Small and Alternative Enterprise - Feature Farmer

Betty O'Toole - O'Toole's Herb Farm

O'Tooles Herb Farm

Open since 1990, O'Toole's Herb Farm is a certified organic herb nursery and gardens located on the outskirts of Madison, in the center of North Florida. The farm was created by Jim and Betty (‘B’) O'Toole---a dream come true for them! They wholesale and retail herbal plants, fresh-cut herbs, greens, and shiitake mushrooms. Two quaint old cracker houses have been moved onto the farm and converted into shops and office space. They are loaded with all sorts of fabulous herbal creations, organic gardening supplies, baskets, books, terra cotta and regional art. Display gardens, a shade area and 2 greenhouses are open to the public.

A haven for their customers, the Farm conveys a sense of beauty and peace that is searched for in today's hectic world. O’Toole’s is situated in the middle of a farm owned by 'B's family since the early 1840's. Everyone enjoys a lazy stroll around the gardens, through the greenhouses or visiting the 2 old cracker houses converted into retail shops. ‘The PATCH’, the main garden, is a lovely spot for special occasions. Many of the workshops or seminars that take place at the farm during the spring and fall take place here. The Secret Garden is somewhat enclosed and features a water garden whereas the Butterfly-Hummingbird Garden is alive with ‘Flying Flowers’ in the spring, summer and fall. Sadly, Jim "Toolie" lost his battle with lightning fast pancreatic cancer on December 16, 2007. ‘B’ is now running the business by herself.

Though an organic farming method, ‘B’ is providing stewardship for the land by growing a quality product, replenishing and maintaining the soil’s fertility while assisting nature’s balance. No synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used. O’Toole’s Herb Farm has been certified organic since 1991. Over 350 varieties of herbs, perennials and vegetables are grown. All are propagated on the farm using organic seeds when possible and existing plants for cuttings.

To maintain the pine planting on the farm, ‘B’ chose to employ a herd of goats for weed control rather than using herbicides. They also help to keep much of the grassy areas around the farm mowed rather than using mechanical means.

The O’Toole’s have worked with the University of Florida on a variety of research projects since 1999. They have cooperated with UF/IFAS on organic transplant production and the use of alternative production systems and media, also providing plant material for the center to conduct research. “B” has served on the advisory committee at the North Florida Research and Education Center Suwannee Valley. She has spoken at various short courses, trade shows and training given and supported by the Suwannee Valley Center. She has hosted the American Society for Plasticulture and has been hosting Master Gardeners and Garden Clubs for many years. Her workshops and events ranging in a wide range of topics have drawn hundreds annually.

You can learn more about Betty and her farm by visiting the O'Toole's Herb Farm website at http://www.otoolesherbfarm.com/

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