Salad Days

Rose Creek Farms’ recipe for a perfect salad

Photography by Mirza Babic

If your idea of the perfect lunch includes salad, then let us introduce you to Rose Creek Farms, where oak leaf, artisan butter, romaine, panisse, red leaf, and green leaf lettuces grow year round and can be purchased at the height of freshness at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market or straight from the farm store.

Ray and Ashley Tyler started Rose Creek Farms in 2010 in Selmer, Tennessee, with the simple goal of feeding their family and others. As first-generation farmers, they invested in a number of varied efforts to find success. It wasn’t until their then six-year-old daughter, Asha, was diagnosed with stage four cancer in 2015 that they decided to scale back and focus primarily on vegetables. Cutting down the size and the scope of their farm allowed the Tylers to focus more on their family and on the foods that were most important to them. Asha, now 15, is completely cancer-free. “I thank God every day,” Ray says.

Ray characterizes the outcome of this experience as a two-fold gift: His family is healthy, and his farming is intentional. Learning how to slow down has allowed the Tylers more time together as a family, more involvement from their children on the farm, and more financial success as they have concentrated their efforts.

“The earth and the soil are not in a hurry like we are,” Ray says. “And the more I pay attention to the soil, the more it gives back to me.”

Rose Creek Farms is just one acre of vegetables—no animals and no tractors like they had previously operated. Consequently, Ray has more time to focus on sustainable practices like replenishing soil and improving water management. He relishes his daily crop walks to check in on plant growth and to spot issues. He continually emphasizes the importance of giving back to the earth. “If all I do is take and take and don’t give back, then it’s going to run out,” Ray says. 

Rose Creek Farms uses methods that maximize the full-circle use of the earth’s nutrients. They recycle whatever they don’t sell by composting or feeding it to chickens. They add nutrients to the soil every time they dig up a bed. And they use only organic farming practices. Employee Judah Hobbs says, “We know how we want to treat the earth, our plants, and our customers, so we’re going to hit that every time.”

Judah works the stand at the Cooper-Young market. He sees the farmers market interface as another example of full-circle farming. “I get paid back in endless volumes by the energy exchange of people who love what I do and take it home and feed their families,” he says.

“Feeding families” is the best way to describe the mission of Rose Creek Farms. Ashley developed her signature salad dressing with her own family in mind. She feeds her family nutritious salads nearly every day. Ashley’s three pieces for an irresistible salad are fresh, flavorful veggies; delicious toppings; and the perfect salad dressing. “But, really, if you have flavorful fresh greens, you don’t even need a dressing. The bottom line is freshness,” she says.

Some of Ashley’s favorites are “loaded salads.” They consist of thoroughly chopped lettuces that can include head lettuces, spring mix, dandelion greens, or microgreens.

Mixed in are grated carrots and radishes and diced veggies like turnips, celery, or peppers. Then she tops it off with a savory or protein component. Some of her recurring picks are beans, rice, cottage cheese, salsa, cheese, chicken, sweet potatoes, cottage cheese, and sauerkraut.

At the market, the Tylers sell a variety of vegetables and creative meal helpers like dressings, pestos, and a curated stir-fry bag. Their ready-to-eat garden salad meal comes complete with fresh vegetables and a serving of their signature “Ashley’s salad dressing.” The components change seasonally; this spring you can expect to find sweet carrots, watermelon radishes, cucumbers, and tomatoes on a bed of spring mix and microgreens. Ashley’s apple cider vinaigrette adds a warmth and savor to these wholesome salads.

Ray and Ashley’s goal to feed their family nourishing organic produce year-round has driven their passion at Rose Creek Farms. It continues to push them to try new things and to share their hard-earned expertise, especially because they believe the earth needs more farmers who are willing to believe that how they do things matters.

Rose Creek Farms feeds hundreds of families each week. In addition to the Cooper-Young market, they sell at the Franklin Farmers Market, Jackson Farmers Market, and their on-farm store in Selmer. They have cultivated a grateful community of patrons. “They support us so that we can support them,” Judah says. Time and time again customers return, telling him, “It looks good. It lasts forever in the fridge. And I feel good when I eat it.”

Rose Creek Farms On-Farm Store
10 Garden Way, Selmer, Tennessee
rosecreekfarmstore.com

Allie Arnell is a freelance food writer and snack chef to three. She enjoys creativity, connection, and exercise. When she’s not chasing PRs or toddlers, you can bet she’s making a mess in her Collierville kitchen. @allie.arnell

Mirza Babic weaves captivating narratives through visual and written forms of expression with a foundation in photography and content creation. Beyond the lens, Mirza’s versatility extends to music production. Mirza is dedicated to crafting compelling narratives and immersive experiences that leave a lasting impact. @mirzababicfoto