The Turnip Truck – Paradise Found

Published in Bucks Life Magazine July 2011

Long before it became fashionable, an Ottsville couple began living high off the land.
By Iris McCarthy

Nestled in the backwoods just outside of Richland Township, there stands a small greenhouse and a beautiful old red barn partially hidden by lush, unruly foliage. Butterflies flutter and bees swarm under the glare of the noontime sun and, for a moment, I think that maybe I took a wrong turn and stumbled upon Eden. It turns out, I am exactly where I’m supposed to be—Turnip Truck Gardens—the Ottsville-based organic kitchen gardening outfit and brainchild of husband-and-wife horticulturists Jenn and Alex McCracken.
For years, the pair has been ahead of the agricultural curve, cultivating their own land, maintaining heirloom vegetable gardens and, literally, eating from their own backyard.

Before the recession, the McCrackens were consultants to an exclusive (read: affluent) group of Bucks residents, creating whimsical and elaborate vegetable gardens for those whose only limitations were their imaginations.
These days, they refocused their attention to serve the growing population of conscious consumers who want to limit their footprint and give as much back to the Earth as they consume. The new calling seems better aligned with Jenn and Alex’s philosophy.“We don’t grow gardens. The gardens grow us,” Jenn says, acknowledging the tidy rows of arugula, lettuce, beets and Swiss red chard that surround us.

The McCrackens have become the agrarian jacks-of-all-trades as demand for their expertise rises. With terms like organic, locavore and farm-to-table inching their way into our vernacular, Jenn and Alex find themselves not only consulting on larger-scale projects but also conducting gardening workshops at their alma mater, Delaware Valley College, selling their organic heirloom vegetable plants at a local market and mentoring those whose thumbs aren’t quite as green.

Alex, recently, was tapped by Philadelphia restaurateur José Garces to serve as chief gardening consultant on a farm Garces purchased in the area to supply his seven Philadelphia eateries.“This place is my temple, my church,” Jenn says. Indeed, it is a place where even Mother Nature herself seems to worship.


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