How To Get Animals Out of Our Vegetables

Davie Maxwell and his mom in the seedling greenhouse of Hidden Oasis farm. Davie starts his leafy green powerhouse crops out from seeds.

Davie Maxwell Pioneers Compassionate Farming for Delicious Leafy Greens

Whole food, plant-based diets and veganic farming are natural partners. Veganic gardeners grow crops without manure, bone or blood meal, or other animal products. While plant-based nutrition is a blossoming trend, raising cruelty-free crops is evolving more slowly.

Using veganic methods, Davie Maxwell grows the world’s healthiest, tastiest leafy greens on his 5-acre Hidden Oasis farm near Vancouver, Washington, a short drive from Portland. I was deeply impressed with his quiet dedication, compassion for the critters that nibble his crops, and eagerness to share his learnings when I visited him on a recent trip.

Seventeen years ago, Davie smoked, ate greasy meat and processed foods, and drank soda. Then he had a relatively minor medical problem that kept him in the hospital, just for one night. That was enough for him. He decided to learn to take better care of himself so he would never have to walk into a hospital again. “Once was enough to last me a lifetime,” he winces.

But change to a healthier vegetarian diet was one step at a time. “If someone back then said I was going to be vegan and specialize in growing greens, I would have thought they were nuts,” Davie told me.

Davie grew flowers when he first started to improve his diet, but after a year or two switched to focusing on leafy green nutrition powerhouses. Although he is a fourth generation farmer, Davie did not grow up on the land and taught himself how to grow cruelty-free and sustainable food. He learned by reading, talking with his family and other growers, and trial and error.

Biff and Bootsie are two of the guard cats who scare off mice and voles. These rescued ferals help Davie while he helps them, feeding them, taking them to the vet, and bringing them inside at night.

The first question vegans often get is “where do you get your protein?” The first question Davie gets from farmers who use animal products on their crops is “where do you get your nitrogen?” (Actually these two are almost the same question. Nitrogen is the distinguishing element in protein, and plants use nitrogen to manufacture the amino acid building blocks of all proteins, plant and animal.)

Davie answers his question the same way that vegans answer theirs: from plants! He uses cover crops to pull nitrogen out of the air and put it into a form that is usable by other plants. He makes a fertilizing “tea” by soaking weeds and remnants of his crops in giant tubs of water for a week or two. The compost pile is indispensible.

Davie endeavors to constantly recycle and reuse the resources of his own land, without the expense and energy required to bring in materials from the outside. Many plants are grown in greenhouses he builds, which helps conserve the need for resources.

Hidden Oasis farm has a couple other distinguishing features. Davie does not use tractors or other gasoline-powered tools. His own strength and labor powers his activities. His mother helps with some of the chores, such as picking, weeding, and packing their crops for delivery to customers.

Hidden Oasis is also a no-kill farm. Mice and voles are local wildlife that love to gobble Davie’s crops. He shares his harvest with the voles without taking their lives, an act of compassion few farmers would match. He does acknowledge though that his 3 farm cats (2 of them rescued ferals who just wandered into his life) kill and eat voles; this is part of nature’s balance.

Mice are seed eaters, and initially Davie’s attempts to sprout spinach from seeds failed dismally when mice would chomp the outdoor infant plants as they germinated. Now he sprouts all his seeds in a greenhouse on heated pads, so they grow faster. Mice could sneak

This gorgeous kale growing in one of Davie's greenhouses will definitely be perfect on one of my green sandiwiches.

into the greenhouse, but again the 3 cats take care this threat does not materialize. Davie does not even kill slugs. Instead, he gathers them and brings them to the back of his farm, as far as he can get from the crops.

Growing crops with Davie’s methods saves money by eliminating the purchase of fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides, and requiring less energy and expensive tools. Davie is in incredible shape from all the physical work his farm demands. Watching the plants flourish and draw accolades from his customers is way more gratifying than a trip to the gym.

Davie finds that veganic farming produces better tasting and smelling crops. Another advantage to growing veganic is that manure can release poison from pesticides that were on plants the animal producing the manure ate. These chemicals can and do kill crops.

For all its financial and health advantages, veganic gardening for Davie also has a major ethical aspect. He has been vegan for seven years. “Once I became vegan I had to find a way to grow food without harming animals. I don’t need the slaughterhouse now to get my nitrogen. I don’t even have to get in the car.”

Davie shared a bag of assorted fresh greens he had grown with me. I can testify to the excellent taste and texture of Hidden Oasis offerings. Using amazing local bread and Davie’s gift, I had the best green sandwiches of my life.

Davie’s dedication to cruelty-free farming, reliance on his own land and labor, and sensitivity to the needs of his growing plants and customers are groundbreaking in this era of convenience and wasteful use of resources. Hidden Oasis farm shows the future of sustainable agriculture as the planet gets more crowded and resources are degraded.

I greatly admire Davie’s humble view of his accomplishments, quiet manner, and connection to the land and all its creatures. Visiting his farm gives me new appreciation for the hard work of so many farmers. Stop and think where your foods came from and how it was produced. For us city-dwellers, so much is required to allow us to flourish on a whole foods, plant-based diet without ever touching

I wouldn't mind adding some of this tatsoi to my sandwich either

the land.

If you liked this post, you may want to read How To Make Delicious Green Sandwiches, which will show you how to put Davie’s greens to good use.

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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods. This easy-to-follow eating plan is built on a whole foods, plant-based diet that can prevent, and even reverse, most chronic disease. Janice is looking forward to the day she can move out of the city and grow some of her own food – using Davie’s methods.




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