Behind-The-Scenes

Season 4, Episode 01

Still Farming Like It’s 1699

Donna Sanders headshot and byline.

Long ago and far away, near the small town of Sumter, SC, you met the amazing Bradford Family. You might be asking yourselves when? The answer Season 1, Episode 03 Farming Like It’s 1699. Nat Bradford spoke proudly of his land, ancestors, and the heirloom seeds he uses to grow his crops that have been handed down over generations. We met Bette Bradford whose interview was so emotional she had everyone in tears. And how can we forget nine-year-old Natalie Bradford? Natalie the “precious precocious” little girl who gave such a grown-up interview.

That first Behind-The-Scenes article ended with, “Bradford Farms is a place I would love to visit again. Hopefully one day, I’ll get to continue this story…” It happened and WTFCF revisited Bradford Farms June 21. On that note let’s do a walkabout around the farm!

Oh yeah — we did have a chaperone with us the entire time. We have chaperones a lot, usually making sure Chip doesn’t touch or do things he shouldn’t. My guess, Bear was making sure Chip did not hurt Nat.

Interestingly, I did not remember the farm being so big. I was right. The farm, when we first saw it, was 10 acres. Nat has since added 14 acres. Check out the photo gallery below and see some of the incredible crops Nat and his family grow.

There was a lot of discussion about Nat’s corn. Honestly, it totally threw me off when he started naming all the different types, shelf life and his future plans involving corn. Thank goodness you will see it in the episode.

Nat’s collard greens are the biggest I have ever seen and are grown organically, but are not certified organic. I know most people cut the stems off and throw them away in the cleaning process, but with Nat’s collards this is not necessary. The stems are so sweet they can be eaten straight from the field “like celery.” Chip’s mom cringed when he told her this and about died when she saw this picture.

Where to next? The okra field. Oddly enough, the okra plant produces a beautiful yellow flower to help with pollination and is from the same family as hibiscus. Though not considered an ornamental flower, some people use them in bouquets. Believe it or not you can actually eat the flower. They are best sautéed and can be served as a side dish. Anybody have a recipe?

Something Nat talked about in the first episode is Sangaste Rye. It is the earliest variety of rye still grown today and was developed in Estonia in the 1800s. It’s most popular use today is making bread — and it’s really the mother of Russian vodka! Nat mentioned that one day he hopes to get in the vodka making business, but for now he has too much going on.

What farm doesn’t grow squash and cucumbers? Nat’s is no exception. His butternut squash has a green flesh and a certain creaminess when eaten. Bette calls it the, “Emerald Butternut.”

Nat is also growing pumpkins and sweetpotatoes. I couldn’t get a good picture because of the cage around the plants. Apparently, deer love these two crops so they must be protected. Moving on.

Let’s talk cucumbers grown from his heirloom seeds. This cucumber seed has been around since the late 1700s. Nat calls it the Carol Wicker White Cucumber – long story – but, from what I researched, it is the Miniature White Cucumber. It has a non-bitter and mild flavored skin. Really popular with Bette. She pickled 50 gallons last year. Not being a pickler (I don’t think this is really a word, but you get my point), I will go with that is a lot of pickles.

Natalie Bradford and Chip on the front porch swing.

Ah, remember Natalie? Here she comes to help Chip close the show. She has grown up a bit and her sense of humor and rhythm is just getting better, as you’ll see in the show. 

There are a few more things in the works at the Bradford farm — and something’s always happening. Per Nat, “There’s a lot of scientific experiments going on.” He is not kidding. Listening to him talk about all of this makes my head spin.

Technically the shoot was over, but there is one thing I have to add. Nat sent me home with a HUGE head of cabbage. Chip’s mom hosted the WTFCF crew while we were doing the shoots so I had kitchen privileges. Most of us have cooked cabbage one way or another and it smells pretty awful. Well, I decided to sauté the cabbage with a little bit of onion. Chip and his mom were out. When they came back they thought I didn’t cook it. Why? There was no horrible odor lingering in the air. Quite a surprise to all of us.

Completely baffled, Chip texted Nat and told him. He asked him why there was no smell? Bottom-line, Nat had no clue. Apparently Bette’s cabbage never stinks up the house. Maybe it’s grown that way. Very funny, regardless.

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