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Greentree Naturals Newsletter Fall 2009

diane at market

Diane at the Farmers Market

Our last farmers market of the season was one of the coldest I can remember in the 19 years of selling there. When I took the freshly dug baby carrots out of their box to set them into a basket for display, the greens froze within a few moments. The air was crisp and the ground was crunchy from the frosted grassy spot where our booth space is. Ice crystals formed on the pumpkins as soon as we set them out for display. I had on so many layers of clothing that I was amazingly comfortable for an eighteen degree frosty morning. Making change with gloves on is a bit of a challenge but doable with patience.

 It is truly remarkable that the community still managed to come out to show support for the market in such frigid weather. Of course, this was the last chance to purchase fresh local produce for the year, and many came to stock up for winter. You never know what will sell, so we always attempt to bring a plethora of items. We sold out of 80 pounds of potatoes in the first hour and contemplated one of us returning home to bag up more. Other markets, we have brought bags of potatoes and brought them home again. You just never know. We have hundreds of pounds of spuds sitting in the basement that may have sold on that last market date. If we store them well, they will last all winter for us and we can sell them in five and ten pound bags through the winter.  

It is heartwarming to see a number of my students from the Sustainable Small Acreage Farming course that I teach selling at the market this year. I am teaching the course again this fall, and will hopefully continue to assist in the development of more farmers in our county. Some of our former apprentices have established small farm operations and are also selling at the market now. We need more farmers, more people growing vegetables, chickens, beef and pork to create a truly sustainable food system. It is wonderful to see this happening here!

stoveEvery year that passes seems to bring a new perspective of gratitude for me. I am thankful to have survived another growing season and still have positive vision for planning for next year’s harvest. We had the largest harvest of broccoli, potatoes and garlic that we have had in many years. The weather was incredible and provided the perfect environment for a bountiful harvest, along with some bountiful pests. Que se ra se ra. We managed to can and freeze more vegetables for ourselves this year and we are happy to have our own food to sustain us through the winter months. We grew 25 chickens for meat, sold some, but kept most for ourselves. This was our rotation year with the egg laying hens, so we invested in fifty new pullets for our next round of laying hens. The new girls just started laying eggs this past week and will keep us and our neighbors in eggs for the next couple of years.

The economy has definitely taken its toll on everyone, everywhere. We had half of our CSA members drop out, all saying that they wanted to try growing their own gardens. While the income is missed, it is fantastic that so many people are growing gardens for the first time in their lives. Americans have gotten so disconnected from their food and certainly growing a garden is the first step in gaining a perspective of fresh food. Over the summer, I would run into some of those CSA members and ask them “how does your garden grow?” The response was always “this is a lot more work that I thought it would be.” I believe that many first time gardeners have the thought that growing food is basically just throwing some seeds in the ground and watching them grow. The best part of having so many new backyard gardeners is that they are growing perspective and new appreciation for eating fresh vegetables and learning how much time it takes to grow from seed to harvest. Those CSA members who dropped out this year to buy their produce at the farmers market or grocery store are also seeing the difference in the cost of their fresh organic vegetables. The certified organic produce at the grocery store is already a week old and costs twice as much as it does in our CSA bag. I suspect that next year will bring a few returning customers. We already have folks calling or emailing about getting on the waiting list for our 2010 CSA.

beets and carrotsThe economy also has had its effects on the restaurant and catering businesses that we have worked with for years. Of course, when money is an issue, people eat out less, which means these dining establishments are confronted with the bottom line of food costs. One of our main restaurants closed down, and the catering was less than in the past. Since their commercial kitchen wasn’t being used, they were kind enough to let me utilize the kitchen space for making our garlic scape pesto and bottle up our Herbed Celtic Sea Salt. Along with the changes in motion for farmers everywhere, the food safety regulations are changing and things that didn’t need to be processed in a commercial kitchen now require a food handler’s license to do so. Adaptability is the key to survival isn’t it?

This is just a sign of the times. This will be the first time in many years that our income didn’t increase with annual farm sales but I am confident that we will endure these challenging times. Being optimistic is a part of being a successful farmer. We had more people signed up for our organic gardening workshops this year and already have reservations for 2010, which is a first. We hosted our tenth annual organic wine tasting, which was very well attended. We also hosted a Natural Pest Management field day associated with a research project we are doing with a WSU grad student on trap cropping pests. This is a three year project, so we have two more years of research to complete with them and will likely host another field day each summer season to share what we are learning about the research.

We had two University of Idaho students apprenticing with us this year (Erin Morra & Angela Anegon) who were remarkable young women.

erin and angela
Apprentices Erin and Angela

We also had more volunteers helping us in the gardens than we have ever had, which was a great gift for them to give us. We realize that we really could use many more hands in the fields than we have, but we simply don’t make enough of an income to hire helpers or employees. What we can offer is a trade of educational opportunities and fresh produce, which thankfully seems to be agreeable with a number of people.

Volunteers Rita Loudermilk and Cecilia Kovacic

The Farm Stand was open again this year, but we changed from two days a week to just one and it seemed to work out to be about the same amount of income. Nice way to get to meet the neighbors.

pumpkin harvest

Pumpkin Harvest

We also had a U-pick pumpkin patch for the second year and having the little ones come out to harvest pumpkins and visit the farm is great fun. We plan on expanding the pumpkin patch for next year to accommodate more children as we ran out of pumpkins by the middle of October. For now, the changing seasons allow us time to rest up from a long and arduous growing season. Hibernation seems like an inviting concept this time of year.

Wishing you all a peaceful holiday season.  

    ~  Diane


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