Yard Farm: a family affair
Jason Hollis feeds his garden with something that resembles primordial ooze – a mixture of molasses and microorganisms from compost.
The idea is to increase the beneficial microbes in the soil, improve the nutrient density of the plants and better the health of the people that eat them.
Mr Hollis and his wife Beth sell the tea kits at Yard Farm Bermuda, the organic gardening business they run out of their Smith’s home.
Their journey started when Mr Hollis began suffering from fatigue, brain fog, muscle aches, bloating and gassiness and irritability.
Frustrated, his wife took him to see her colleagues at Ocean Rock Wellness, a holistic healthcare clinic in Paget where she works as a physiotherapist.
Staff there said he had leaky gut syndrome – a condition that many health professionals do not recognise. They also diagnosed a bacterial overgrowth in Mr Hollis’s intestines and found he was deficient in 13 major vitamins and minerals.
“I think it was all the partying I did when I was younger,” he said. “That can really mess up your gut.”
Mr Hollis was treated with bone broth for about a week. He was also ordered to fast intermittently to calm his gut and given medical herb supplements to reduce the bad bacteria.
“Once his gut inflammation reduced he better absorbed his nutrients, and was able to slowly introduce a greater variety of whole foods,” Mrs Hollis said.
“We were trying to reduce his toxic load, so we wanted to cut out anything that had toxins. The best way to do that is to modify your diet. We eat so many different additives, preservatives, dyes and things.”
Compounding the problem was that they couldn’t rely on the quality of fruits and vegetables in supermarkets. They tried buying only organic, but it was too expensive.
“A lot of produce today does not have as much nutrients as it used to have, because of the mass production methods and synthetic fertilisers used to grow them,” Mrs Hollis said. “The vegetables look big and pretty, but the nutrient content is low.”
The couple share a passion for the outdoors and take their children, Arlo and Avalon, camping on Hen Island every year.
Mr Hollis, who had gardened all his life, started growing fruits and vegetables in the half-acre back yard of their property near John Smith’s Bay as he worked towards improving his health.
The 43-year-old, who painted houses for a living, did it all without fertilisers or pesticides or anything else that might upset the balance of the ecosystem. It helped him gain a better understanding of the relationship between microorganisms in the soil and the nutrient density in food.
“To build up the soil we use our homemade compost which has our fruit and veggie scraps, plant material like leaves and cut grass and manure from our chickens and rabbit,” he said.
The couple shares a lot of what they grow with friends and family.
“We have too many basil plants right now,” Mrs Hollis laughed. “My husband refuses to kill a plant. So we have all this basil.”
Figs, peaches, pineapples and avocados are also growing in their backyard alongside various types of chilli peppers. They have just picked a crop of cantaloupe and planted carrots, beets, beans and okra.
It’s a family effort.
“When we went to build a green house we had to first raise up part of the yard with soil,” Mrs Hollis said. “It was sunken down. With every wheelbarrow my husband would bring up to it, Arlo would be behind with his dump truck helping him.”
The children also like to harvest fresh strawberries but leave collecting the eggs from the family’s hen house to their parents.
“When we first got chickens they used to like to go in there and feed them, but then they found that the chickens pecked their ankles so they don’t do that as much,” Mrs Hollis said.
She answers questions about organic gardening on the Yard Farm website where she also blogs about farming methods. The pair has also given the odd talk to groups such as the Gibbs Hill Garden Club in Southampton.
It took Mr Hollis about a year to get his health back on track. A change in diet has helped. He eats a lot of fruits, vegetables and chicken. Every once in a while he will have a steak.
For the most part the family stays away from gluten and dairy products.
“Most of the gluten sold in Bermuda, comes from the United States where it is full of glyphosate, a pesticide,” Mrs Hollis said. “But the gluten from the UK has less pesticides, so less glyphosate.”
Since opening Yard Farm Bermuda a year ago the family has sold organic seedlings, chicken manure, a line of organic fertilisers imported from Vermont, along with Mr Hollis’s compost tea.
Their hope is to one day provide more sophisticated soil testing services than they do at the moment.
“If you have issues with your plants, it is really the soil that you have to investigate,” Mrs Hollis said.
For more information: yardfarmbermuda.com; email@example.com. Follow @yardfarmbermuda on Facebook and Instagram