The “business” of “gardendwellers FARM” is producing culinary herbs, but for owners Holly and Barry Mawby, this is just part of their mission.

At their farm, the Mawbys have created a learning and local foods enjoyment destination. The motto of gardendwellers FARM is to “live life well-seasoned,” and the Mawbys are enthused about showing customers and visitors just that.

Basil, gardendwellers FARM’s most popular herb, is grown with the aid of a high tunnel. Courtesy PHOTO

Basil, gardendwellers FARM’s most popular herb, is grown with the aid of a high tunnel. Courtesy PHOTO

Diners enjoy food and conversation at gardendwellers FARM’s annual farm-to-table dinner. Courtesy PHOTO
The basil bath is a new experience visitors can enjoy at gardendwellers FARM. Courtesy PHOTO

The Mawbys, including son, Adam, who are members of Northern Plains Electric Cooperative, have operated gardendwellers FARM since 2002. Located north of Esmond, in north central North Dakota, the Mawbys produce over 15 herb varieties that are familiar to cooks, Holly says, and include basil, dill, cilantro, sage, thyme and more.

“Herbs are a passion of mine,” she says. “I grew my first herb garden when I was 12.”

Holly’s interest in and knowledge of food production commerce is instrumental to her professional life, as well. She serves as executive director of both the Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture, based at Dakota College in Bottineau, and the North Dakota Farmers Market and Growers Association.

Sharing knowledge with food producers, and with gardendwellers FARM visitors, is central to her vocation.

“I really enjoy teaching people about growing things in North Dakota, in general, and about herb growing,” Holly says.

Herb growing at gardendwellers FARM commences each spring. The Mawbys are able to extend their growing season with the aid of a high tunnel, an enclosure that helps protect sprouting and ripening plants from cold weather. This extended growing period is especially conducive to their high production of basil, their most popular herb, Holly says.

The Mawbys have configured their operation and efforts to welcome, educate and, of course, nourish visitors. They encourage prospective visitors to contact the farm in advance, so that an optimal visiting experience can be arranged. Holly says visitors range from families on regular vacations, to “foodies” eager to learn more about growing and using herbs, to much larger groups.

“Last year, we had a motor coach tour bus that came through with 45 people, ages 14 to 88, from 15 states!” Holly says.

At gardendwellers FARM, the Mawbys try to develop new offerings that highlight the diverse uses of herbs. One of the newer experiences is the basil bath, enjoyed in a bathing tank in the peaceful farmyard setting.

“Basil and basil oils have some nice properties for easing muscle tension and being good for your skin,” Holly says.

A showcase event at gardendwellers FARM is the annual farm-to-table dinner. Fifty dining guests, who purchase tickets in advance, participate in the event. Diners are served a four-course meal with locally grown and produced ingredients. The 2018 dinner included poutine (a potato-based Canadian dish), a carrot thyme soup, prime rib and sage with au jus, bread and a chocolate raspberry dessert.

The meal is served outside in the yard of the farm; in adverse weather, it is moved into the nearby barn. Holly says guests sit at long tables, where sharing, visiting, and enjoying the splendid landscape are encouraged.

As each course is introduced, Holly and other dinner hosts provide information and education on the local source – farm, farm operator, growing methods – for ingredients featured in the dish.

“We tell the story of the ingredients, so when our guests eat that course, they understand all the work and love and passion that went into it,” Holly says.

Those interested in attending gardendwellers FARM’s Aug. 8 dinner should watch for the ticket sales announcement, which will occur in June. Holly encourages ticket purchasers to act soon after sales open, because the event typically sells out rapidly.

The popularity of the farm-to-table dinner event is an extension of the strong local food growing and consuming advocacy that Holly conveys.

“We devote a lot of our income and our economy and our time to feeding our bodies,” Holly says. “I think we should know a lot about what we are doing.”

To schedule a visit or for more information, go to www.gardendwellersfarm.com(link is external), call 701-351-2520 or email bhmawby@gmail.com.

Kent Brick recently retired as North Dakota Living editor, a position he held for 27 years.