Alison and Jim Graff share their bountiful harvest
Alison Graff explains that her husband, Jim, has been a gardener since he began to walk, while she grew to appreciate the charm of flower cultivation during her time in Hawaii, building on lessons she learned from her mother’s love of roses. “Jim had a [vegetable] garden and I was always the helper,” Alison says. “But then, as time went on, I began to work with the vegetables.”
Together, they are quite a team, and Alison knows how lucky they are to share a passion that enriches not only their lives, but the lives of their friends, with an enthusiasm that is contagious.
“It’s nice to go out to the garden and relax when we get home from work,” says Alison, who owns her own interior design business. “As soon as I walk into the garden, I just totally decompress.”
The couple often enjoys a glass of wine in the evenings, surrounded by their lush vegetable garden, bordered with beautiful perennials and shrubs. They are often joined by their neighbors, who can’t help but be drawn to the gardening life. Alison finds that volunteers from the neighborhood love to help by watering, weeding and harvesting when the couple is out of town.
Share the wealth
Jim and Alison don’t sell their produce, instead giving their surplus harvest to neighbors and friends, making gift baskets and leaving vegetables in a cart by their mailbox, out near the road, for anyone to take home. Alison also shares her love of organic gardening by teaching classes on canning, pickling, how to make kombucha and elderberry syrup, fermenting, and more — all of her classes are word-of-mouth gatherings that she refers to as “girls nights out.”
The Graff’s garden is a modest size, where Alison and Jim tend to 16 varieties of tomatoes — “everything that can be made with a tomato, we make, from pizza sauce to Bloody Mary mix and everything in between,” Alison says.
Jim and Alison are never averse to trying something new, often bringing seeds back from their travels to add new veggies to their garden. “I like to grow foods that I’ve never tried,” says Alison, who started labeling the give-away-produce by her mailbox when she could tell no one was taking the Russian brown cucumbers she’d just harvested. Brown cucumbers might be off-putting to people who aren’t familiar with the variety, but Alison found them to have a delightful, lemony flavor. It never hurts to broaden your horizons (and your palate).
For the Graffs, gardening is not limited by the seasons, not even in the dead of winter. They use their neighbor’s greenhouse, and they utilize grow lights in their garage so they can maintain orchids and “garage greens” year-round. “Another cool thing about gardening is that it’s passed down through the generations,” adds Alison. “Someone shares a cutting with you, and when you see it in bloom it makes you think about that person.”
Q&A with the Jim & Alison Graff:
I have always wanted to…
J: Live in a tropical climate.
A: Win the lottery.
What do you admire in people?
J: Hard work.
A: Honesty and integrity.
Your proudest accomplishment:
J: My two kids
A: I have a lot of fabulous friends.
What is your pet gardening peeve?
A: When the birds get my tomatoes!
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
A: What a warrior I am.
J: I used to be a good golfer.
What are the words you live by?
A: Live every day with gratitude.
What inspires you most?
A: Food and photography. Generally, learning new things inspires me most.
What’s your favorite food that you grow or make?
A: (I can cut and make) sushi. (And I am proud to grow) my tomatoes. I live for the first tomato sandwich of the season from our garden.
Who do you most admire?
A: My husband, Jim, he’s so steady…he’s my rock.