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Summer Into Fall 2007 Newsletter

thom outstanding in his field

Thom - outstanding in his field

It is an interesting time of life when just the other day turns out to be five months ago.  We acknowledge that it is important that we remember to keep our sense of humor about the passing of time.  I know that this has been a topic of past newsletter discussions, but it is at the top of the list of our coming of age.  Not the coming of age that we often think of from youth into young adult, but middle age into early senior citizen status. 

Time is not something we give that much thought to until specific events remind us that we indeed are getting older.  A recent trip to the theater to watch a movie put me in a bit of a tizzy when the ticket seller offered up “senior citizen?” when we approached the ticket counter.  I quickly reviewed the age limit for this category and found myself somewhat disgruntled at the fact that I am not eligible for another ten years and how dare she assume I was a senior citizen?  Rather than lecture this teenager about it, I smiled and took the discount.   After the movie, Thom and I had a long discussion about becoming seniors, read our latest AARP magazine and took a nap.

We acknowledge that every year working out in the fields has new physical challenges.  Our bodies offer the sounds of rice crispies as we snap, crackle and pop every time we get up and down from a knelling position.   We know that we are following our passion, and while our bodies endure the long hours and hard work, we have no regrets.

Every summer is different than the others, but it is also the same.  I have to say that this summer was extraordinary in many ways.  We had our usual successes and failures of different crops, which always happen.  I always tell the people that take my organic gardening workshops that the only way to be prepared for growing a garden in northern Idaho is to plan for the hottest, coldest, wettest and driest season in recorded history.

spinach harvest

Spinach Harvest

It was hotter and dryer for longer this summer.  While the watering was a challenge, we were taking hundreds of pounds of tomatoes to the market.  Some crops loved the heat; others were not so responsive. The heat made it tough for the cool loving plants such as cauliflower which just refused to make heads for us. This was the year that we should have planted okra (I am from Oklahoma and would really like to have fresh okra just for us).  The heat was tough on all of us.  Our sweet old dog Maggie couldn’t take the heat and passed away this summer.  

The Kale and Swiss Chard never stopped giving to us, and I suspect that our CSA customers may never want to eat either of these again!  We supported 20 families with our CSA program this year and took on a new restaurant along with our long standing restaurant/ chef connections of the past twelve years.  Johnnies Seed Catalog has picked up my book “Selling Produce to Restaurants” and will be selling it in their spring seed catalog.

We worked with the Organic Seed Alliance in the early part of the summer researching nine varieties of spinach and nine of sugar snap peas.  We also hosted a field training here on the farm and had a combination of 31 farmers, apprentices, university students and extension educators attending.  This was a fantastic learning experience for us to discover how to do our own seed trials.  We chose to research spinach and sugar snap peas because we have had poor yields from these for recent years due to early heat waves in April and May.  The knowledge gained will benefit our future crops and we hope to have another opportunity to work with this fantastic organization again.

We hosted another organic wine tasting and had one very successful Delightfully Decadent Sunday Afternoon Tea.  We ended up canceling the second event because of minimal registrants due to a number of other events happening in our community at the same time.  Having on-farm events is important to us as it gives an opportunity to share our place with the public.  It is always a challenge to make time for these types of things, but we do so because someone always walks away with a new perspective of thinking about where their food comes from. Everyone needs to be thinking about the future and sustainability of their food system, and we are here to get them thinking about it!

We recognize that we can not rely too much on apprentices as farm labor and that when it comes down to it, we can do everything ourselves.  It takes time to teach and mentor with new people every year, but as far as I am concerned, this is an investment in the future of food. We are hopeful that some of the apprentices that have come here will become farmers or at least work in the sustainable agriculture field.  So, we continue to have apprentices on the farm and consider ourselves fortunate when we have eager students here for the season. Hands-on learning is the most beneficial way to educate others about any kind of endeavor. 

ana and erin

Ana and Erin

Erin Bohm came to apprentice with us in early April and was a joy to have on the farm.  We have nick named her “Bright Spirit” and the name explains her nature and energy quite well.  You can read more about her on the apprentice page of our website.  She spent the entire growing season with us, other than taking four weeks off to be a kayaking guide in the Canadian Artic.   Ana Rasmussen came to us from Santa Cruz and was here for six weeks.  Ana and Erin were a great team together.   Ana took some fantastic photos and was a pleasure to have on the farm.  We also had a returning volunteer by the name of Wendy.  She came and helped out when Erin was gone and ended up sticking around through the end of the harvest season.

As we move into the fall season, life on the farm shifts into wearing a different hat to keep our bills paid.  The last farmers market of the season was on October 13, and on the 16th, I was on my way to Moscow for a meeting with Rural Roots and two days at the University for Advisory Committee meetings. This winter, I will be taking the Liability Handbook that I created last year, and expanding it into a state wide handbook for regulations for farm direct marketing.  Once this goes to the printer, I will then participate in a number of workshops across the region teaching and facilitating specific items from the handbook.  My other winter work that is so exciting for me is that I am contracting with the University of Idaho to be an instructor for their Sustainable Small Acreage Farming and Ranching Course right here in Sandpoint (   This will be a 12 week course held on Tuesday evenings.  I will then be traveling on Thursdays and Fridays to teach other workshops across the state on Food Safety in between the Liability workshops.

Thom is working inspecting tree planting for a local company called Forest Capitol.  This is his fourth year with them and he likes the work.  They are lucky to have a man that has planted over a million trees to be their inspector.  He loves anything to do with reforestation and this has been a nice fall income for us.  As we progress into winter, Thom will return to helping out at a near by organic ranch that has sheep, horses and goats.  He also works with a neighbor who owns a flower farm, helping them in the greenhouses through the winter season.

Needless to say, wintertime is filled up with projects.  Before we know it, it will be time to order our seeds and make our planting calendar for the 2008 season.  We are still hoping to get the greenhouse project going if we can work out the financial details.  It’s all good.  When I’m not farming, I am teaching about farming.  It’s a perfect world really.  It seems to be working for us.  At any rate, that’s the summer and fall update from Greentree Naturals. 

All the best,



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