Urban Garden: Mix Your Greens WIth The "Herb Guys"
Vaughn Dufour exudes a laconic but relaxed vibe that puts me in mind of Harrison Ford playing an organic herb farmer.
Vaughn and his brother Dean are fourth-generation potato farmers; five years ago they started Dufour Family Farms, touting themselves as “The Herb Guys” and quickly establishing a dedicated following at various local farmers markets. Sister Gayle Dufour will soon be moving to Sarasota from Connecticut to assist in the family business and Vaughn is quick to assure me that Gayle and Dean are the cooks in the family. “I just grow the ingredients,” he laughs. “I leave the cooking to them.”
Vaughn tells me that all of the herbs and produce grown at the Dufour farm are grown using organic and hydroponic methods. Hydroponics utilizes nutrient solutions in water rather than soil. Besides the health benefits, growing hydroponically allows the Dufour family to go vertical and produce three times as much in the same area.
Vaughn says that it is very important to buy local, simply because local seeds and locally grown produce and herbs are naturally acclimated to climate and pests and therefore require no chemical interference such as pesticides and other toxic substances. During our chat on this lovely Saturday morning at Sarasota’s Downtown Farmers’ Market we are interrupted by a stream of customers and fellow gardeners interested in growing advice. Vaughn is friendly and informative and happy to share his knowledge. One gentleman asks when they’ll have strawberries again and Vaughn assures him that they should be ready in a few weeks, at the same time as the Plant City patches. The Dufour farm operates on the same growing and planting schedules as the Old Farmer’s Almanac Planting Guide and he says that the bulk of the crops yield from December through April. Winter is a surprisingly abundant time of year, especially in Florida.
I ask Vaughn what the most requested items are at his stand and he declares basil to be the winner by a 3:1 margin, but the rows of lush herbs and succulent vegetables appear to equally popular as we stand in the summer sunshine and exchange pleasantries with housewives pushing strollers and couples walking their dogs.
The idyllic scene is underscored by a smiling Farmer Vaughn as he extols the virtues of a Florida Sweet Onion with an enthusiastic passerby. There’s something captivating about watching someone in their element as they do something that they love and it’s easy to see that Vaughn has a passion for his business. I love to cook with fresh herbs as the taste imparted by fresh herbs versus dried can elevate a dish from pedestrian to authentic. I’m excited to visit the Dufour Family Farms booth again next Saturday and spend some time studying the myriad organic options on offer, at incredibly reasonable prices, by my new favorite Herb Guys.