Here is the story of Roman Osadca of Valley Fall Farm.
My parents were born in Ukraine. My Dad was an Agricultural Engineer and my Mom was a Pharmacist. At the end of World War II, they had to flee westward from Communism. They ended up in Bavaria, hung out for 5 years in a Displaced Persons Camp, until they finally got permission to immigrate to America. Their degrees were worthless over here, so they worked in factories. I was born in downtown Newark in 1950 and didn’t speak English when I went to kindergarten. In 1957, we moved to Trenton where it was safer. Television was restricted to Saturdays and Sundays, so I read a lot of books, as my Dad would pay me 10 cents for each one. Learning was easy for me, so I had to always take advanced classes, plus take 3 years of French and then 3 years of Latin. My Mom and her Mom, the European pharmacists, taught me about the importance of natural plants as medicines, which is still the norm over there, compared to the complicated capitali$tic health care $y$tem over here.
In 1972, I graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from Lafayette College in Easton. That year, there were no Chem Eng jobs to be found anywhere, so I went to work in a book warehouse, talk about being in Heaven. In 1973, I finally got a job at Hoffmann-LaRoche in Belvidere, by getting a job as a Lab Tech to get my foot in the door. Few months later, I got promoted, and then many more times until I finally retired after 38 years, the last 20 sitting on the Route 80 parking lot every morning on the way to Nutley. For 38 years, I worked on producing synthetic vitamins and pharmaceuticals.
In 1981, I married a local Ukrainian girl, Debra Natyzak, whose grandparents came from Ukraine after WW I, and then settled on a farm in Johnsonburg. Coincidently, I did not meet her in church, but in a bar in 1975, Mountain Lake Casino, between Hope and Belvidere, which is where every 18- to 80-year-old went every Wednesday night from June to October for a rippin’ fun time. We lived in Hackettstown in an apartment, went to work every day, came home, put on work clothes, then drove to Johnsonburg to work on the farm until after dark, to then back home, shower, eat and crash.
In 1984, we designed and built a self-sustaining solar home for us on the farm, so we can keep the farm going for another generation or two, without commuting, plus take care of the old parents later on more easily when they are nearby. My stubborn parents, who survived Hitler and Stalin, finally came up from Trenton in their late 80s. My Mother-In-Law is still kicking around and sharp at 96.
After building the house, the next year we added landscaping, shrubbery, and a 4000-gallon cistern to collect rain water off the roof. We went crazy expanding the gardens to grow vegetables, fruit and nuts, but we weren’t getting much fruit. One morning at Roche at coffee break, a Polish chemical engineer, Joe Z., who did avant garde industrial waste composting, told me I need to keep my own bees, as all the wild natural bees out in Mother Nature had died out due to these Varroa Destructer Mites that came over inadvertently from China in freight shipments. This problem continues. With all the new chemicals sprayed all over, American beekeepers continue to give up on beekeeping as their livelihood, losing half their hives every year. In 2015, American beekeepers produced 48% of our domestic USA consumption. Where did the other 52% come from? From China, and their stuff is loaded with counterfeit honey, ie high fructose corn syprup, plus has a lot of chemicals in it, plus Chloramphenical, an antibiotic banned in the USA, as it causes your brain to go to mush.
So as per Joe Zgurzynski, I started beekeeping with a couple of hives. Few months later, when my Dad and Mom visited, Dad goes “So what’s new?” Check out these new beehives. That’s the first time I heard about how in my Osadca family heritage tree, that goes back in detail to 1750, all the men were farmers, engineers, mayors, beekeepers, and/or priests. That’s when I heard for the first time, my Dad tell me how his Father, my Grandfather, who I knew was a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest (they were allowed to marry), was also a big beekeeper, because his Father, who was a big farmer and beekeeper, advised him to keep bees on the side to sell honey, as you will never be able to survive and send all the kids to college on donations in the Sunday basket. So, triggered by Joe Z., I found this interesting heritage, which I continue by running beehives to collect local raw honey, pollen, as well as therapeutic wax cappings and propolis which nobody else does.
I naturally started growing garlic for my home use by planting some garlic from seed stock from my wife’s Grandmother’s seed stock. It was a Softneck garlic. Years later, I was at a Blairstown Harvest Festival where I met David Sieze, a local, and one of the first USA certified organic farmers. He had a Blairstown farm above where the Ridge and Valley Charter School is. On his table, he was selling these garlic bulbs that had a stick coming out the top of the bulb, called German Red. This is where I discovered Hardneck Garlic. Got a couple pounds and started growing that. Boy, what a difference! Five to ten times the flavor and, when I got into the chemistry, this stuff is also very medicinal as it is an antibiotic, anti-viral and anti-fungal agent, reduces cholesterol, big immune system booster, etc, plus keeps vampires and werewolves away.
Another few years later at a local Garden State Heirloom Seed Society Summer Symposium up in Hardwick, I ran into Darrell Merrill, legendary “Tomato Man with Garlic Breath,” from Tulsa Oklahoma, who was supposed to talk about heirloom tomatoes, but decided to talk about garlic instead. This was my big garlic awakening, i.e. going Crazy over Garlic. A couple of years later Darrell was the center 3 pages in a Newsweek Magazine article “The King of USA Garlic.”
This inspired me, over the next 20 years, to one way or another acquire about 500 varieties of garlic from all over the world. Some came from Tibet, used to growing at 8000 feet above sea level, or in hot climates with no winter. These petered out after 5 years despite a lot of babying. This year was a good year, as we did 198 varieties. After 3 weeks on my knees in the two football field-sized fields, I brought in 7,200 lbs of great stuff to keep all the educated garlic customers happy till next May.
So why do I do what I do? Heritage, Passion, Intelligence, Krazyiness, Recognition . . . probably all of the above. Garlic and Local Raw Honey are Number 1 and 2 on every “Food as a Medicine List,” which goes back to Hippocrates, 600 BC, the Father of Medicine. Amen!
–Roman Osadca, Valley Fall Farm, Frelinghuysen, NJ