By Carline Schwartz
Rowdy Roots Ranch, an organic grower located in Driftwood, was established earlier this year. (Courtesy John and Victoria Gimino).
Victoria Gimino learned to grow fruits and vegetables as a child in her home country of Russia. Now she is one of the owners of Rowdy Roots Ranch, an organic vegetable and fruit producer in Driftwood.
“You grow everything in summertime and then you pickle for winter,” Gimino said of gardening in Russia. “We didn’t have access to fresh fruit or vegetables during winter months, so I grew up gardening. We only used organic gardening methods. We didn’t know anything else. We didn’t use chemicals or anything like that, so that’s the only way I knew how to grow vegetables and fruit.”
Gimino came to the U.S. nine years ago and lived in California with her husband John, before moving to Texas five years ago.
“When I moved to Texas, I had a nice piece of land by my house and I asked my husband to first build me a bed so I can grow some vegetables for us,” Gimino said. “I decided one bed wasn’t enough for me, so he built me another one.”
Gimino said she started sharing vegetables from her backyard garden, which became popular with neighbors in the Belterra subdivision.
“Everybody would always ask to see my garden, so I would always give tours to the whole neighborhood,” Gimino said.
Nets cover plants to protect them from birds at Rowdy Roots Ranch. This is one of many methods used to preserve plants without chemicals.
Gimino said her neighbors introduced her to the idea of farming land they purchased two years ago in Driftwood.
“They approached me in January and said ‘we have this nice piece of land and we have a really good piece that has black dirt. We would like you to look at it and see if we can do anything with it,’” Gimino said. “They asked me a few times and I was really hesitant at first and eventually came out here and fell in love with the place.”
Gimino said they saw potential for growing organic produce.
“As a part of our homework, so to speak, we saw that the latest trend is organic, sustainable local produce because you cannot beat the flavor,” Victoria said. “This is the latest trend throughout the country, so we figured to take a leap of faith and do it.”
Organic sun stripe yellow squash grown at Rowdy Roots Ranch.
John Gimino, one of the four owners of Rowdy Roots, said soil tests, which reveal the amounts of various elements within the soil, were conducted before they started cultivating the land in late February.
“There are a couple of labs in Texas that do an analysis of the soil and tell you what’s actually in the soil,” John said. “When we sent the soil sample out, we wanted to make sure that what we were adding—the compost tea and everything else—was something that we need.”
Victoria said they began the organic farming process by tilling the dirt, building a fence and creating a watering system. She said it was a tremendous amount of work in a short timeframe with only herself, John and two neighbors working on the land.
“I knew I only had so much time because everything needs to go in the ground before the heat gets here so we can get crops by the time it’s 100 degrees outside,” Victoria said. “By all this mutual effort, we got it done. My first plant went in the ground on April 13.”
John said they also spoke with nearby restaurant owners about vegetables and herbs that can be grown for them.
“We were just new to the whole thing, talking to produce people,” John said. “We knew there was a need for (more) local produce.”
Victoria Gimino shows off one of the sunflowers she planted alongside vegetables and herbs to produce pollinators for the produce.
Victoria said everything about the organic farm was preplanned, from the type of mulch used to the types of plants grown next to each other.
“We did a bunch of research and found the right varieties,” Victoria said. “We preplanned everything; in fact I planned everything according to companion planting, like what vegetables benefit from having (certain types) of herbs or flowers next to it, so besides vegetables we have some culinary herbs and some flowers.”
Victoria said organic farming is far better for health and environmental reasons, compared to conventional methods that involve chemicals, which kill beneficial insects in addition to pests. She said there is also a difference in flavor.
“People need to realize not all the organic produce will look perfect, but the flavor—that’s what you care for and that’s what you go for with organic produce,” Victoria said.
Victoria and John brew their own compost tea and use chemical-free natural pest control methods. She said the farm also has a drip-irrigation system that doesn’t waste water, unlike traditional sprinklers that spray into the air, causing evaporation.
“Water gradually drips to the root where it’s needed,” Victoria said. “It’s a water-conserving watering method because you don’t use that much and you’re using it less frequently versus your sprinklers or soaking hose.”
Herbs and wild flowers are planted in soil under silver-plastic mulch.
Victoria said they decided to use silver-plastic mulch in the farm because of its many benefits.
“It has certain benefits to it because being silver it distracts certain bugs,” Victoria said. “It cools the soil five to seven degrees. Also by reflecting the light, certain vegetables tend to ferment like tomatoes and peppers.”
Indigo Rose tomatoes – pictured above – turn purple when ripe and contain the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin.
Victoria said she grows traditional vegetables along with unique varieties, challenging people to try something new. She said more organic produce is in store for the future. She said the farm currently produces cucumbers, beans, 10 different kinds of tomatoes, okra, bell peppers, hot peppers, squash, zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe and a variety of culinary herbs.
“As of right now, I’m already starting my fall crop as well, which is going to add more variety than what we have right now,” Victoria said. “We’ve actually only been open and selling for (a few) weeks now. When everybody sees what we have, they cannot believe that we only started in the end of February.”
John said he was surprised by how fast everything has grown on the organic farm.
“I look at it and say ‘wow, I can’t believe it,’” John said. “Some of the seeds were started in our house.”
An organic vegetable basked on display during Rowdy Roots Ranch’s first day at the Dripping Springs Farmers Market, June 7. (Courtesy John and Victoria Gimino).
Rowdy Roots participates in the Dripping Springs Farmers Market, selling a variety of fruits and vegetables. On Fridays, Victoria and John host open day at the ranch, located at 1800 Elder Hill Road in Driftwood, which they say is filled with family fun, music, wine and mojitos made with fresh mint from the ranch—and of course, fresh produce.
“People shop, look at the farm and just hang here,” Victoria said. “We have people coming from Dripping, Wimberley and Driftwood. It’s so peaceful and people love it here.”
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