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Vendor Profile: Olympia Provisions

Sarah West

By Sarah West

Olympia Provisions (formerly, Olympic Provisions) needs no introduction. Their cured salamis rose to national acclaim—by the likes of Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Oprah magazines—just a few brisk years after chef Elias Cairo began producing them in November of 2009. Opening a restaurant of the same name in southeast Portland with a team of chef-restaurateur partners, Elias was not alone in creating Olympia Provisions’ success, but he was the man behind the plan for the restaurant’s ambitious meat-curing facility, the first of its kind in Oregon to be USDA-certified.

Influenced by a five-year chef apprenticeship in Switzerland, Cairo experienced firsthand the meticulous process behind some of Europe’s famous cured meats. Raised by a first-generation Greek father who butchered his own animals and brought salami along on every family outing, Cairo was predisposed to appreciate good cured meat. And when the opportunity to partner on a new restaurant project came his way, he was game for trying to recreate some of the nuanced flavors he experienced abroad.

From the beginning, Cairo has insisted that virtuous salami can only be made by hands, not machines, and must be cold-fermented under a bloom of white mold that not only preserves the meat, but lends it an inimitable umami-tang. When he and his restaurant partners designed the original curing facility, they could not have foreseen the two major expansions that would follow in the next four years, scaling up their meat processing facility from 800 square feet to 40,000. While these expansions forced Olympia Provisions to move away from the small-batch artisanal production (done exclusively by Cairo himself) they had originally envisioned, they have maintained a strong focus on hand-production.

Machines now mix the 4,500 pounds of pork they process each day in 150-pound “small” batches which are blended with spices and hand-peeled garlic to order then stuffed into a natural hog casing and tied by a team of four dexterous salumieris. In addition to their charcuterie line of 12 salami flavors, capicola, and mortadella, a given week finds them smoking some combination of their famed frankfurters, kielbasa, chorizo, sweetheart ham, and bacon, as well as mixing and stuffing their fresh chorizo, bratwurst, Italian sausage, rillete, pate, and mousse. Ever the innovators, this summer the OP team is launching a new product. Invited by Martha Stewart and Triscuit to collaborate on a classic summer sausage, their take on the iconic American picnic sausage includes a mellow blend of garlic, chili powder, and mustard seeds. They’ve also launched a line of pickled vegetables based on combinations they’ve been serving for years at their two Portland restaurants.

While the inspiration for their line of Old World influenced American charcuterie was always rooted in their restaurants, farmers markets played a key role in promoting the salamis to a wider audience. Their 2009 booth at the Portland OHSU market allowed them to learn what flavors people most responded to and gave them an opportunity to educate potential customers about their continually expanding product line via samples and conversation.

“We really value market culture,” says Olympia Provisions’ market manager, Kendra Nelson, “because it gives us a chance to meet our customers face-to-face, and we get to see their reaction when they taste that perfect piece of salami.”

Over the years, OP has expanded to include fifteen Portland-area farmers markets at last count, joining Hillsdale in 2010.

Olympia Provisions sells at Hillsdale Farmers Market year-round, offering a selection of their cured salamis, sausages, and smoked meats. Nelson suggests that market shoppers get to her booth before noon, as, “All the best things (including our summer sausage and kielbasa) sell out early!”

As for what to do with that perfect piece of salami, the possibilities are endless, but Nelson highly recommends this Hillsdale-Market-inspired combination:
“One of my favorite market snacks is an open-face sandwich with Fraga Farm chevre, thin slices of our finocchiona (our Italian salami with fennel), thick slabs of the prettiest and most colorful tomatoes I can find, olive oil, and Jacobsen sea salt.” How about putting that on a slice of wood-fired ciabatta from Tastebud for bonus points?

Learn more about the Olympia Provisions line of artisanal meats, visit their shop (and send a piece of Portland food culture to distant friends and family), and peruse their restaurants’ menus at olympiaprovisions.com.

Vendor Spotlight: Meadow Harvest

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they create. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

They say that stress, and the chemical manifestations it unleashes throughout the body, can ruin a good piece of meat. Several contemporary studies (and generations of small-scale herding traditions around the world) offer compelling evidence supporting this simple and palatable equation: animals raised in an environment that allows them to live calm and comfortable lives, and who are slaughtered in a way that minimizes fear and anxiety, will taste better.

“Trust reduces adrenalin for us all,” reads a paragraph on the Meadow Harvest website, wherein they explain that a key component of their animal handling practices is simply to spend time together, familiarizing the animals with their voices, their presence among the herd, and expressing—there’s no other word for it—their love.

Walking around the farm with Sage and Brian, the proprietors, proud parents, and caretakers of Meadow Harvest’s cows and sheep, their fondness for the animals, and for their work as small-scale ranchers, is obvious.

“Hi cows. Hi weirdos. Hey you.” Brian affectionately coos to the cows as we walk toward where the herd has gathered in the cool shade of their large barn.

Until 2006, the couple used their 60-acre parcel, just inland from the coastal town of Nehalem, to manage a dairy herd. Selling their milk exclusively to Tillamook (whose drivers would collect the daily milkings), along with the demanding schedule of a dairy, kept them busy and somewhat secluded on their tranquil farm, with cows, sheep, farm dogs, and the sea breeze to keep them company. When the couple decided to retire from dairy farming, they couldn’t imagine their land without ruminants; so instead of quitting the farm altogether, they downsized into pastured meat production.

As Brian walks to the barn’s feeding area to entice the cows toward us with some hay, he trips on a concrete block and takes a controlled tumble onto the barn floor. I ask if he’s okay and instinctively move to help him, but before I can get close he bounces back up and says with a laugh, “It’s part of the job!”

Brian, a lifelong dairy farmer, is also legally blind. His blindness isn’t complete—as a youth he could see well enough to play basketball, a sport about which he remains passionate—though his condition, a genetic disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa, has progressed over time, whittling his vision down to very little. He moves around the farm—with the occasional assist from Sage—without difficulty, and is the primary caretaker of their herd. Sage, he notes, is now in semi-retirement.

And he didn’t learn to be a blind farmer as a fully blind man, which, along with years of experience, explains his ease and familiarity with what may seem to an outsider as dangerous work for a person with vision impairment.

“I could see well enough when I started [dairy farming],” Brian explains, “that I think I just adjusted slowly to the increments of vision loss. And we had the tamest cows in Tillamook County. That helped!”

Sitting on a gentle slope, the farm’s pasture eases toward the lush, tree-lined banks of the North Fork Nehalem River, the other side of which is forestland and undulating Coast Range hills. You can’t see or hear the ocean, pulsing only a few miles west as the crow flies, and their narrow valley is somewhat buffered from the Pacific’s cooling influence, but even on a hot day the shade is pleasant and the occasional gust carries a hint of brine.

Brian began working as a dairyman on the Oregon coast at the age of 22, taking over a project his father had started on a whim, and learning through trial and error a set of skills that were completely new to him. Raised in L.A. and schooled on the east coast, Brian was not from diary farming lineage, though as a child his family had vacationed on the Oregon coast and he was familiar with the Nehalem area.

“I just jumped right in,” Brian recalls. “And you learn fast because if you don’t do all the work that needs to get done, no one else is going to.”

Brian also picked up bits and piece from neighbors and his long-time veterinarian, Pete Miller, who was always willing to talk cows and taught Brian much about their temperament, nutritional needs, and general care.

Sage came to sheep farming as a fiber artist completing an MFA at Montana State University in Bozeman. A spinner interested in raising her own wool stock, Sage, with the help of her sister, began farming sheep in Washington State not long before she reconnected with Brian.

The two met by chance as young children, when their families hit it off on a camping trip in the Trinity Alps. When they met again as adults, they formed what has proven to be a lasting partnership. Brian’s dairy farm has hosted roaming sheep ever since, and Sage’s sheep herd hasn’t missed a shearing without the curious gaze of cows. With the transition to meat production, the couple found that farmers markets were the most accessible venue for selling their product, and instantly enjoyed their social atmosphere.

When I ask if selling at the market has changed anything about their experience as farmers, Sage offers,  “At the market, you can connect with the people who benefit from your hard work, as opposed to working with Tillamook, where your milk is taken away in a steel tank and never heard from again.”

Brian eagerly chimes in that, yes, “The camaraderie at the market is wonderful.”

