"Growing Into Your Destiny": Expect Miracles Podcast
Coeur et sol founder, chelsa hernandez, shares the roots that shaped her growing urban farm and destiny on episode 43 of the expect miracle's podcast with dr. Kevin pecca
It wasn't always a direct or clear path, but we are grateful when reflecting on each twist and turn that would eventually lead to the start of Coeur et Sol. Recently, Dr. Kevin Pecca invited farmer and founder, Chelsa Hernandez, to be on his Expect Miracles podcast to talk about our journey towards sustainability in urban communities.
Learning to grow vegetables at age six on her family's five acre farm made cultivating food second nature to Chelsa early on. The habit would follow her into college where she persuaded the building owner to let her tend a small garden outside her apartment in Iowa. "I always had gardening through my whole life. Everywhere I’ve ever lived." Chelsa recounted, "The passion came from where I come from. I grew up in Hunterdon County, NJ". This passion stayed with Chelsa through her growing pains and would eventually form the foundation of Coeur et Sol.
After successfully helping City Green Urban Farms through their 2016 season, raising chickens, and learning to grow microgreens, Chelsa was ready to go into full scale production and secure some real business for the farm. "The microgreens is like a whole other piece of the farm that started because I wanted to supplement my chicken’s diet." Soon, though, Chelsa became passionate about the microcrops and expanded her production.
Now all she needed was someone to buy them. "I decided to call up The Corner in Montclair. They’re awesome. Jeff, the owner, he’s an amazing person. He entertained my very scattered pitch when I walked into this restaurant with two trays of microgreens and right off the bat said, “Yes. I will purchase this weekly from you.”
This was just the encouragement that Chelsa needed to pursue more spots for her microgreens on local menus. She thought “It’s working. Even though I feel crazy, it’s working.”Shortly after she began practicing pitches. "I got my marketing materials a little bit more tight and put together. I approached my favorite restaurant in Montclair, which is Le Salbuen right across from the Walnut Street Station. When they said yes, that was like the ultimate yes. Greenlight, go, do this, don’t stop. For me, that was a big deal and they’re still, to this date, my biggest customer."
These days Chelsa uses her three tiered microgreen machine to grow nearly 60 flats of microgreens each week and is in the process of building a second unit to expand even further. That is, when she isn't busy preparing Coeur et Sol's first 1/4 acre lot for full scale production this Spring. Between compost deliveries and slowly but surely removing stubborn weeds, the farm has begun production on crops in our raised beds. Coeur et Sol market garden will provide tomatoes, leafy greens, root vegetables and hand cut flowers for their first season. As for future seasons? "My five-year plan truly is to have a total half acre, a third to half acre of land throughout the city that I’m farming and produce it in full production and not just only using part of it, the land to produce." Chelsa says of her vision for her urban farm.
Ultimately, Chelsa created Coeur et Sol with the hope to enrich her community with her produce and passion. The value of urban farming has been demonstrable in her own life and it is a lifestyle she wants to share all of the ways sustainable agriculture can improve all of our lives. "One of the most important ways is that it cuts out a big piece of our consumer society, which is that we go to a grocery store to buy our food. When you’re able to be independent in that way and have the opportunity to grow your own food, you realize that we don’t really need much in this life. We need good food, good water, a family, and our house. That’s the biggest piece, but it’s also the flavor...Produce from the grocery store may take weeks to get on your plate so the nutrition lost in that time. You can taste that when you pick something and you eat it fresh out of the ground or fresh off the vine." These personal and nutritional experiences are the ones Chelsa is most excited to bring to Coeur et Sol Urban Farms practices.
With her first succession of kale, tatsoi, and radishes nearing harvest, Chelsa is closer to that goal than ever. There is still a lot of work to do (hand tilling is not easy!) but she continues to transform the abandoned space day by day.
You can listen to the full interview with Dr. Pecca to hear Chelsa's full story, what Coeur et Sol is growing, and some fun farming facts now.
Thank you to Dr. Kevin Pecca of Montclair Upper Cervical Chiropractic NJ. His own story can be found on his podcast station as well. You can follow him at @easelaffirmations for daily affirmations that can guide you in leading your best life.