Local foods: Dangling Carrot Farm

Shelley Mann, Columbus Alive

To get her hand-picked vegetables into the hands of local chefs, Becky Swingle hit the streets. High Street, specifically, where she and a friend approached restaurant owners asking if they'd like to buy some of her produce.

Now her heirloom tomatoes, zucchinis and other veggies are cooked up by chefs at restaurants like Alana's, Rigsby's, Third and Hollywood, and Knead.

It all came full circle earlier this year at a wine dinner at Alana's, where Swingle and her husband, Greg, got to feast on dishes incorporating ingredients from their own Dangling Carrot Farm.

"[Chef] Alana [Shock] was really creative. It was really good," Swingle said. "She did this 8-ball zucchini, a round zucchini, and stuffed it with all kinds of goodies."

Swingle grew up on a large-scale grain farm, where her family harvested corn, beans and wheat. About five years ago, she rented three acres from her parents and started growing an array of vegetables. She's been at it ever since.

In years past, it wasn't uncommon for Swingle, 29, to spend upwards of 100 hours a week working her farm during the peak summer daylight months.

"I was going at it kind of solo. I didn't know what I was doing," Swingle said. "I would do silly things like over-pick and over-harvest."

She's learned a lot over the years. Now she plants fewer types of crops, concentrating on the ones that are the most profitable - onions, garlic, greens and heirloom tomatoes. It's helped her pare down to 70-to-80-hour workweeks.

"It's a lot less than I used to," she said. "My husband is kind of making me calm down some, so that's good."

Greg helps out part time, helping on Saturdays by running the stand at the Clintonville Farmers Market while Becky works the Worthington market. He spends the rest of his time on his own primary passion: building airplanes.

Swingle chose the name Dangling Carrot to evoke the feeling of happiness she gets from farming.

"I studied sociology, and there's this sociologist who says you're happier when you're pursuing something. It's about the flirtation," she said. "That's how farming is. You finally get a bed weeded or an acre harvested and then you're moving on to the next thing. It's like the donkey chasing after that carrot but he can never quite get it."

Photos by Jodi Miller

Dangling Carrot Farm