Not surprisingly, the inventory of Meadow Harvest’s market offerings reflects Sage and Brian’s parallel interests. Dairy cows have been replaced with Murray Grey beef cattle, an Australian breed known for its gentle demeanor and fine flavor. Sage’s original sheep herd—mostly consisting of a breed called Targhee (of Idaho provenance and known for high quality wool)—has expanded to include, and interbreed with, Texel, a sheep that hails from the northwestern coast of Europe and is prized for quick-growing lambs and delicious meat.

Choosing breeds that fit the character of their farm, and raising them with integrity, helps Brian and Sage produce the best possible product. They keep the herds small and rotate them among thirteen sweet clover and grass pastures, providing as much of their nutrition from fresh forage as possible. They breed and raise their own calves and lambs, selecting for desirable traits. They have even begun to dabble in some of the latest research tracking genetic traits associated with marbling and tenderness, and have confirmed through testing that their bull, Ulysses, carries all of the known predictors for tenderness. And along with everything else, their animals get lots of ear scratches and hellos and love. You can taste that, too.

Find out more about Meadow Harvests practices, breeds, and products at www.meadowharvest.com.

Meadow Harvest is now offering farm stays! Play at the beach and sleep on the farm. See their listing here.

Vendor Spotlight: DeNoble's Farm Fresh Produce

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they create. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

by Sarah West

Tom and Patreece DeNoble probably didn’t foresee their future as one of Portland’s leading vegetable farms when they started growing calla lilies in the backyard of their Tillamook, Oregon home in the early 90’s. “It was a hobby,” Tom explained on a recent tour of their 40-acre farm located just outside of Tillamook, “that became our livelihood.”

Tom grew up on his family’s dairy not far south from where his vegetable farm now sits. A dairy farm childhood is a hard-won lesson in responsibility; Tom and his siblings helped with morning and afternoon milkings, among the farm’s other chores, putting in four- to eight-hour days in addition to their schoolwork.

“I wanted out,” Tom recalled, and he found work in construction and then at the Tillamook cheese factory, the job he left when he and Patreece expanded their calla lily operation from their backyard onto a 23-acre parcel of leased land, just down the road from their present-day farm.

  

“We ended up growing artichokes because a guy I knew wanted a job from me,” Tom recalled. “I asked him what he could do, and he said he knew how to grow artichokes.”

Tom took a chance on a crop that was new to him, quickly learning that artichokes are well-suited to Tillamook’s coastal climate, with moderate summer highs and fog-bank-regulated sunlight. The artichokes were an instant success; superior in quality and flavor to those shipped in from California, they fetched a good price from local wholesale markets. Tom (and a few other area artichoke growers) delivered to a number of coastal and inland groceries until the California suppliers caught wind of the competition.

“One day when I was out on my deliveries, I got a call from [a commercial grocer’s] produce manager saying I needed to come and get the artichokes I’d just dropped off,” Tom recalled. “ I asked him what was wrong with them and he said, ‘Nothing. But yours are a dollar each and California just sent us a shipment for a quarter each.’ All but one store called to have me come pick up the artichokes I’d just delivered. So that was the end of that.”

  

Around this time (the late 90’s), the DeNobles had begun selling at the Milwaukie Farmers Market, and, in 2002, were a founding vendor of the Hillsdale Farmers Market. When their wholesale outlets stopped calling, they transitioned to direct marketing through farmers markets in order to get the price they knew their high-quality product deserved, and which would keep their farm in business. Direct marketing works because it allows the farmer to (literally) stand behind their product.

“If you don’t get to tell your story,” Tom acknowledged, “your stuff isn’t going to sell because no one can tell the difference [between your product and one that was conventionally grown].”

The DeNobles use sustainable growing practices—composted manure, organic amendments, crop rotation, and the occasional organic-approved spray for pest control—but are not currently certified organic. It’s a conundrum that many farmers-market-scale growers face: certification creates an extra (often significant) cost, one that the farmer must pass on to their customers (some of whom may no longer be able to afford their product); but without certification, it is difficult to expand into the wholesale market—certification provides the proof of quality a farmer needs to get a fair price for their product.

  

Besides artichokes, the DeNobles now grow (in lieu of calla lilies, which they moved away from in the mid-2000’s) an ever-expanding assortment of vegetables. Their rich, nearly rock-free soil nurtures large and tender root crops, and the cool Tillamook climate keeps them well-stocked in brassicas (kales, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) and artichokes throughout the summer months, when Willamette Valley farms struggle to keep up production of these heat-sensitive crops.

The trade-off is that tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants can be a bit of a stretch for their coastal farm, which is why the DeNobles have installed twenty-two unheated greenhouses, each one-hundred feet long, for a total of two-acres of temperature-moderated growing space.

Even so, Tom admitted, “Tomatoes are one thing we may start growing less of. They just take too long out here.”

“You can’t grow everything everywhere,” He explained about their ongoing variety trials, “You have to figure out what works where you farm and let go of the things that don’t.”

  

This tireless search for balance between production efficiencies and quality control is part of what makes DeNoble’s vegetables stand out in Portland’s increasingly competitive local food market. In addition to selling at four Portland-area farmers markets, they deliver to 37 restaurants, and stock a popular farmstand on their property in Tillamook. They are considering organic certification for next year, a step they must take in order to profitably re-enter the wholesale market.

Despite its many expansions in the past twenty years, their farm remains a mostly family-run business. Tom and Patreece’s two children, Chandler and Lexi, both work full-time on the farm, and the four of them do almost all of the harvesting, as well as much of the planting and crop management, with the help of three other farmhands.

“We are very picky about our vegetables,” Tom emphasized, from variety selection and cultivation practices to harvesting, packing, and storing—they aim for the highest quality vegetables they are capable of producing.

He and Patreece are the only farmers allowed to harvest the artichokes (though they are slowly training Chandler), a daunting task considering they have 13-acres of this signature crop, but one they attribute to their product’s success.

“If I wouldn’t eat it, I won’t sell it,” seconded Patreece.

But the proof, as they say, is in the artichoke-flavored pudding. If you haven’t yet tried a DeNoble artichoke (or any of their flavorful vegetables), it’s time you did. If you have, than you know what Tom and Patreece are talking about: Tillamook (and the DeNoble Family Farm) grows good artichokes.

You can find them at Hillsdale through the summer season, or swing by their farmstand on your way to the coast. Learn more at: www.denoblefarms.com or Facebook link.

Vendor Spotlight: Baird Family Orchards

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they create. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

When it comes down to it, Trevor Baird is, unsurprisingly, a fruit geek. Traipsing around his family’s Dayton area orchard on a hot early June afternoon, his enthusiasm is palpable as he introduces us to his trees. Among the popular sellers like Honeycrisp apples and Suncrest peaches are many varieties you and I have probably never heard of.

“I’m an experimenter,” Trevor declares, a statement that encompasses both his business strategy as the successor, along with his sister, Jennifer, of his parents’ orchard, and his personal fascination with the fruit growing profession.

He stops in front of an apple tree called Firecracker with dark red fruits hung along its drooping branches like, well, firecrackers. When mature, the petite apples have pure crimson flesh and a tart bite that Trevor sells to chefs looking for something striking to put on their plates. There’s Goldrush, a yellow-skinned apple with remarkable disease resistance and dense, tangy flesh that ages well in storage. There’s Harken, a peach whose fruits are still fuzzy green marbles, that’s Trevor’s favorite for its quintessentially peachy flavor. And then there are the pluots, a super-tasty hybrid of plums and apricots whose trees are known for taking a long time to settle in and which have yet, in Trevor Baird’s orchard at least, to produce more than a handful of fruits.

Farming is tricky business, requiring the financial deftness necessary to navigate market fluctuations and evolving consumer tastes, all while taming the wild horse that is your chosen field: its weeds and weather, its abundance and shortages, its relentless demands on your energy and time. Nowhere is this more apparent than in an orchard, where the terms are dictated by a tree’s timeline, not a human’s.

Freshly planted fruit trees must be irrigated, fertilized, protected from pests and pathogens, and weeded for 3-5 years before they begin to produce a significant yield. And yields, even on healthy, mature trees, will vary from year to year due to fluctuations in pollination rates and simply how the spring weather played out. If it gets too warm too early, a tree may bloom prematurely, only to have its tender flowers blasted by frost a few days later.

“This year,” Trevor explained, “the mild winter didn’t provide enough chill hours for the Honeycrisp to set much fruit.”

All fruit trees, notably apples, wait to initiate their spring bloom until they’ve registered a prescribed number of hours (the exact number varies by variety) at around 45-degrees Fahrenheit. But what’s bad for one crop is good for another, which is why diversity is the name of the game at Baird Family Orchards. To survive poor yields and shifting consumer tastes, you need to have made decisions three years ago that meet today’s needs. The best way to do that is to give yourself a lot of options.

