This is our second year as the Victory Gardeners. We find Missouri’s Family Heirloom Food producers gems and bringing them back into the market. Yet who are each of us individually and why do we work so well together as a team?
This year’s team is made up individuals from two families. There is the Narrols and the Whitworths. The main players are Becky Whitworth, Todd Narrol, Laura Flacks-Narrol, and Jordan Narrol. There are others in the families that have helped a lot along the road including Joel Narrol, Jacky Whitworth, Sammy Whitworth, and Jessica Whitworth. So this really is a family business.
Laura Flacks-Narrol is the one who saved the seed. She grew the Ivan in her backyard garden and found it to be the most productive and worthy of tomatoes. She organized the effort to save the Ivan. She created and ran the indiegogo project that got it all started and never game up on the tomato that could. She is the mind behind the business of Victory Gardeners. She created and orchestrates the social media, web site, eCommerce, accounting, marketing and other business related items. She is also power behind much of the seed saving and food preservation that has gone on thus far. Every seed saved by victory gardeners has literally gone through her hands.
Laura has the original vision for Victory Gardeners as a case study in how sustainable agricultural can work for the small producer. The hypothesis is that you can create a sustainable business by selling seeds, plants, fruit and preserved goods. Having all these bases covered allows the farmers to directly sell to the public, resulting in a sustainable model.
Becky Whitworth is the daughter of the family that originated the Ivan Tomato. The Ivan is her family heirloom. She worked in her family plant nursery for most of her life and is our main font of knowledge of the industry and resource allocations. If we need something Becky is often the one to pull out a catalog and tell us where we will find the best options. Becky also knows the plants, bugs and strains as one that learned directly from her father. Becky is also our resident horticultural therapist. She has a passion for the healing side of gardening. She has run all our horticultural therapy programs with nursing homes and veteran’s shelters. Becky lives on the farm and has the land, large greenhouses, and equipment that is used throughout the plant production and growth processes.
Todd is affectionately known as Soil Boy Todd. Todd is a huge active force behind Victory Gardeners. He has been responsible for motivating all of us to get the job done over this season. He has been our brawn digging fence posts, putting up fencing, digging holes, weeding for hours on end and moving a lot of soil. He also spent countless hours with the team transplanting 1000’s of plants in the big greenhouse. For Todd the journey to farming has not been a natural one. You can read about his journey in the Non-Gardener’s Guild to Gardening posts on this website. He has discovered first hand how healing and wonderful growing your own food can be. Todd will often bike 25 miles to the farm, work for 4 or 5 hours in 100 degree heat and then get back on the bike and bike home another 25 miles. He has amazing strength and a valued member of the team. Todd is also responsible for spinning tunes when we are out working at the farm. He always knows which music will help us get just a little more work done.
The other members of our teams are our children. Some are more into it and others get dragged along in the shuffle. Some have helped on specific projects like designing our irrigation system, while others have been involved throughout.
Jordan has dove into this project. Last year he helped seed tomatoes, did some transplant shifts and came to the Baker Creek Planting Festival as one of our team members. He was 13 at the time. This year at the ripe old age of 14, he has committed as a full team member. He enjoyed biking out most weekends with his Dad, and worked transplanting for hours without complaint. He worked every market, getting up extra early to bike there and be helpful in setting up our booth. He came to Baker Creek again and attended lectures on small sustainable agricultural with joy. He has also helped with planting at the house and getting the farm plot going. The remarkable thing about Jordan is that he is 14. He is driven and most of the time extremely helpful. He has used this opportunity as a chance to learn how to do things like selling, reading people, and of course growing his food production skills. Jordan is also a vegan so he stands to benefit substantially by our harvest.
The other children have all played their rolls, sorting plastic, helping clean out the greenhouse, transplanting plants, get things ready for market, planting in the garden plot, and the never ending watering. All of Becky’s children grew up working in the greenhouses with their grandparents. They pitch in as a farming family will, without complaint and with open hearts. They have each come through with help when we needed them and are thrilled to see their family tomato making a resurgence. Jessica has commercial green house experience and is a stickler for details like making sure we keep our plants from cross germinating. Sammy often helped her mom in the field planting or doing farm chores. Jacky, who lives in California, has a knack for irrigation systems and found time to design and help build our system on her last visit home.
Joel my youngest has helped reluctantly in the green house and field but still put in substantial efforts for a 10 year old. He has shown more interest in the food processing part of the business. He loves to cook and has a talent of being able to eat an entire jar of pickles in one sitting. He is vital in our efforts to preserve food for sale at our market booth. Joel’s pickles will be launched this fall at the farmers market for public sale.
This project brings together two families towards a goal. The friendship and love, between the Whitworths and the Narrols, grows as the tomatoes grow. It has helped each family in it’s own way as well as making a complimentary business team.
It helps the Whitworths re-claim their tomato and their love for growing food. It connects them to Jerry who grew the Ivan and was the passion behind their family business, Heartland Family Farms. They miss him every day and after he passed could not get themselves to go back into the greenhouse and grow plants. This project has helped them reclaim that heritage and feel honor and love flowing towards the family they love and miss.
It has helped the Narrols come together as a family and work towards this goal. Gardening was a hobby for Laura and has now become a family focus. The family gets away from the electronics and spends time together learning new skills and creating a family business. The children are learning skills that will serve them throughout their lives. The family is bonding over the power of nature the sustainable food production.