One of my fondest memories growing up was staying at my grandparents’ cottage on Lake Erie, Ontario. This was in the days before the major contamination of the lake, and we spent our time playing outside, fishing with Gramps in the early morning and eating fresh produce from Gram’s garden. That was my first exposure to gardening, an activity that has become a life-long pursuit.
After teaching gardening as a Peace Corps volunteer in Southern Africa, I took every opportunity in my adult life to garden as much as I could. Sometimes, I had only a few pots of greens; other times, a more extensive raised-bed garden. It wasn’t until I got the chance to manage an acre garden in a prime spot in Napa three years ago that I could turn a passion into a regular activity.
The founding of Dr. Cowan’s Garden two years ago was a crucial step in getting me back into more intense gardening. Suddenly, I was growing not just for my family and for the fun of being with the plants, but I was also growing for a business that was producing a new food product. We started small, like most businesses, and in the beginning, I was dehydrating and powdering the vegetables myself. As time went on and the demand grew, we moved the production to a commercial kitchen in Vallejo, CA, and we had to source our vegetables from local farms as well as from the Napa garden.
However, we discovered that that arrangement wasn’t financially sustainable for us. We converted the Napa garden to a place where I can experiment with new varieties, continue to grow ashitaba — our most valued crop — and to grow food for family and friends.
We were extremely fortunate to find a facility in Upstate New York that can process the vegetables in a more efficient and flavorful way than we could ever accomplish in our own small facility. This move also enables us to start sourcing as many vegetables as possible from local, upstate New York Biodynamic and other beyond-organic growers. It is an exciting time for us as we pursue our mission to produce the most flavorful, nutritious and diverse vegetable powders possible.
The engine that makes it possible for us to pursue our goal to positively affect the culinary and ecological habits in the U.S., as well as my dream to actively garden, is your support. Without our wonderful customers and the overwhelmingly positive feedback we have received these past two years, there would be no Dr. Cowan’s Garden. For this, we are all so very grateful.
Tom Cowan, M.D.
For many of us, our relationship to food is a never ending journey. Sometimes to move forward one finds themselves looking back. For bread and specifically the grains used to make it I find that the best results are indeed found in reflection. It is sometimes true that modern ingenuity has value for us, but that is usually only when paired with ancient wisdom. For grains, that wisdom is in the ancient varieties that have been grown for thousands of years.
During this time of relative uncertainty, we have decided to renew our commitment to gardening. Dr. Cowan’s Garden was originally a place, located in Napa Valley on a plot of land generously donated by a friend. It embodied our ideals and was a sanctuary for growth and learning.
The garden was our muse for new product offerings and for improving existing ones. The garden kept our ambitions grounded to certain fundamentals, as the practice of gardening can be challenging.