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Purchased in 1984 by Trevor’s parents, Don and Kathy, the 40-acre parcel that now hosts dozens of stone and pome fruit varieties came planted in standard cherries—enormous trees whose upper branches were too difficult to harvest. The Bairds soon removed them, putting apples and a few Suncrest and Flamecrest peaches in their place. As was the case for many small apple orchards of the time, the Alar (a chemical growth regulator and suspected carcinogen) scare of the late 1980’s drove wholesale apple prices so low it no longer made sense to harvest their trees, challenging the Bairds to reconsider their plantings yet again.

It was around this time that Don Baird and his son Trevor had begun selling fruit directly to consumers at some of the area’s first farmers markets in Gresham and Beaverton. The peaches they’d planted on a whim turned out to be a big hit with market customers, inspiring the Bairds to transition their orchard to include more stone fruits—peaches, cherries, apricots, and plums—while keeping some of their best apple varieties.

As we move through the orchard, Trevor noting when he expects this or that to show up at market, it becomes clear that each variety has a specific, and often short, harvest window. Because they sell at so many markets in the Portland area (around fifteen at last count), and since most varieties are planted in modest quantities, not all varieties make it to every market. As Trevor admits with a chuckle, this level of diversification would be madness on a wholesale farm, but it lends much needed flexibility to their farmers-market-oriented harvest schedule, and appealing novelty to their offerings. No two weeks at Baird’s stand taste the same.

If diversity is Baird’s survival strategy, flavor is their most compelling selling point. Their fruits are known for impressive sweetness and the way they all seem to taste like the best version of themselves. This is not an accident. Don, Trevor, and a dedicated team of farmhands, take great care to cultivate optimum flavor through variety selection, smart horticultural management, and by allowing their fruit to ripen on the tree.

The same standard of quality applies to Baird’s leased orchard, operated by Dan and Ron Gunkel, who continue to farm land their father established in Goldendale, Washington in 1936. Don Baird struck up a partnership with the Gunkels twenty years ago that resulted in a block of the Gunkel orchard dedicated to growing fruit just for the Bairds.

The Gunkel block allows the Bairds room to expand the supply of some of their more popular varieties. When something from the Dayton orchard—where Trevor and Don have the freedom to trial new varieties for performance, flavor, and customer popularity—does particularly well, they plant it on the Gunkel’s property in numbers large enough to keep the market booth stocked for more than a couple of weeks. Like the Bairds, the Gunkels harvest all of their trees by hand, selecting only the ripest fruit, and packing it with care to preserve its delicate texture.

“It’s a perfect partnership,” Trevor tells me. “We all work really well together, which is why the fruit tastes so good.”

The last thing Trevor shows us a row of top-grafts put in this spring. Top-grafting is a shortcut of sorts, where part of a mature tree is lopped off and branches (called scions) from a different variety are wedged into the host tree’s cambium. The host tree has more energy reserves than does a newly planted tree, resulting in larger harvests after a shorter wait period. They strike me as a fitting metaphor for Trevor and Jennifer Baird: the next generation growing from the challenges and momentum of its predecessor with the enthusiasm of a fresh start.

Vendor Profile: Salvador Molly’s

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

tamaleBefore the phrase “food cart pod” was in existence, restaurants had to incubate themselves by renting a brick-and-mortar space right off the bat, or by repeatedly selling out of a popular dish at the farmers’ market. Such is the story of Salvador Molly’s, which began in 1994 as a tamale cart at the downtown Portland Farmers Market.

Scott Moritz, the tamales’ creator and proprietor, soon hit it off with one of his regular customers, Rick Sadle. As the two became friends, they began imagining how to expand the Saturday tamale operation into a full-time project. In 1996, with Scott’s tamale recipe as the main attraction, Rick helped open a café they called Salvador Molly’s.

The menu (and décor) quickly became eclectic, incorporating flavors and motifs from spicy, tropical cuisines. Their notorious Great Balls of Fire appetizer brings in challenge-seekers (and the occasional television crew) to brave habanero infused fritters and earn a place on the Hall of Flame. Spicy standoffs aside, the menu’s bold flavors and sun-drenched associations hit a chord with Portland diners that continues to attract new and long-time customers alike.

Throughout the last eighteen years of growing and developing a restaurant business, Rick and his daughter, Darielle (who became manager and part-owner seven years ago), have stayed true to their business’s farmers’ market roots. Hillsdale and Portland Farmers’ Market shoppers know their cheery booth, and the smell of their steam-bathed tamales, well. The tamales (and menu items at the restaurant) often incorporate ingredients purchased from Hillsdale vendors.

The Sadle’s commitment to farmers’ markets is further reflected in their community ethos. Each month, the restaurant hosts fundraisers for local schools and non-Profit organizations. Scott and Rick chose Hillsdale as the location of their restaurant for its close-knit neighborhood appeal, and Salvador Molly’s continues to be a gathering place for friends and family as a favorite Hillsdale eatery.

Roadhouse SignThis month, Salvador Molly’s expands again with the opening of their new Roadhouse and Tiki Garden in the Brooklyn neighborhood. The new space will be much like the old, with tropical-themed murals and decorations, Great Balls of Fire, a lighthearted and family-friendly atmosphere, as well as an outdoor patio. (Fire pit and water feature coming soon!)

The menu at the Roadhouse will remain similar to their Hillsdale location, focusing on food from places where palm trees grow, with some new items including: Thai fish cakes with mango red onion salsa, house-made bread and sausages, and Korean chap chee. During lunch, their drive-up window will be open for take-away sandwiches and house-made sausages.


We snapped a few shots before they opened last week. Stop in soon to watch the space evolve, try new menu items or enjoy the secluded patio. Find the Salvador Molly’s Roadhouse and Tiki Garden at 4729 SE Milwaukie Ave in Southeast Portland. They are open from 3pm until late Tuesday thru Saturday. Learn more at www.salvadormollys.com.

Stephens Farm

Sarah West

Chuck and Rachel Stephens have been farming for nearly three decades, maintaining the Stephens family lineage of farmers, in Chuck’s case, and entering into new territory in Rachel’s.

“I grew up in Kansas, where I had only ever heard of three kinds of apples: green, red and yellow. And we didn’t even have them all the time; apples were a special treat.”

When she came to Oregon to support her husband’s farming ambitions and settle on a 120-acre plot on the eastern side of Grand Island, Rachel was introduced not only to numerous apple varieties, but a wealth of fruits and vegetables that the Willamette Valley’s rich soils and mild climate make possible.

“Out here, it’s like you can eat anything.”

They bought their property in 1985, which was, at the time, “all weeds and grass” and a healthy stand of cottonwood trees. The site is separated by elevation into two sections: one barely above the Willamette River, which it borders for a third of a mile of riverfront, and another atop a ridge, where they built their home. Although Chuck cleared the lower 80-acres of cottonwood trees in their first two years on the farm, he now leases that field to a neighboring farmer and keeps the majority of his own crops in the upper 40-acres, where the land dries out quickly and is more protected from flooding.

There, Chuck has planted an Eden of fruits and vegetables, constantly tweaking his preferred varieties to meet market demand and feel out his own product niche. When he started, Chuck filled much of his plantable land with apple trees, a solid commodity crop at the time. A few years later, the apple market crashed following a 60-Minutes report that a ripening agent used on red apples was a known carcinogen. After selling box after box of apples below his breakeven point, Chuck decided to rip out most of his trees and diversify his operation.

His fields now host a mind-boggling array of edibles: meandering orchards of peaches, pears, apples, plums, nectarines, apricots and cherries are interplanted with blueberries, grapes, strawberries and vegetable rows that he sows as soon as possible each spring to insure early harvests.

The soils of Grand Island are rich and well-draining, an unusual combination in our region that allows Chuck to begin tilling and planting while farmers in other areas are still waiting for the soil to dry.

Outlying areas of the farm are planted in figs, an experimental crop that has proven lucrative for Stephens, and a few trial almond trees along the riverbank. Nearly every available nook and cranny of the farm is host to some sort of enterprising vegetation, a concert of florae conducted by a man who is the poster child for not putting all his eggs in one basket.

Each crop has its year, Chuck explained, and you just have to go with the flow. And while he’s learned and embraced that philosophy the hard way, his entrepreneurial spirit has helped him build a buffer of resiliency amidst the high-stakes nature of farming. When he hears about an intriguing new variety, he buys a few and tries it, which is how he has amassed a collection of 10-25 varieties of each crop he grows. Such diversity also helps to extend harvests throughout the season.

