Meet Your Merchant: Beautiful Food Farm offers edible flowers, produce, more
Mary MacDonald believes she has a gift for growing, and her customers likely would agree.
MacDonald, of Beautiful Food Farm, can be found at Carson City’s farmers markets from May through September each year, offering everything from fresh greens to edible flowers.
But the rest of the week she can be found working in her garden.
“I’ve been growing and bartering since the 1980s, and I’ve got green thumbs all the way up to my elbows,” MacDonald said.
The single mother of two sons lives on an acre in Silver City and has about a quarter of that in production this year. Until she had spinal surgery last spring, she used to plant about twice that much.
The property includes herb gardens, terraced beds, raised beds with lettuce and greens, and six large straw-bale beds with carrots, beets, turnips, spinach and more.
Inside the house right now, young plants – including tomatoes, squash, cucumber and peppers – are getting a head start before heading out to the garden.
“Between the quail, squirrels and bunnies, it’s a constant battle,” MacDonald said. “I just lost my farm dog, Buddy, who kept the critters away. A good farm dog makes a big difference. Right now the bunnies come up on my porch and just laugh at me.”
MacDonald said that she got started years ago. She brought some of her fresh, locally grown produce to the Marrone’s Restaurant in downtown Carson City – owned by Ralph and Linda Marrone, who now operates the city’s farmers markets.
“One time I brought Ralph six kinds of basil, and ever since then, they’ve introduced me to chefs where I could trade produce for meals. I’ve worked with Carson City florists with my houseplants,” she said.
MacDonald was 19 when she realized she had her gift, which she claims is passed down from her grandmother.
While living in Denver. where she earned her associate’s degree in urban horticulture, greenhouse and nursery management, the landlady of her rooming house gave her an African violet which she later entered in the Denver Botanic Gardens show and won an award.
She moved to Silver City in 2002, where she expanded her talents. The inspiration for the name of her business came from Linda Marrone.
“Linda told me, ‘Mary, you grow the most beautiful food,'” MacDonald said, “but God gave me a gift and I’ve tried to honor that. It’s actually an obsession, but I don’t cook. I’ll grow it if you’ll cook it. How about that?”
MacDonald said that one of her secrets is composting.
“I use Full Circle Compost and horse manure where horses haven’t been grazing on weeds,” she said, “but making your own compost – that’s God’s magic. It really helps your plants keep away the insects, too. I haven’t had to spray my roses for years.”
An intriguing product from her garden is the edible flowers she grows – which can include nasturtiums, rose petals, pansies, violets, squash blossoms and more.
“I’ve had cancer, and I really believe in eating flowers. My gut just tells me, and I believe science will someday show, that flowers are major cancer fighters because of the bright colors. I believe they are powerhouses,” she said.
Meanwhile, MacDonald can be found most any day during growing season among the vegetables in her garden, munching on flowers while she works.
You can find her this Saturday at the Early Spring Market at Greenhouse Garden Center, and later at the 3rd & Curry Street downtown farmers market.