Local Couple’s Healthy Produce Is a Popular Pick at the Greenwood Farmers Market

Writer/ Kelsey Musick

Photographer / JWCreative.Indy

Novel Farm produces healthy and nutritious, locally-grown produce and specializes in growing salad greens such as lettuce, kale and spinach, as well as baby-root vegetables such as carrots, beets and radishes. The farm also grows heirloom varieties of other traditional crops such as cucumbers, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes.

The farm was built from the hard work of farming couple Dustin and Chelsea Russell. In addition to farming, Dustin teaches fifth grade at Maple Grove Elementary.

“A few years ago, I discovered that working outside is an enjoyable stress reliever and energizer after a long day at work,” Dustin says. “I never wanted to help my mom with her garden while growing up, but my wife [Chelsea] and I discovered an interest in gardening shortly after we were married.”

Chelsea is a stay-at-home mom who enjoys spending time outside. During her junior year of college, she was deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army Reserve as a Public Affairs Specialist. She was stationed in the southern region of the country where there was very little greenery.

“One of the big things that helped me keep my sanity during my deployment was researching heirloom vegetables and flowers,” Chelsea says. “I couldn’t wait to grow my own garden when I got back home.”

Both Dustin and Chelsea believe in living a simple lifestyle and they agree that gardening was an easy choice for them.

“We debated names such as Tall Tale Farm and Storybook Farm before settling on Novel Farm,” Dustin says. “It just seemed to fit. The term “novel” applied in a few different ways and we both liked that aspect.”

Last year was the couple’s first time selling at the Greenwood Farmers Market and it was an absolute joy, according to Chelsea. Locals even started referring to Dustin as “the salad guy.”

Since the Greenwood Farmers Market, Megan and Tim Dooms have helped the Russell family with their garden. Like Dustin, Tim is also a fifth-grade teacher, and like Chelsea, Megan is a stay-at-home mom. The Dooms have worked for Novel Farm for a year now, since it first began its market garden adventures.

“Working on Novel Farm has been a wonderful experience for our family,” Megan says. “We appreciate being able to work outside and produce healthy, beautiful food and flowers for our community. We love being able to work alongside our good friends and have our kids be a part of it all while learning lessons about nature, hard work and fellowship.”

At the Greenwood Farmers Market, Chelsea recalls meeting so many people who appreciated the hard work that goes into producing naturally-grown food.

“It’s such a rewarding experience when customers come back after trying our produce and tell us how much they’ve enjoyed their salad or carrots,” Chelsea says. “Local food has such a rich flavor, and it’s difficult to get that experience from big retail companies since their produce might be shipped in from hundreds or even thousands of miles away.”

The primary focus for the Russell family is growing the healthiest produce possible and that process starts with the soil. They do not till their soil, as earthworms do all that work for them. According to Dustin, the no-till approach, along with using all-natural compost, preserves the rich ecosystem of microbiology in their soil – giving their produce full flavor and making it nutrient-dense.

“Vegetables in a grocery store were produced to look pretty and last long on the shelf,” Dustin says. “Our produce is grown to be delicious and nutritious. I’ve seen our customers have a friendly argument over who gets the last bag of carrots or last bunch of kale in a given week.”

Next to produce, the couple also farms flowers and started out growing zinnias, sunflowers, celosia and cosmos. According to Chelsea, those types of flowers are very forgiving to those who aren’t familiar with gardening and making bouquets.

“Flower farming is a growing industry, and it’s been great to take advantage of all the knowledge out there on the web,” Chelsea says. “My biggest learning curve was figuring out how to arrange bouquets. The first few months were a little stressful, but I was amazed by how much my confidence had grown at the end of the season.”

This year, the couple decided to start a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, running May through September, where members can pick up their share of produce each week.

“A CSA program made a lot of sense for our farm,” Chelsea says. “There are times when the farmers market might be canceled due to rain, and we have a lot of produce that we aren’t able to sell. We are able to use those opportunities to donate food, but it’s nice to have a guaranteed customer base since farming can be a risky undertaking. We also wanted to provide access to our produce for individuals who can’t make it to the farmers market each week.”

Those who are interested in learning more about Novel Farm’s CSA program and visit novelfarm.com for more information.