The Stephens’ endless optimism keeps their farm charging forward, seeking out the next revenue stream while many of their contemporaries settle into retirement. Chuck doesn’t seem like he’ll stop any time soon, with a new greenhouse under construction, new fruit trees planted that won’t produce for a few years yet, and talk of initiating an agritourism arm of the business. Given how energized he is by his farm, setting up a vacation rental that markets its bucolic setting and riverfront beaches may be as close to retirement as Chuck wants to get.

Look for extended harvests of strawberries, tree fruits, grapes, figs, root vegetables, corn and more at the Stephens Farm booth throughout the summer season; try all the varieties and find your favorite!

Gales Meadow Farm

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Gales Meadow FarmNestled between wooded hillside and a bend in the meandering Gales Creek, Anne and Rene’ Berblinger’s Gales Meadow Farm feels like a place hewn from the pastoral imagination: nine smooth acres fan out in a rough triangle from the back of the property, bordered cozily by tall trees, onto a vista of the slender Gales Creek valley and its well-muscled foothills that begin galloping into the coast range a handful of miles west of the farm. It is a vista I know well from spending two summers as a part-time farmhand there in 2010 and 2011, enjoying a morning coffee, planting, harvesting and pulling weeds in that glorious backdrop.

Anne and Rene’ began hobby-farming the site in 1999, coming from non-farm careers and a simple desire to work outdoors and grow beautiful food. Their operation soon expanded to include one, then many employees, some who live on-site, most of whom are young people interested in learning more about organic vegetable production. The farm earned organic certification from Oregon Tilth in 2001, and has remained strictly organic since then. They sell summer vegetables at the Hollywood and Cannon Beach farmers’ markets, and spring plant starts here at Hillsdale.

Their plant list boasts an astonishing 300 varieties, an accomplished collection for a farm of this scope. And Gales Meadow is all about collections: tomato varieties number in the forties, pepper and garlic varieties in the twenties, many of which are perpetuated using seed collected onsite. This is a boon both for the farm and the home gardeners who purchase vegetable starts from GMF, as the plants are well adapted to the climatic and soil conditions of our region.
“Sometimes I say that we had to be farmers, since we never had room to grow all the varieties we wanted to try in a garden,” Anne said of her transition from gardener to farmer fifteen years ago.

A quick look at their tomato variety list makes it clear that the Berblingers do not perpetuate the usual suspects. A healthy handful of the varieties they grow are sourced not from seed catalogs but from fellow farmers and customers who pass on their own favorites. The result is a gallery of unique tomatoes, well-tested in both garden and kitchen, many of which are exclusive to Gales Meadow Farm.

Nostrano, a round, red variety that comes from the seeds of a tomato purchased at a market in Turino, Italy are Anne’s favorite slicing tomato for summer sandwiches or just eating out of hand. Italian Heart, a creamy-pink beauty of a sauce tomato with large-shouldered fruits that taper to a point (reminiscent of a heart) quickly cook down to a light, aromatic sauce. Piccolo San Marzano, a miniature version of the classic Italian sauce tomato, makes an excellent portable snack, and is featured in homemade catsup at farm meals.

Gales Meadow Farm is one of this year’s Edible Portland Local Food Hero nominees, an honor they’ve received in part for their farming and nursery work, as well as their dedication to educating gardeners and young farmers about organic agriculture. Anne and Rene’ farm with a gardener’s mentality, valuing beauty, flavor and narrative over high productivity or vegetables with a long shelf life, and many of the lessons they’ve learned in their fifteen-year farm journey translate well to a garden of any size. Anne and Rene’ have reaped delicious rewards from experimenting with seed saving, and encourage all gardeners to try their hand at it.

“Use open-pollinated varieties and save seeds of your favorites,” Anne advises, “especially self-pollinating vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and beans.”

And, at the farm or garden scale, success with organic growing comes from seeing the garden as an ecosystem, a great balancing act.

“Love your pollinators,” encourages Anne, “provide ten months of bloom in your garden, a pesticide free environment, and places for their babies to grow.”

And as for those pesky weeds and tenacious pests, focus on management, “don’t even try to eliminate them.”

The relaxed and patient approach to agriculture I learned at Gales Meadow Farm still informs my own gardening practices, and many of the exceptional varieties I was introduced to there have earned a permanent place in my own seed collection. Hillsdale Farmers’ Market and the local food community are fortunate to have these local food heroes in our midst.

Gales Meadow Farm is only at Hillsdale through May, so don’t delay in choosing one of their alluring tomato or pepper varieties for your garden this year!

Snow-maggedon 2014

Sarah West

 Happy February from Deep Roots Snow Farm!
 
I hope you made it out of the recent storm unscathed. We weren’t so fortunate, but this certainly could have been worse, and we are, as ever, thankful we have each other and the support of our wonderful friends.

Any hoo, I thought you’d enjoy a few pictures.
Strawberries are under there somewhere:

This last storm dumped more snow than we have seen (in the valley) since we’ve been farming (16 years). After two full days of desperate snow blowing and snow whacking, and various other snow removal techniques, our greenhouses began to collapse under the weight of 18+ inches of snow. So, we resorted to drastic measures and began to cut the plastic off the frames.

The far end of this greenhouse is on the ground. Here’s a closer view:

And those we couldn’t get to in time look a little more like this:

The greenhouse next door houses Kaia’s chickens. As you can tell, they received a lot more of our attention, and remained safe and warm.

In all, I think we lost 16 greenhouses, give or take—3 are completely flat, 2 have partially collapsed, and the others are de-skinned.

So, now we rebuild. This year’s going to be different, that’s for sure. Any veggies we had growing before this storm have yet to decide if they will pull through, so we are not sure if we will have much to offer for the early spring markets. We still plan on attending the Hillsdale Market on March 2nd to sell, at the very least, Kaia’s Lovely Eggs.
I hope to see you there!
Kimberly

 

Vendor Profile: CGI Orchard

Sarah West

by Sarah West

Ed GeislerHaving grown up in the same house at the edge of Vancouver, WA where he now lives and farms, Ed Geisler of CGI Orchard cultivates his selection of specialty apples in a landscape that straddles new enterprise and nostalgia. Behind the old farmhouse where he lived as a boy, a handsome assortment of ornamental trees and shrubs snakes around the edge of the lawn. Two towering tree skeletons linger behind the newer plantings; long dead but not without sculptural appeal, Ed keeps them around for the wisteria vines to climb, flavoring the air with their sweet scent the way lilac fragrance filled that same garden in his childhood.

The small-acreage plot his parents purchased is largely still intact,Farm View though now surrounded by an ever-encroaching suburbia. The land was never farmed by his family, rather they leased it out in parcels to nearby growers for cutting hay, grazing animals or growing strawberries.

“The strawberries,” Ed recalled, “gave me my first fortune,” earning him spending money as a picker, and likely a king’s portion of berries over the years.
After retiring from a career selling high-end men’s clothing, Ed planted a 100-tree apple orchard in 2008 where his family once had a stand of cherry trees, inspired, in part, by memories of the snow-like effect of that week in spring when the white petals cut loose and swirl in the breeze. His orchard is also a dedication to his family’s next generation, the initials CGI connoting the orchard’s three owners, his young grandchildren Charlie, George and Ingrid.

From the beginning, Ed had the intention of selling the best apples he could produce. To ensure their quality of flavor and market value, he worked toward organic certification while his trees matured. Within two years Ed was bringing his fruit to markets in the Vancouver, WA area.

Ed prefers to grow apples at the artisan scale, weeding the base of each tree by hand, carting in chipped prunings from the previous winter and manure from his flock of sheep to mulch the orchard in the fall, waiting for each apple to reach its peak ripeness, picking and cleaning the harvest the evening prior to market.

“These apples are in the moment,” Ed told me. “I don’t store them; they’ve never been in a refrigerator. When you buy them, they come to you directly from the tree.”

Ed has noticed some customers smell an apple before tasting a sample, looking for the delicate fragrance that lingers on a fresh, fully ripe apple. And he has chosen varieties that stand out. His orchard ripens in succession through the fall, moving from one variety to the next, most of them unfamiliar to market shoppers. Ed clearly delights in introducing shoppers to his more obscure apples.

“I grow Honeycrisp because they are so popular, but when someone comes to my booth to buy them, I give them a sample of the Pinova and they say ‘that’s like Honeycrisp, only better!’ Much of the time, they ask if they can put the Honeycrisp back.”

