Two Gals and a Garden

Sisters-in-law Valerie Clowney and Katherine Bass have turned their passion for gardening into a business that is thriving during the holiday season. Standing in front of the family farm, the two prepare to pack up their garden produce and products and head out for another holiday market.

Sisters-in-law Katherine Bass and Valerie Clowney Bass have turned their passion for gardening into a business that is thriving during the holiday season. Standing in front of the family farm, the two prepare to pack up their garden produce and products and head out for another holiday market.

WINNSBORO (Nov. 26, 2015) – “I’ve had a vegetable garden for as long as I can remember,” Valerie Clowney said, pleasantly nostalgic, as she perused the 1-acre garden that was planted, tended and harvested by her and her sister-in-law Katherine Bass last summer. “I think everyone should have a garden.”

To that end, Clowney’s and Bass’s garden has bloomed into a family business they call Two Gals and a Garden which provides other families with the same garden produce their own families enjoy.

The women sell the produce from their garden as seasonal fruits and vegetables ‘picked-this-morning’ as well as preserved in jars topped with ruffled country-gingham lid covers. They also stir pumpkin, zucchini, tomatoes, pears, pecans and apples produced on the farm in to delicious home baked breads, pies, cakes and cookies – all of which they sell at their increasingly popular stand at local farmers’ markets and fall festivals. An added bonus for their customers is the Two Gals’ emphasis on chemical-free gardening and reasonable prices for their products.

It all started last December, when Clowney and her husband, Benny, inherited, a 78-acre Winnsboro farm that has been in Benny’s family for generations. The couple call it Meadow Lou Farm after Meadow Lou Lane where the farm sits just off Newberry Road.

“The farmhouse is 150 years old,” Clowney said, “and the property, which originally covered 480 acres, hadn’t been worked for 30 or 40 years. But the farm has some apple, pear and plum trees, Muscatine grape vines and pecan trees that are probably as old as the farm. We really wanted to do something with all of it.”

The Clowneys, who lived in Rock Hill at the time, put their house up for sale and moved to the farm in June with their 9-year-old son, Brice. Two adult children stayed behind in York County. That’s when she and Bass, who lives on the other side of Winnsboro with her husband Johnny and their three children, hatched the idea of starting a garden-based family business.

“We’ve both always enjoyed gardening,” Clowney said, “and we wanted to get started with the business. So I put off taking a job until September so that Katherine, who is a stay-at-home mom, and I could get the garden going over the summer.” The Gals were soon harvesting produce to sell at festivals and farmers’ markets, with bounty enough for canned and baked goods, too.

“We worked every day, from sun up ‘til sun down, all summer,” Clowney said. “After picking the corn and beans, we’d sit under the pecan tree and shuck the corn and pop the beans, talking and having a good time.”

The summer’s produce included several kinds of squash including yellow crookneck, straight neck, spaghetti, zucchini and pumpkins, Clowney said. They also grew several varieties of tomatoes, habanero and jalapeño peppers and watermelons…it’s a big garden!

The canned and baked goods are just as diverse, ranging from crowd-favorite squash pickles to pear-cinnamon jam, fig-pepper jelly, pear-pecan bread, salsa, pumpkin bread, pumpkin butter and pecan pies. And they are currently experimenting with Muscadine grape juice.

“The grape juice is still in progress,” Clowney said with a smile. “After canning, it has to sit a couple of months before it can be opened. A friend from church, Joeili Monteith, passed along the recipe from her grandmother, and I couldn’t wait to try it.”

Bass’s 14-year-old daughter, Deanna, helps with the garden and also at the markets.

“She has pretty much taken over the zucchini bread which is very popular,” Clowney said. “Some people come to the farmer’s market just for that.”

As for their baked goods, Clowney said she and Bass have greatly benefited from advice offered by Benny’s uncle, Eddie Clowney, a professional chef who lives in Kingstree where he hosts a popular local television show, “Cooking on the Wild Side.”

“He is very supportive and shares some of his recipes with us,” Clowney said. In return, the Gals offer his popular seasoning mix at their stand.

In addition to festival and market weekends, Clowney and Bass occasionally set up a little produce stand at Meadow Lou, and they hope to eventually convert the farm’s old dairy barn into a market space. In the meantime, they’ve been asked about supplying vegetables to The Filling Station, the Monteith family’s soon-to-open produce market at Salem’s Crossroads.

Although growing a garden business has its challenges – most of this year’s brussels sprouts, broccoli, okra and cantaloupe were unhelpfully harvested by the deer – Clowney said she loves the work.

“Gardening is self-sustaining,” Clowney said. “It’s really satisfying to be able to provide good, healthy food for your family by your own labor.”

It’s also satisfying for the folks in the community who are lining up to buy it. Look for Two Gals and a Garden, listed on the certified S.C. Grown website, at upcoming holiday festivals and markets in Fairfield and Richland Counties. To purchase fresh or preserved garden items and home-baked goods, contact Clowney at 803-627-0489 or Katherine Bass at 803-420-1694.