A teenager approached Yong Lee at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market with a clever look on his face.
Once he reached her stall he lifted a hand and pointed at her sign advertising “Do Nothing Farming,” exclaiming, “I thought farming was hard work?”
She gave him a wry smile and stopped just short of wagging her finger at him, before explaining the true meaning of “do nothing farming.”
“It’s the natural way of farming,” she said proudly. “We don’t do any sprays, any chemicals. We just do it like the old fashioned way from grandma and grandpa.”
Yong and three generations of her family including her husband, in-laws, and a daughter work hard at Beulah Meadows to produce natural produce and flowers using agricultural practices that are hundreds of years old and predate much of the modern tools of the farming trade such as pesticides and heavy equipment.
“What we mean by ‘do nothing’ is that we do nothing that’s harmful to nature or people who trust our food,” Lee explained. “We’re working very hard. We pull all the roots by hand. We plant our seeds by hand. It’s based on the Japanese way.”
Lee grabs a stalk of asparagus and holds it up proudly. It’s thicker and has more color than its grocery store cousin, and she claims it tastes divine.
You see — Do Nothing asparagus grows amongst weeds, and as such the asparagus gets less sun than what a regular farming operation might plant neatly in a field treated with weedkillers. Due to this fact, Lee’s stalks grow much bigger and are juicier. Alas, it’s a lot harder to pull them from the field intermingled with weeds.
The irony of the naming convention for their preferring agricultural method strikes again and again as she discusses the items her family plants, grows, and harvests on their land.
The Lee family even does flowers, some of which they feed to their chickens along with the flower seeds and other naturally grown items from their land.
Lee’s only lament is that her family farm might span three generations, but it’s only five people.
“Three generations and we only have five people?” she often laments while kneeling to the ground with her hands in the dirt.
For more details on the Ann Arbor Farmers Market check out our post announcing the start of the May season which sees market days expand from just Saturdays to include Wednesdays each week.
Stay tuned for more vendor snapshots and regular articles where we take a closer look at the farms that offer goods at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market.
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