Pinova is a German-bred apple with a lineage of traits drawn from Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Duchess of Oldenburg varieties. Its red and maple-leaf-orange skin draw you to his table while its crisp, juicy flesh and floral tartness may elicit your own childhood memories of fall drives and fresh apples at the orchard.

Elstar, a variety developed in the Netherlands, has soft flesh with an effervescence that hits the tongue then quickly fades into a hint of sweetness. Ed calls these his “champagne apples” because of their unique flavor profile.

Belle de Boskoop, originating in a Dutchman’s orchard as a chance seedling in 1856, is perhaps Ed’s most visually striking apple. The russet coating through which its yellow and red hues peek out gives this heirloom apple the appearance of a dusty antique. Tart, aromatic and crisp, it is appealing both as a fresh-eating or cooking apple.

Because Ed’s orchard is small and he does not store his harvests more than one night, you must act quickly to get your preferred varieties. Most of his apples have already come and gone for the season, some lost in the strong winds of September’s unusually turbulent weather. Like all good things worth having, they are worth waiting for, too. Snag a taste of his final harvests, and keep an eye out for his return next fall.

Vendor Profile: Savory et Sweet

Sarah West

by Sarah West

Gary and Chris Douglas

You never know how shopping at your neighborhood farmers’ market may influence your life’s path. Since their son, Max, began volunteering at Hillsdale Market back in its formative years, Chris and Gary Douglas have found themselves intertwined in the weekly ritual of farmers’ markets. After a few seasons as a HFM volunteer herself, Chris and fellow volunteer Joan Quinn hatched a plan to start a business selling crepes at the market. Though Joan has since bowed out of the project, Savory et Sweet remains a market fixture, serving their crepes to a loyal following of market vendors and customers alike. Now with many years of crepe-slinging under their belts, Chris and Gary are embarking on the project of opening their own restaurant, a café they’ve named Arugularium.

Any Hillsdale vendor would confess to fantasizing of walls and a roof on days when the wind kicks up or the rain comes down steadily. Chris began looking for a permanent space a few years ago, choosing instead to purchase a portable food trailer that makes the task of preparing and serving hot food at their three year-round markets more manageable. The idea of a restaurant never left her, however, and when a lease became available at the perfect café space in the Sellwood neighborhood, Chris jumped at the chance.

She signed the lease in July, and has been working tirelessly to prepare for opening day (which was October 3rd) ever since. Located at 8337 SE 17th Ave, three blocks south of Tacoma St, the Arugularium space is cozy and bright with sun-drenched windows and butter-colored walls. Chris’s previous career as an interior designer shows in the meticulous attention she put into creating a space that embodies functional elegance while resisting the Francophile impulses usually associated with creperies.

Chris’s recipes trend toward the non-traditional as well. She boldly translates flavor combinations from various cuisines into the crepe format and has created her own gluten-free batters, one utilizing buckwheat flour and another polenta. Chris continues to experiment with new ingredients and combinations, inspired by the bounty of products she sees at her markets.

“I have always liked uncommon things in décor, style and food,” Chris told me, and at market she is “especially inspired by miniature vegetables.”

Over the years, she has amassed a collection of 200 crepe combinations and designed a popular grab-and-go meal she sells at the lunch-focused Lloyd Market that she’s dubbed the Menagerie Snack Plate, which features, among other items, an artistic assortment of those beloved mini vegetables.

“Even though my new brick and mortar kitchen is large enough to support a full restaurant menu, I've opted to keep it true to my roots of crepes, soup and salads. I will be developing new items within this genre. I'm also hoping to do more baking in the new space, something I wasn't able to do in a tent or a concessions trailer.”

Arugularium dining roomArugularium, as the name implies, is an ode to arugula, one of Chris’s favorite ingredients. Arugula holds a prominent place on her menus, showing up in soups and salads, crepes, her signature arugula pesto and a super-food drink she calls Green Therapy. Along with arugula, Chris has always incorporated seasonal ingredients in her menu, often shopping the market for fruits, vegetables and fresh inspiration just before starting service.

Most recently, Chris brought her farmers into the kitchen as well, hiring a fellow vendor from Oregon City Farmer’s Market to cook at the café (a first-year farmer named Brett Caldwell) as well as two folks from Hillsdale, Haley Lusby (employee of Pesto Outside the Box) and myself. In the spirit of full disclosure, should you visit Arugularium on an upcoming Friday or Saturday, I would likely (and happily) be your server. Chris was delighted to source her employees from the same markets where she buys her ingredients and from which her “little food hobby,” as she calls it, grew into a life-changing business.

Follow Chris and Gary’s progress at Arugularium on their Facebook page, including hours, menu updates and more!

Vendor Profile: Petal Heads

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Petal Heads, a West Linn based nursery owned and operated by Dave and Annilese Doolittle, has been selling at local area farmers’ markets and garden fairs since they launched their backyard business in 2008. Both come from horticultural backgrounds—Dave currently works as the Director of Marketing at Terra Nova Nurseries, a local nursery with international notoriety for their distinctive breeding work (you may have one of their Heuchera or Echinacea introductions in your own garden), and Annilese earned a degree in horticulture from the University of Illinois.

Petal HeadsGrowing up in Illinois, Annilese got a taste for entrepreneurial plant propagation, potting up sports from her mother’s Hosta garden that she sold at her local farmers’ market. A move to Oregon and marriage to a fellow plant-enthusiast later, Annilese is still sharing her passion for the plants she loves, and propagating them in the driveway of their home in West Linn.

I visited recently for one of their weekend open houses. Though Petal Heads does not keep regular hours, they do host occasional sales, an opportunity to browse and buy from their entire plant collection. (Visit their website, portlandpetalheads.com, or email them at portlandpetalheads@gmail.com for information on upcoming sales.)

Sisyrinchium at PetalHeadsAs true plant collectors, Dave and Annilese have an infectious enthusiasm for the unique and unusual. I found their nursery (like their stall at the market) stocked with a pleasing mix of the familiar and the exotic. Two blooming flats of Sisyrinchium (blue-eyed grass)—one of the top-sellers at the market, according to Annilese—were the anomaly. Most of the plant varieties on display had only a handful of representatives, making for a highly diverse and doted-after assortment.

HelleboreDave’s work at Terra Nova gives him the opportunity to learn about plants, such as the work of Eugene-based Hellebore breeder Marietta O’Byrne. Her recent series of double-flowered Hellebores add new color and zest to the winter garden, and rank among Dave and Annilese’s personal favorites.

Terra Nova’s Heucheras are also well represented in Petal Heads’ collection. The rainbow of foliage colors on offer can liven up shady spots, adding a refreshing pop of burgundy, lime green or peach to the undergrowth.

Foliage plants at PetalHeadsInteresting foliage plants permeated the nursery, including Mayapples, Epimediums, a gorgeous black-leaved Bugbane, white-veined niger Hellebores, holly ferns and Hostas, to name a few, all illustrating that a garden without showcase flowers can be as varied and interesting as its blooming counterpart.

FrondteenaJust before I left the nursery, Annilese brought out the official mascot, Frondteena, Belgian hare with fine features and coloring as rich as one of the Heucheras on display. It is Frondteena’s profile that they used to create their logo image. Alice followed a white rabbit into Wonderland; Frondteena beckons curious gardeners to Petal Heads’ wonderland of new and unusual plants.

Kookoolan Farms Specials for September 9th Market

Sarah West

We have two special items this weekend at the market:

We have a very limited number of pasture-raised, soy-free, corn-free, guaranteed gmo-free meat chickens this weekend (fresh, whole carcasses), $5.39/lb. People who are very sensitive to corn and soy to the extent that they cannot even eat the flesh of animals that have eaten corn and soy; some people with estrogen-seeking cancers who are therefore looking to avoid all soy in their diet; or people very specifically wanting to avoid having Big Agriculture get any of their food dollars, may be interested in this alternative chicken meat product.

Due to an overshipment of day-old chicks several weeks ago, we have a surfeit of finished meat chickens this weekend, making this the ideal weekend to stock up. These chickens were killed at ten weeks of age, meaning they have spent a full five weeks on the pasture, the most of any of our chickens all year. The pasture quality is ideal at this time of year, with many of our neighbors putting up hay right now. Although I don't have any lab numbers to back up the claim, these are certainly our highest-Omega-3, highest-CLA chickens of the year. They are large: 5.5 to 7 pounds each; the large chickens truly have the best eating attributes, with well-developed, firm flesh (not tough, but "al dente" -- our chickens do not get shreddy and mushy like industrially raised chickens do!). We have a stocking-up special of $3.67/lb in four-packs. We will NOT have the stocking-up special available in two weeks, and then will have it again in October. The season for our pasture-raised chickens is over at the end of October. The November 4th market is the last chance to buy our chickens until April 2013. If folks want to have our chickens over the winter, the only place to get them is out of your own freezer!  

