Living the green dream
Story by Maureen Heffernan
Photos courtesy of Grogg’s Green Barn
Sorrow can either plunge you into depths of despair or inspire you to do something positive, to make a change for the better. When two family members were diagnosed with cancer more than 12 years ago and underwent chemotherapy, Carla Groggs was motivated to take a closer look at the food she and her family were eating – where it came from and if it was free of chemicals and genetic modifications. This research opened her eyes about not only the food she was feeding her family, but also the products she was using in her home. In researching organic and sustainable food production, Carla and Kelley began thinking about starting a business devoted to healthier lifestyles, especially through eating fresh fruits and vegetables and other food products grown/raised organically.
Before settling on this idea, the couple purchased an acre of land that happened to adjoin Kelly’s grandparents’ 2 acres in Tulsa. They snatched it up, thinking it was perfect for their organic garden center idea. They built a handsome, modern-style barn and in 2011 opened Grogg’s Green Barn with a mission statement: “Providing environmentally friendly products that engage citizens in work and recreation by improving individual and public well-being through gardening.”
The barn itself is a model of sustainability with features that save water, energy, and control soil erosion. Near the entrance is a large cistern that can capture 5,000 gallons of rainwater for every 1 inch of rainfall. The city of Tulsa even used the barn as a pilot site for testing bio-mats.
Various demonstration gardens show visitors how to garden in raised beds, create a green roof, use native plants, raise chickens, and make bug hotels to keep beneficial insects in your garden.
Carla is the CEO or “lead gardener,” with the creative vision and horticultural know-how, while her husband (who has another full-time job) handles the CFO duties.
Since opening, Grogg’s Green Barn has flourished and even expanded, now offering gardening and cooking classes, along with a popular farm-to-table dinner series with seasonal menus that use produce from their organic gardens along with other locally sourced foods.
Many of their customers did not garden as children, and therefore need to learn the basics. She sees a general trend in younger people, including her teenage son, away from drinking sugary sodas and toward eating cleaner, healthier foods.
A passionate gardener, Carla offers a thoughtful selection of trees, shrubs, and perennials that are good for people and/or wildlife. A plant can’t just be ornamental, such as azalea (Rhododendron spp.) or boxwood (Buxus spp.). It has to produce food for people or wildlife and/or also support bees and butterflies and other pollinators. These “plants with a purpose” include blueberry shrubs (Vaccinium spp.), peach trees (Prunus persica), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), coneflowers (Echinacea spp.), and milkweed (Asclepias spp.), just to name a few. She notes that she only recently tried sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) and now they are some of her favorites. All plants and products Carla buys are vetted before they are offered for sale at Grogg’s. Her due diligence even extends to personally visiting nurseries to ensure they are using organic methods.
Recently, Carla added a commercial kitchen and dining area to the barn called The Reserve. Chef Matthew Owen joined their team and offers cooking classes and weekend farm-to-table evening dinners April through November. These dinners feature produce from their gardens and eggs from their chickens, along with other locally sourced meat and dairy products.
Grogg’s Green Barn is open year round and is located at 10105 East 61st St. in Tulsa. Visit their website, groggsgreenbarn.com, for store hours and a schedule of events.