents lived on Bidwell Street across the street from each other.)

Her parents, Howard Patton and Nora Stuart, grew up together, eventually married and moved to Edgecumbe Island off the coast of Sitka, Alaska.  Her parents worked for the Mt. Edgecumbe Boarding School, where Howard was administrator and Nora was a dorm mother.  The students were flown in from the surrounding Aleutian Islands to be educated during the nine months of winter.  Each summer the Pattons would return to Franklin and Jane was born here in August during one of these breaks.

She spent the first two years of her life in Alaska.  Then her father took a transfer within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to become the high school principal in Cherokee, N.C.  The one vivid memory Jane has of Cherokee was their participation in a community garden.  Then, when she was 12 years old, her family moved into a new home in Franklin and Jane entered the seventh grade at the new middle school.  She graduated from Franklin High School in 1984.  She attended the University of North Carolina for two-and-a-half years, and completed her college at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. The next few years were spent in the big cities of Raleigh and Atlanta.

On a visit home, Jane and her mother were shopping in downtown Franklin, when her mother happened to see a man she worked with at the Job Corps facility and they stepped out onto the sidewalk to speak to him.  As her mother was introducing her to Leo Elliott, a car pulled up and asked for directions.  Her mother turned to give the people directions and Leo asked Jane to go out with him. Three months later they were engaged, and were married in a year and a half. They have two children – Jacob, 20, and India, 17.

So how did she end up marketing her produce and her works of culinary art at the Franklin Farmer’s Market?  As it happens in many cases, the things she loved to do growing up (gardening and cooking) evolved from family use, then selling to acquaintances and finally to the personal cottage industry that supplements her family’s income.

She recounted her family’s history of gardening and preserving for survival and then participation in the community garden while living in Cherokee.  After she and Leo married, Jane was able to stay at home while Leo worked as the Job Corps center director.  She had always gardened, canned the excess, preserved jams and jellies, and cooked. This all fit into her stay-at-home lifestyle as she home schooled her children.

Then their family life took a radical change in direction when Leo was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  He was forced to retire on disability from his job in 2009.  Her lifelong talents in gardening and baking took on a whole new meaning as she began to market extra produce and baked goods to friends and acquaintances.  Then one of her friends suggested that she try carrying her wares to the Farmer’s Market.  She decided to try it for one summer to test the waters.

Then in 2015, she made her decision to really be serious so she jumped off into the deep water with both feet.  She had her kitchen certified by the state of North Carolina so she had the paperwork to make her enterprise totally legitimate. The certification process took about a month.  She had to have her well water tested. When everything on her check list was complete, a lady came from the state agency in Raleigh to do an onsite inspection.  A few of the things required were:  no pets in the house, covered lights over all work areas, covered trash cans, etc.  After a two hour interview, she was ready to go, she was home certified to make baked goods, jams and jellies.  By the end of the 2015 summer season, Jane concluded that she had found her niche at the Farmer’s Market.  She has been there some during this past winter and expects to be there every week during the summer.

Her gardening philosophy embraces organic gardening techniques.  She organic amendments to her soil and when necessary, she treats her garden with organic methods of pest control.

She starts her seedlings in the kitchen and when they are ready, she transplants them outside.  Her gardening techniques are rather eclectic in that she employs several growing methods including regular row gardening, raised bed growing and container gardening.  In the past, she has also experimented with French Intensive gardening and straw bale planting.

On her six acres, she has blueberries, raspberries, grapes, figs and apples that will be used in her jams, jellies and other sweet treats.  Asparagus, lettuces, spinach, carrots and beets are a few of the types of produce that will be displayed in her booth at the Farmer’s Market.  She also grows a variety of herbs and spices for seasonal use in the baked goods.

Her booth will also include an array of jams, jellies and baked goods that highlight the talents of her culinary artistry. The products contain the highest quality ingredients and seasonal spices such Lime Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Culinary Rose and Sucanat (Sugar Cane Natural), a minimally refined organic sugar that retains most of the nutritional benefit of the raw sugar cane which she uses in many of her marvelous creations.

Her kitchen specialties include shortbread cookies whose flavors vary with seasonal availability of spices and herbs.  Mini pound cakes and cupcakes are consistent favorites.  Homemade granola and granola bars are in constant demand.  Peppermint fudge, seasoned (herbed) vinegars, lavender-lemon shortbread, orange coconut balls are a few items that will appear on her sales shelves.  One personal recommendation – the Key Lime mini pound cake is magnificent.  Eating the entire cake in one sitting is a definite possibility.  Order two.

To Jane, ingredient quality is of primary importance, but packaging detail follows closely.  She said, “I want all my products to look like a present.”  She makes her own labels and wraps each product by hand.  Each product reflects her personal pride in its creation.

Jane is a regular vendor at the Farmer’s Market (April through October, ?? to 2 pm and November through March, 10 am to 12 noon).  The Art Room in downtown Franklin carries some of her culinary creation on consignment and she will also provide baked items for small events, custom trays, and wonderful gift baskets.

She can be contacted at Garnet Creek Road on Facebook or by email:  jane.elliott@frontier.com

List of pictures

Looking down on her raised beds

Cupcakes―Fourth of July

Snow Peas

Flavored Vinegars

Carrots

Raspberries on the vines

Jane at the Farmer’s Market

Raspberry Vanilla Jam

Jane with customer at Farmer’s Market

Cupcakes

Canned Jams

Vanilla Rose Shortbread

Produce

Produce

Variety of Peach Jams and Pound Cakes

Muffins/Sweet Cakes/Pound cake

Pumpkin Fudge

Raised Beds and Gardening Containers

Farmer’s Market

Produce

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