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Virtual Farm Tour: Buttercup Cottage Farm

Editor’s note: The annual Rutherford and Polk farm tour is being staged online this year. Farms can be visited weekly at facebook.com/ncfoothillsfarmtour/)

The garden at Buttercup Cottage in Saluda is steeped in family history, with the first plantings going back nearly 50 years.

Daniel K. Wells is the scientist in the garden. He first established the organic garden for his father in the 1970s, then moved up from Florida where he was working and took it over. He rounded out his teaching career in the Rutherford County school system, over the years teaching chemistry, biochemistry, biology, physics and computer-assisted broad field science.

Today he tends a variety of fruit trees as well as a row-crop garden that produces a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and other food that he and his wife Marti manage on their 2.5-acre field. That is roughly two football fields.

Treating gardening as the science that it is, he has conducted a wide variety of experiments over the years.

“I planted fruit trees native to the Pittsburgh area since Saluda’s micro-climate is similar,” he said. He also has done extensive companion plantings for his tomatoes, squash cabbage, cucumbers, Italian pole beans, Asian eggplants and a variety of peppers, including Habanero and Ghost. Many resistant hybrid plants developed by the USDA in Fletcher are used as well.

What do you do with all that produce from a garden so massive? You make jams, jellies, pickles and marinara sauce in your commercial kitchen and sell to restaurants, stores and bakeries.

Like most farmers, he had to adjust their operations because of the pandemic.

“This year…we opened the garden to local people for an honor system u-pick. It is working quite well, and I find that more of my produce is being used than when I spent all my time doing farmers market sales,” he said. Speaking of the coronavirus, both he and his wife contracted it and have recovered.

He battles a variety of garden diseases, insects and four-legged poachers organically, except for bears in the fruit trees, with whom he declared a truce.

“I have settled with the idea that I have to live with them since they were here first,” Wells said.

 

Submitted by Larry McDermott