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter August 12 2012 Market

Sarah West

Eamon Molloy and his hardy band of volunteers will transform the parking lot at Hillsdale into bustling farmers' market by 10:00 AM on Sunday.

Here is what we will have:

Chesters, Chesters, Chesters, and, oh yes, we will have good quantity of Triple Crowns as well, about 35 half flats Zenón tells me.

We have told the story about the Chester Blackberry many times. Kathleen Bauer posted the most recent one on her site, even illustrating it with photos of Robert Skirvin, John Hull and Senator Dirksen. Her nickname around here is the "Bauer Bird" because she does such wonderful job of collecting and arranging material for her site. Here is the link:

http://www.goodstuffnw.com/2010/08/farm-bulletin-pt-2-taxonomy-of-chester.html

The berries are also at Pastaworks, both Food Fronts and all 12 New Seasons stores if you run short during the week. Fine establishments all.

Beets, Cucumbers and New Potatoes

Pole Beans: Preacher and Fortex

Garlics, Shallots & Onions

Some Preserves

Frikeh

Wither the Turnips? One of our farm aphorisms is "you are only as good as your next turnip." We collected and cleaned two crates of beautiful turnips, grabbing a handful for dinner. Even Tito, the amazing turnip eating bandy-legged dictator backed away from them. If we had sold those, you could have called us tough, woody folk with a bitter edge. As it happened, our appetite spared our reputation. A week earlier they were delicious, but the heat was their ruination, and they almost took us down with them. New aphorism: Never trust a pretty turnip.

__________________________________________

La Cajita Blanca

Two weeks ago, the little white box returned after a year's absence. For many years, we have used half-flats made from unbleached container board. Four years ago, we were caught short at the end of the season and bought a bundle of 100 with a white liner board. They were soon gone, and by last year there was just one still in circulation. It stood out in the stack and we commented on how many times it must have returned to the farm. At least five times by the initials, though it might have been more because staff typically initial flats later in the season when mold has set up in the field. That way, if someone is inattentive, we can address the situation quickly. The flat also had a small oval sticker, indicating that at least once it was filled with Triple Crowns. Those yellow stickers were left over from the days when we grew melons, and we used the extras to mark the non-Chester boxes. Maybe it also went out filled with mirabelles, green gages or festooned with Joe's Long Cayenne peppers, looking just like a jester's hat. Still in good shape after its many journeys, the box was filled with fresh hallocks, Chesters and sent out into world again last week.

We typically reuse paper flats until they look shabby or their ears get mangled — what we call the tabs that lock the boxes together when the are stacked. We never reuse the green paper-maché hallocks however. There are three good reasons why. First, and most importantly, it is a matter of food safety. We do not know where the hallock was stored and it comes in direct contact with the fruit that is eaten raw, unlike the flat. From a food safety perspective, it is reckless to reuse the hallock without knowing where and how it was stored. Second is food quality. If there is a speck of mold in the used hallock, that mold will infect fruit put in it later. Mold and berries are a match made in heaven if you are into rapid decay. Third, as a matter of federal law, organic growers can only reuse packaging that previously held certified organic produce. Consequently, the used hallocks go to recycling.

Packaging is always a fraught subject, especially for organic growers who want to extend the ecological ethic beyond the field. There are many factors that need balancing in selecting how to present the food. For example, on a hot summers day the delicate greens wilt rapidly, their quality suffers, and we waste a lot if they are sold out of an open crate. In the winter, the kale, collars and chicories fare well in the open air. They remain beautiful through the day and sell well. We try to make sure it is always a judgement call rather than a reflexive need to bag.

In the valley, farmers are fortunate to have a superb plastics recycling service. Located on Waconda Road in Brooks, Agri-Plas, Inc. recycles a wide spectrum of plastic waste generated by farms. Pots, old irrigation tape, barrels, plastic bags, old twine and grain sacks are all sorted and sold to domestic users. When we have to pick up some supplies in St. Paul, we will carry down our recycling and stop by Ernst on the way home. Very efficient.

In the meantime, we will be waiting to see if our little white box returns some Sunday in the future. It is hoped with her ears intact so we can send her forth once more.

Cheers, and see you all Sunday,

Carol & Anthony Boutard
The Costermongers of Fair Gaston

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter August 5 2012 Market

Sarah West

Suffering the usual grunts and groans as we get ready for the Chesters. A couple of weeks ago, a young heron shorted out the power line to the pumps, frying the controller on our smaller pump. Ernst Hardware had a used one that worked, and Gerry had it installed quickly. Heron survived, just some singed primaries. Then, ten days ago, one of the utility vehicles lost compression, bad symptom but we were spared the worse. On the Gator, older models they used a plastic camshaft gear. Doug down at Ernst installed a new steel gear and it is running nicely. Early this week, an "alarm 14" on the controller for our big pump used to cool the blackberry field indicated a short in the motor windings, so we had to pull the 600 beast and bring it down to McMinnville. Picked it up this morning. Craig from Ernst got it up and running just in time for the upcoming heat ripple. Funny how mellifluous a 50 HP pump coming up to pressure sounds on a hot afternoon.

Despite this tale of woe, we have not retreated from our solemn commitment to bring Chesters and other good food to the Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday starting at 10 AM, with a cheerful smile. Credit all the good staff at Ernst Hardware in St. Paul for easing us out of tight spots over the last couple of weeks. The banal bumper sticker reads "No Farms, No Food" which has some measure of truth, but the last couple of weeks drove home the fact that there are plenty of other businesses that are essential for us to bring you all food. Any successful business is part of a community and we don't do this alone, despite some of the cramped rhetoric bandied about lately.

Berries: Model T rules, any color as long as it is black. We will haul in a good supply.
Prunes: Imperial Epineuse
Pulses & Grains: Chickpeas and Frikeh.
New Potatoes
Beets and Summer Turnips: We had an idea. Perhaps people really want summer turnips. Beautiful little neeps ready to sauté, pickle or have raw in a salad. We certainly did, so we planted some.

That's it. Sending this out early because all hands will be in the field early, even the slacker essayist.

Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter July 29 2012 Market

Sarah West

Another week, another market, again starting at 10:00 AM, Hillsdale time, and the costermongers of Gaston will be there.

Our stall should have the following fruits and vegetables:

Berries: We are in the trough between the early season berries and the Chesters. So it is maybe this, maybe that, but not too much of any particular berry.

Imperial EpineusePrunes: Imperial Epineuse is a table prune. It was introduced to Oregon around 1900 but never found much favor among the state's prune growers. A pity, because it is early and a very flavorful plum. It is thought to have a touch of damson in its lineage, which accounts for its very fine texture relative to other prunes.

Frikeh & Preserves

Mixed greens: Both salad and cooking greens as in earlier weeks.

Garlics & Shallots: The ugly shallot is the French Grey, the True Shallot. They never send up a flower stalk and have better flavor than the onion-like False or Jersey Shallot that is most commonly encountered in the stores and markets. They are ugly so they sell poorly, a pity.

Summer Squash: Costata Romanesco

As summer progresses, the matter of zucchini's fecundity comes to the fore. Newspapers and magazines regale us with the travails of home gardeners who try to foist the excess on neighbors and friends. All manner of recipes are proposed to deal with the burden. So why are people who don't garden, and should be grateful for the generosity of the plant and its owner, so resistant to the gift?

Although it is found in the vegetable section of the grocery store, and is treated as a vegetable in the kitchen, the zucchini is, in fact, a fruit. As we have noted many times, the first harvest of berries are the densest and highest quality. As the season progresses, the concentration of pectins and acids drop and the fruit has a thinner skin, all contributing to a change in flavor. On the blackberries, for example, we make six rotations through the field, harvesting roughly 60% of the field's production. The remaining fruit is just not worth harvesting, the berries have lost their bright quality, have a bitter edge and the fragrance is suddenly unappealing. Without fail, on the seventh rotation the field rests. In grapes, we thin approximately 40% of the clusters in advance, once again producing a lower yield than the vine would produce without our interference, otherwise the flavor of the harvested grapes would be compromised. In melons, only the first two fruits on the plant are worth eating even though the plant produces several more. A similar pattern develops in the snap beans, tough skin and a lack of flavor push us to abandon the vines long before they finish producing beans.

