Morning Star Farm: a dream come true for this “shepherd of the land”
Unless you live in a warm climate, going to a farmers market during the winter can be slim pickins. One army veteran put in high tunnels and greenhouses so he can grow year round.
“Morning Star Farm started as a dream. I’ve been retired military, and I’ve been in real estate 20 years after that and I just had this dream one night. I woke up at 3:00 in the morning and said this is where I want to start,” Charles Pecka explains.
Pecka sets up shop at the Nashville Farmers Market every Saturday.
“I was born and raised on a dairy farm,” he states. “We had 1,000 cows at any one time. Eight hundred of them were wet, 200 were dry, 50 calves in the barn, and I joined the Army to sleep in.”
After retiring from the Army where he was part of the Special Forces unit, he started Morning Star Farm in Adams, Tennessee.
“We sell produce, so that means I have a hydroponic greenhouse-- 3,000 square feet of hydroponic growth space. Then I have another 6,000 square feet of covered high hoops where I grow in the ground and then I actively grow in an acre and a half outside.”
Pecka is focusing on lettuce and greens. He is known for his kale, which usually tastes bitter but Pecka says his is not.
“Kale needs potassium in the ground and we use bone meal to enhance the soil. So, it brings up enough potassium in the winter time and when it gets cold at night, the plant automatically stores sugar in it if it has the right nutrient level in the soil,” he explains.
Pecka says that he harvests 7,000 heads of lettuce every month and has seven different varieties.
“I can guarantee you that my stuff is picked every Wednesday or Thursday every week. So, when you pick it up on Saturday, it’s going to be well in your refrigerator for at least a month, probably six weeks, without having to worry about throwing it away.”
At Morning Star they also do some value added products like kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage. Although he is growing these year round he does not call himself a farmer: “I’ve never considered myself a farmer; I’ve considered myself a shepherd of my land.”