Good soil and clear water work wonders

“The big spring is still the thing which gives value and beauty and charm to the whole of the farm.

“For centuries, far back into the shadows of the remote past, it was known to the Indians. It was frequented by wild animals and especially by the deer which still come morning and evening to drink at the pond across the road because even in the pond the water is cold and clear.

“In summer when we cut the hay we find their trails through the tall grass and alfalfa leading from the jungle, a big area of swamp and forest which we have left in primitive condition for the wildlife.

“And the pond is teeming with fish and in spring and autumn its transparent surface is covered with migrating wildfowl of every kind.

“The water, which comes from deep in the ancient sandstone, is soft as rain water and the women who wash the vegetables in the big stone troughs like working in it because it softens and beautifies their hands like any beauty cream.”

- Louis Bromfield, From My Experience



Ever since I can remember, I have always felt drawn to water. Ponds, lakes, rivers, the incredible oceans – I find them all awe-inspiring.

There is nothing quite so fascinating to behold as a spring – a seemingly endless supply of gurgling water – clear, crisp and cold, provided like a gift from deep in the Earth.

As old as dirt. Louis Bromfield made incredible use of the natural spring on his farm in Richland County, Ohio, which had been there forever, as he writes, “probably since the time when the last melting ice of the second great glacier receded from our country.

“It comes from the deep Silurian sandstone, one of the oldest formations in the world, flowing up through one of the many crevices created 10 million years ago when the huge weight of the glacier cracked the heavy sandstone underneath.”

Bromfield bought the land and later started a roadside stand there, not really by design but by demand.

People traveled to Malabar to look at the vegetables and flowers, for the garden area was always open to visitors in the 1940s and beyond.

Ahead of his time. Bromfield was a man ahead of his time as he pushed for conservation of land and the avoidance of vegetable sprays and dusts, convinced they would poison people as well as the bugs they were intended to kill.

Vegetables grown there were said to be the best around.

Bromfield wrote, “For years we had simply given away or fed to the pigs or plowed in the surplus vegetables, but the increasing number of people who wanted to buy them not only interrupted our work (for we did not want to be disagreeable) but gave us the idea of perhaps organizing the whole thing and making it simpler not only for the buyers but ourselves.”

Spring-inspired. The inspiration came for the roadside market that was to be “a beautiful and airy pavilion with a whole brook of fresh spring water flowing through it.”

It turned out they still needed more room, and a storehouse was built which made use of the hard-working spring.

Inside, high, wide troughs of concrete were constructed through which a stream of spring water flowed for storage of vegetables, winter and summer, and flowed outside to troughs which served for washing and chilling vegetables during the busy growing season.

Profitable. Bromfield writes, “And so we backed into the whole business of market gardening and a market stand, which has become perhaps the most profitable undertaking per acre of all the projects at Malabar Farm.”

Amazing what good soil and clear water can accomplish, isn’t it?

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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