With the zucchini and other summer squash, the same reduction in fruit quality happens as the plant ages. The first four to six fruits are dense and sublime in every respect. By the time you get to the eighth fruit or so on the plant, they are not worth a tinker's dam. No longer do you want to simply sauté them in a bit of olive oil and savor their flavor. They don't have any, at least as a positive attribute, and so a battalion of seasonings is mustered in order to make the fruit palatable. It is not because we are bored with the fruit, as some food writers assert. The plant has spent its energy producing the early fruit and it is time for the gardener to move on to another food. Left on its own, a zucchini plant carries just one or two fruits to maturity, by removing the immature fruits we push it to produce more but the plant has limits. Foisting the unwanted fruit of a spent plant on your friends and neighbors is a cruel mockery. When we were growing melons, the first few ripe fruit went to the staff who helped plant them as a gesture of thanks. A real gift to the neighbors would be the first and most delicious zucchini of the season, instead of the debased surfeit. When you stand staring at the spice cabinet trying to decide what flavor is best with squash, it is time to walk away from the fruit, not next door with it.

"Shame on the wastrel," the human chorus cries, "wasting food is a sin against nature! The cultivator has brought this food forth from the earth, and you counsel denying others the pleasure of eating it!" "Hush," the farmer responds, "we are not alone here. We tend and harvest crops in joint effort with other creatures upon this earth, and it is they who have toiled and earned the surfeit." The chorus of the field flora and fauna reply, "Yes gentle farmer, leave us the latter day squash. Let them ripen in the field and we will build a great and tilth-full soil. It is merely a silly, self-centered conceit that if humans do not use it, there is waste." As this exchange from Ayersini's translation of Carolystra and Antonocoles (the respected Gastonian Folio) stresses, we farm in consort with billions of other organisms, nothing goes to waste when left in the field.

Once the harvest has ceased, zucchini plants continue to grow, the fruits ripen and set seed. The mature fruits are between two and three feet long, and their ribs turn a deep golden-orange. During this time, they also produce substantial amounts of fibrous woody stem that will contribute organic matter to the soil. All winter long, the tops provide a shelter for a range of insects, spiders and small mammals, a village of life. Birds forage among the decaying remains. Beneath the ground, there is a deep tap root and and a more extensive fibrous root system that maintain the tilth of the soil through the winter idyl, and providing food for the creatures that live there. To every extent possible, we leave our cornstalks, tomato plants, squash and bean vines and other crops standing in the field through the winter. In our experience, the instinct to cleanup does more harm than good. No better job for a spent plant than to leave it in place to protect and improve the fertility of the garden. Think of it as a deferred meal. The unkempt garden will serve you well.

See you all Sunday,

Carol & Anthony Boutard Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter July 22 2012 Market

Sarah West

Opening Bell at Ayers Creek FarmFor some crazy reason, the allure of getting up at 5:00 AM, loading stacks of berries and other produce into the van, harvesting some summer squash and blossoms at the last minute, a gentle word to Tito, driving into Portland, setting up the tent and tables, unloading the vegetables and berries, and then reversing the process after 2:00 PM, remains alive. Perhaps it is because Tito is so happy to have us home ten hours after his sad-eyed goodbye. Whatever the reason, we will be there when the Hillsdale Farmers' Market opens. 
Vermont Street will be closed on Sunday after 11:00 AM as part of the Portland Sunday Parkways program. This will make parking a bit of a challenge. Eamon will try to ring the "ten o'clock bell" close to 9:30, after all of the vendors are set up.

Hillsdale is the only farmers' market we attend, so all of the fruits and vegetables are harvested for Saturday just for you. If you fail to show up or are off fresh produce for some reason, no worry, any that are left over are donated to the gleaner from Neighborhood House. We appreciate the volunteers and staff who put that program together. It gives us the pleasure of over-harvesting a bit knowing that the food will go to good use.
This newsletter goes out on a very simple and primitive system called a 56K dial-up modem. Technology from the last century, problems occur and, like the old cars of Havana, modem access no longer has reliable support. It works well, but increasingly it hiccups, sending two copies instead of one, doubling the number of missing articles you have to add. For the past five years Verizon, then Frontier, has been just six months away from providing DSL on this stretch of Spring Hill. So in six months perhaps the problem will resolve itself  .  .  . 
With that disclaimer out of the way, here is what we will have this week:

π Cherries - We will have a lot this week, and they will be the last of the season. Many Montmorency and Hungarian in lesser quantities.

Boysenberries - They are peaking this week. We may have a dribs and drabs of other caneberries.

Summer squash - Costata Romanesco, handsome and delicious. 

Greens - Lettuce, leaf chard and the amaranth/orach mix.

Aromatics - As last week, dill, fenugreek and a bit tarragon.

Frikeh

Garlics and shallots

About eight years ago we received a call from a young couple who asked if the could grow their garlic at the farm. It was early autumn and they just moved out to Oregon and had an extensive garlic collection they needed to plant immediately. The situation was dire, so we agreed to consider their request. Farm land is either rented for cash or a share of the crop. Cash rent is the most common arrangement, but sharecropping offers some advantages. A few years ago, we agreed to a share in wheat that was grown on the farm. We earned considerably more with this arrangement, but we had to wait longer for the money. He stored the wheat for two years and the price went up nicely. The share is typically a third of the crop for the landowner. 
When Josh and Sarah approached us, we were bulking up on crops for the winter market and it made sense for us to take a share of the actual crop. They would need us to do tractor work, irrigation and other odds and ends, making any sort cash arrangement difficult to calculate. We settled upon a one fifth share for us. It was generous to them, but we also benefitted because it allowed us to share in a very diverse collection of garlics. They had been featured in the New York Times food section, and we referred to them as the Famous Garlic Farmers in earlier newsletters. After four years, they found a place of their own and still grow garlic. Josh also works in the produce department of the Cedar Hills New Seasons store. So we will see him over the next few weeks while delivering the Chesters.
Somehow or another, this stinking lily bulb composed of fat storage leaves has built up a fair measure of mystique. Talking about garlic, things can get complicated pretty quickly. If you are only growing garlic, that's fine, but we have too many things swirling around to tolerate much nuance. Early on and endearingly earnest, we labelled every variety sold at the market and kept them separate for planting. The market labels lasted just a couple of weeks; they disappeared when people starting asking what variety we would recommend for fish or aioli. With our forestry and natural history backgrounds, we are inclined to think in terms of populations rather than narrowly drawn varieties. Now we select about 100 pounds of the best garlics and plant them. Eliminating the organizational demands allows us to plant more and harvest faster.  The harvest took more than a week early on, and now two of us have everything dug, bundled and hanging in two days, with a help from Sylvia, Carol's sister.
There are two major types of garlic, hard neck and soft neck. The hard necks are the most flavorful but do not store for a long time. These are the bulbs we are bringing to the market now. The soft necks are less complex in their flavors but remain in good condition well into the springtime. We will sell these when the hard necks are all sold, typically starting in December. As you use our garlic, you will still see traces of the diverse collection brought to our farm by Sarah and Josh. On the other hand, the conditions and character of Ayers Creek Farm and its owners are shaping the population as well. If you consider the wonderful names of garlic varieties, they almost always indicate a region of origin. Over time, this population of garlic will be tightly linked to the soils and management conditions of Gaston, just as 'Creole Red', 'German White' or 'Georgian Crystal' are linked to their regions. Maybe it's time to call the hard neck 'Wapato Wed'.
We will see you all tomorrow,
Carol & Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter July 14 2012 Market

Sarah West

 Happy Bastille Day. A good way to recover from the day's celebrations is to amble over to the Hillsdale Farmers' Market starting around 10:00 am tomorrow and buy some restorative fruits and vegetables. We will be there enjoying the π cherries that are now at their best.

Here is what we will have:

π cherries, naturally. A mixture of Montmorency and the Hungarian morello types (Jubileum, Danube and Balaton). Montmorency has a light, almost clear juice, and the Morellos have a dark red juice.

Raspberries & Loganberries: Coming to the end of these delicate and aggravating fruits.

Boysenberries: Barring unfortunate meteorological events, we will have these for the next three Sundays.

Miscellaneous Ribes: Red currant, black currant and gooseberries.

Acetaria: A lovely mixture of lettuce types from Wild Garden Seeds. This is the prime lettuce season for those of us who do not use greenhouses.

Cooking GreensOlera – the cooking greens: Leaf chard and a mixture of orach and amaranth.

