Often mistaken as a sponge that comes from the big blue ocean, luffa sponges (aka loofahs or lufahs) actually grow on land. On vine. As a gourd. Filled with seeds.
When harvested young luffa can be eaten the same way you would eat zucchini. Can you believe that? In fact, luffa is a very popular food in Asia and Africa.
But, wait a minute. How does an edible luffa turn into an inedible exfoliating sponge?
If left to mature, luffa can be harvested, dried in the sun, and used in a variety of ways. Quite an amazing plant, isn’t it?
A few weeks ago, we had an opportunity to interview the West family, growers of luffa. Now, we are excited to share their inspiring story on our blog.
A Rural Farm Story
Our farm is in Greenville, Tx an hour east of Dallas.
[From left to right is Carole next to Lucky, then Robert, Blake and Felicia West. Dixie is their other dog, but she ran off to bark at a car.]
In a nutshell, what is the story behind your family’s farm?
We originally purchased 4 acres for a horse that our daughter was going to get. When she changed her mind about buying a horse we thought the land shouldn’t go to waste, so we decided to farm it. The goal became to teach our kids how to become self sufficient. Through working the land we discovered we liked farming and wanted to work towards one day doing this full time. We focus on helping other small work through our blog and farm business. We recently started growing Luffa as that does not compete with other local farmers.
What inspired you to become farmers?
Inspiration came from the land. We can drive pretty much anywhere and see possibilities that are just sitting there going to weeds.
We are a small family farm with 4 acres. One acre is devoted to Luffa. 2 acres for Dexter cows and sheep. Then another acre for our family garden and house. We also have ducks and chickens that free range the whole farm.
Why do you love farming?
It’s our thing, there’s no boss. Right or wrong we make the decisions and learn through everything we do. Working the land is a very rewarding experience.
What time-honored traditions do you enjoy practicing or aspire to learn someday?
We love to cook. Have an interest in making paper and soap.
What products do you specialize in?
We grow and harvest Luffa Sponges. Our Luffa is planted and harvested chemically free from start to finish. We harvest by picking from the vine, removing the seeds, peeling off the shell and washing in cool water. After that they dry out in the warm Texas sun.
When did you begin to think about growing luffas to sell?
In the fall of 2011 Robert read an article about Luffa in a farm magazine. He was inspired and decided this would be our next test crop. After spending months researching this plant, he discovered there would be more up front work and expense involved before seeds hit the ground. We put goal sheets together to stay focused and in 2012 we were able to get our first test crop planted. As a result we discovered Luffa is a perfect fit for the farm.”
Why do you grow and sell luffa sponges?
To show people you don’t need a lot of land to be profitable.
—West Family Farm
In addition to naturally grown luffa sponges, the West family offers heirloom seeds, unique farm photo note card sets, hair scrunchies crocheted by Felecia, and handcrafted garden journals. These items are currently available in on Etsy.