In Good Taste: Mink, Ronzello offer sustainable gardening workshop

Published 10:00 pm Monday, January 19, 2015

By Carol Lynn Jackson

Need help planning for your spring planting for personal or market use?  Look into Polk County’s upcoming local sustainable farming and gardening workshop to be held Feb. 6 and 7 at the Mill Spring Agricultural Development Center. Join Polk County’s Leap Farm and Thunder Ridge Farm, with Lee Mink and Lynn Ronzello, and learn a high-yield system of growing on any size plot. The workshop will include bed making, composting, soil amendments, soil blocks, what and when to plant, irrigation, row covers, seed saving and much more!

Lee Mink believes in teaching growers to become “dirt farmers” first, and offers a great deal of information on the importance of preparation and sustainable irrigation.  As one past workshop attendee put it, “I appreciate the enthusiasm and vast knowledge of the instructors.  It’s also been great to have established a network with other local growers.”

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Mink started farming in Alabama as a home gardener in the 1980s with the aim of providing healthy food for his family. Less-than-ideal soil forced him to learn how to manage soil in the best way — experience. Mink is a great proponent of using cover crops, green manure and compost to improve soil health. As he learned more about big agribusiness and its detriments to the health of land and humans, he became an activist in the sustainable farming movement.

Today, Mink owns Leap Farm in Mill Spring. This bio-diverse, GMO-free, sustainable farm specializes in organic methods. Mink chooses to sell his produce within 25 miles of the farm. He insists that at its essence, sustainable farming is all about local service – local farms providing food to local residents and restaurants. Mink is also an expert in marketing and value-added products. He sells both wholesale and retail and knows there is a home for everything he plants when he plants it.

Lynn Ronzello grew up tending her mother’s urban garden in the heart of Detroit, Mich. “My family were urban ‘truck farmers’ as they called it. We grew to eat, not necessarily to market,” she said.

Once a mother, Ronzello’s aim was to grow to provide healthy food for her family, including all her own baby food. Organic was the only method used in those early days, prior to pesticides like DDT and Round Up-ready inputs and seeds.

Seventeen years ago, Ronzello and her family purchased 23 acres in Green Creek, now called Thunder Ridge Farm, where soil blocks, companion planting, soil health and row cover are part of her marks for success: accepting sacrifice and learning what works and when is learned through her experience.

“There is no one way to be sustainable. You must learn the basics from experienced growers and then tend your land based on what it reveals it needs and can yield for you. As my children have always been a part of tending the farm, be it the gardens, horses, or other animals, it’s my daughter that I’ve learned the most from,” said Ronzello.

Ronzello’s daughter, Jamie, owns her own organic farm, Barking Deer, on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, where she often visits and assists in the sustainable farming.

To learn more or to register contact Patrick McClendon, director, at or 828-436-0029.