First Annual Orie's Garlic Fest
Row after row of beautiful produce, container plantings and a sizable hoop house bursting with its own secret garden - everything with a place and a purpose.
This was the scene that greeted us as we arrived at Orie's Farm Fresh for the first time. We were excited to finally tour the 10-acre urban farm on the west side of Wichita. Well-managed by Wes Johnson and Megan Greenway, Orie's Farm Fresh is an inspiring treasure nestled in suburbia.
Knowing the farmer who grew or raised your food has never been more important. Not only do local farmers take pride and care in producing integrity-based food, but also they are a critical component in rebuilding our local food economy. Conscientious, food-savvy consumers play a key role as well. To learn more about Orie's Farm Fresh and the remarkable work they are doing, check out our interview below with Megan Greenway.
We’ve always wanted to plant a garden and grow our own food. Up until the fall of 2014, when Wes sold his previous business, Hesston Plant Company, there simply wasn’t time since we were both working such long hours. Shortly after that, we stumbled upon this incredible piece of property in the heart of northwest Wichita. We knew it would make the perfect setting for an urban farm. We have a passion for healthy eating and a passion for growing, so it only made sense to combine the two.
Where did the name Orie’s Farm Fresh come from?
Wes’s grandfather, named Orie, was a fruit and vegetable market farmer back in the 1930s & 1940s in northwest Wichita. As we embarked on our new journey of growing food, we were reminded of the history that was there. It’s a rewarding and satisfying opportunity to grow food for our family and community. In a sense, we were coming full circle as we began to contribute to the local food system, much like his grandfather had done.
We love your tagline! What motivated you to choose ‘How close are you to your food’?
That question can really make a person think. About a year ago, Wes’s close friend was telling him about a recent trip to Nicaragua. His friend commented on how close people were to their food there. They grew it, helped grow it, or knew who did because what they ate was grown and raised nearby. Farmers and the people they fed built relationships with each other there. By and large, those relationships don’t exist in the US. Many consumers are pretty far removed from where their food comes from, especially if it’s purchased at the grocery store after being shipped cross-country. There’s no story or connection to it. We feel like the desire for that connection is increasing here as more and more people are attending farmers’ markets and supporting their local food system. When you purchase something from a local farmer, you meet them, get to know them, shake their hand, and have the opportunity to ask questions. That farmer is helping you provide food for your family, and by spending your dollars with that local farmer, you are helping them do the same. That connection is an important one to have, so we like to make people think about it by asking, “How close are you to your food?”
Orie’s offers a significant selection of garlic, you have a colorful array of peppers and you seem to have an abundance of okra at the Market. What would you say is the most fun or unique crop that you grow at Orie's Farm Fresh?
The many kinds and their subtle differences in flavor make garlic the most fun and unique crop at Orie’s Farm Fresh. Our customers are surprised and elated to find several different, named varieties of garlic and they love telling us which ones they prefer and how they use them. Their excitement and enthusiasm is enough to convince us, it’s the coolest thing we grow.
Why did Orie’s Farm Fresh choose to focus on garlic?
We chose to focus on garlic because we were fascinated by it. We were intrigued by all the different kinds. We love learning which ones grow well for us and discerning the culinary differences among them. It’s a superfood that’s widely used and has a trove of health benefits. Locally grown tastes so much better than its mass-produced counterpart too. We’re certain it’s healthier also, as the grocery-store kind is often imported from China and sometimes even treated with chemicals to increase storage life. Garlic is a staple in most people’s cooking and we saw an opportunity to fill a niche.
What is your favorite kind of garlic to grow and why?
I’m often asked at the farmers’ market which garlic is my favorite and my answer is always the same: it depends on what I’m using it for. Chesnok Red is my favorite for roasting as its texture is super creamy and the flavor is sweet. It’s delicious on salmon, mixed into mashed potatoes, spread onto a crusty baguette, or even plain. My go-to for Italian dishes or my home-canned tomato sauce is Nootka Rose. Its flavor is strong and robust without being hot. Bonus points for long storage! My favorite mild garlic that is good for “every day” use is Susanville. It is wonderfully mild and can be used for everything: mincing and pressing into recipes; raw in salad dressing, marinades, pesto, and salsa; slow-cooked with a whole chicken or bone broth; eaten raw by the clove to ward off a cold. It’s so versatile!
Megan, tell us about your website, mamamakesfood.com
My passion for healthy eating and cooking took a new turn when our son became old enough to start eating solid foods. I’ve always enjoyed preparing food, but making it for our son was (and still is) so much fun. We bypassed the traditional store bought baby foods and opted for a mixture of homemade purees and baby led weaning (which is essentially offering him what we eat, in age appropriate portion and presentation). I decided to document the experience and hopefully share some inspiration with other parents by starting my blog, Mama Makes Food. At this time, most of what I share is on Instagram, but I do have a handful of original recipes on my website. I’m continuing to add more, as there’s time.
How else do you reach your customers through the web?
We are excited about the first annual Orie's Garlic Fest! What inspired you to start such a festival?
We’ve been having an ongoing discussion over the last several months about delving into agritourism. Opening up our farm to the public is at once a daunting and exciting notion. We’re passionate about what we’re doing here and it’s becoming increasingly clear that other people are too. We decided we needed to embrace that passion and interest in the local food movement and invite our Wichita friends to the farm for a wholesome, family-fun, fall festival. Upon doing a little research, we learned that there are garlic festivals across the country, although nowhere nearby - that sealed the deal. We knew we needed our shindig to be a garlic-centric fall festival. Orie’s Garlic Fest was born.
For many people, garlic is the gateway to food as medicine. When you first learn the word ‘superfood’ and begin to experience the power of nutrient-rich food for overall health and well-being, it becomes impossible to ignore. The latest research shows that garlic may prevent or reverse high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer, as well a host of other health problems. So buy your garlic from a trusted farmer like Orie's Farm Fresh, or grow your own!