Aromatics: dill, fenugreek, edible chrysanthemum

Grains and Pulses: Frikeh, chickpeas, fresh favas

Preserves

A couple weeks ago in the Hillsdale Farmers' Market newsletter, assistant manager Sarah West noted that one of the most frequently requested foods at the information stall are organic strawberries. It interested us because we have often toyed with the idea of growing strawberries, and the lack of this crop illustrates some of the challenges farmers face when deciding what crops to grow.

As organic growers, our stall should put to rest the claim that certain crops can't be grown organically. That is a prevarication, not a fact. Dependency upon synthetic crop inputs is relatively recent, and there is no crop that we can think of can't be produced without them. In fact, strawberries have naturalized on our farm and we find the occasional plant with the most sublime fruit you could ever dream of.  The lack of organic strawberries has nothing to do with organic farming, instead it is largely due to the historical structure of agriculture in Oregon.  

In 1965, there were roughly 14,000 acres of strawberries harvested in the state. Most of the crop was sent to processors for making jam and pie filling. By 1990, the acreage had dropped by half, and in 1999 it halved again to about 3,500 acres. Currently, the harvested acreage is fluctuating between 1,700 to 2,000 acres. These data show the change that has happened in the industry. Most of the strawberry producers gained their experience in the processor market and, as it collapsed, shifted to fresh market as the processors left the state or started using imported fruit. Historically, many of those growers had roadside stands and, as the shift occurred, they used that experience to move into fresh market. Most of the strawberry acreage shifted over to a more lucrative form of farming, nursery production.

There was no tradition of organic strawberry production in Oregon, so it hardly surprising that as the industry shrunk all of the remaining strawberry growers used synthetic inputs. At this point, growing fresh market strawberries is an "old sector" and there is no economic incentive for a young farm to make the substantial investment to grow the crop. Berry prices across the board are too cheap for a farmer considering a new planting. Beets and lettuce are a better investment for people entering the business: small package of seed, lots sweat equity with a low risk of failure due to weather. With fruit, a few hours or days of ill-timed rain and the farmer has to contend with the disappointment of losing a substantial chunk of income, as well as upset customers. So the cohort  most likely to bring an expertise in organic farming, young farmers, have little reason to consider fruit because the older cohort, and that includes us at Ayers Creek, have made our investment and suppress fruit prices.

There is an addition twist that is integral to our character as organic growers, and the reason why we answer "no" whenever we consider strawberries. Over the past half century, strawberry varieties have been selected and reselected in breeding programs that use synthetic fertilizers, aggressive soil sterilization, fungicides and insecticides. At the present, there are no varieties that have gone through a selection process for robust performance on organic farms. So we would be starting with debilitated plants that are essentially chemically dependent. In fact, all of the commercially available strawberry plants are grown in chemically fumigated soils and that sets up additional restrictions under the rules of organic agriculture. That is an additional barrier that can change, but as long as the price of strawberries remains so low there is no economic incentive for a shift towards organic breeding programs.  

Those naturalized strawberries we encounter from time to time gave us an idea about seven years ago. We dug up several hundred and planted them in a managed field. Our goal was to find a population with good natural resistance to disease and replicate the interesting diversity of flavors we found in those volunteers. Similar to what Frank and Karen Morton do with their lettuces. The wildlings, as we called them, were really good and we discovered we were really bad at growing strawberries. The farm has to be a good match with the farmers' personality, and we grow other crops with greater pleasure and success.

We will see you all tomorrow, perhaps with La Marseillaise still ringing in your ears.

Allons enfantes de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!

The Boutards of Gaston & Ayers Creek Farm

Kookoolan Farms June 3 2012 Market Newsletter

Sarah West

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY

Hillsdale Farmer's Market, Sunday June 3, 10am to 2pm, Farmer Chrissie and Heidi McKay are back at the market with Kookoolan Farms fresh chickens, fresh rabbits, fresh duck, fresh eggs, frozen heirloom-brred, pasture-raised pork available BY THE CUT!  lots of kombucha tea, and a sampling of our cheesemaking supplies.  This may be the last market at which we have rabbits for some time, due to Paulee Restaurant in Dundee opening next weekend and snagging essentially all our rabbits for the rest of the season (they'll also have our ducks, vegetables, kombucha, Vin de Noix, and meads!).  Sunday at the market you can also sign up for cheesemaking classes, and reserve beef, pork, lamb, or your Thanksgiving turkey (only 30 left).  We accept cash, checks, and credit cards at the market!

Our Kombucha Tea is now available several places around town:  Available now at Kookoolan Farms farmstore in Yamhill; at Mainbrew Beer and Homebrew Supply in Hillsboro, Lovejoy Bakery, Pacific Pie Company, The Warehouse, Harvest Fresh Grocery in McMinnville, and Lovely's 50/50.  More retail locations soon!  At our farmstore or at the Hillsdale market, a 22-oz bottle is $4, or case of 12 for $44.  NEW 12-oz bottle coming soon!  Buy Kombucha online, we ship anywhere!

Kookoolan Farms 100% organically-raised vegetables are available for individual families to purchase exclusively through four buying clubs:  Join Know Thy Foods buying club to get all our farm products (except raw milk, and including our organically-raised vegetables!) delivered in southeast Portland!  Connect2Fresh (neighborhood pickups on the west side); Rose City Co-Op (Beaverton), and Late Bloomer Productions (northeast).  Each club has an option for specifying produce from Kookoolan Farms.  Each program is different; for details directly contact the club in your area.


Look for us Sunday at the Hillsdale Farmer's Market!

WHAT WE'RE BRINGING TO MARKET THIS WEEK

Again this year, the Hillsdale Farmer's Market is the ONLY farmer's market we do.  Hillsdale is a year-round market that runs every week in the warmest six months of the year, but Kookoolan Farms' market schedule will be EVERY OTHER SUNDAY, May 6 through Nov 18, 2012. 


We will sell out this week.  Read more about what makes our chickens so special!  This week we have to offer:
Kookoolan World Meadery KOMBUCHA, ice-cold, 22-oz bottle $4.  Case of 12 -- $43.20.  Save your empty bottles, we buy them back for $.50 each!
Famous farm-fresh EGGS, $6/dozen.  Sunset loves us!  Read our special offer!
Whole or cut-up RABBITS, about 3 to 4 pounds each, $10.99/lb.  Ridiculously micro-scale agriculture, the total number of rabbits we butchered this week was 18, this may be our last week having rabbits available to individuals for some time.  But look for them on the menu at the new Paulee Restaurant in Dundee!
Pasture-raised Red Wattles heritage breed PORK for sale by the cut!  Frozen.  
Whole or half CHICKENS, $4.59/lb.  This week's chickens are BIG, about 5-1/2 pounds average weight for a whole carcass.  Half chickens are actually our best value because the backbone is removed, and are a great option if you're a smaller household and want something smaller to cook.
Breasts, limited quantity this week, bone-in, skin-on, 2 per package, wing and backbone removed, $5.50/lb
Hindquarters, thigh and drumstick attached, bone-in, skin-on, backbone removed, two per package, $5/lb.
Wings, approx 5-pound bags, $4/lb.
Gizzards, cleaned, $5/lb in one-pound deli containers
Hearts, $3.50/lb in one-pound deli containers
Livers, $3.50/lb in one-pound deli containers
Rabbit hearts and livers, $3.50/lb in one-pound deli containers
We will have very limited availability of soup parts, first come first served, no reservations.  You can buy stock made from our poultry, also buy our eggs and chickens (same price as from us), at Salt Fire and Time in Northwest Portland.

YOU CAN ALSO RESERVE BEEF, PORK, LAMB, OR TURKEY.  Click to read more, or talk with us Sunday.  Fair warning:  our famous Kookoolan Farms free-ranged, pasture-fed, heritage-breed Bourbon Red turkeys for Thanksgiving 2012 are almost sold out -- less than 30 left!  YOU CAN ALSO SIGN UP FOR CHEESEMAKING CLASSES.  

PASTURE-RAISED, HERITAGE BREED "RED WATTLES" PORK
Congratulations to us!  We are very happy to report that on Monday May 14 we were granted a "meat re-seller's license" by the Oregon Department of Agriculture!  This means that in addition to offering our beef, pork and lamb as "custom processed" halves, we are now able to offer meats by the cut.  Our by-the-cut meats are processed at Mount Angel Meats, the only Animal Welfare Approved slaughterhouse on the West Coast!  This terrific operation is a USDA facility, with both carcasses and cuts USDA inspected.  This weekend we will bring 1/2 a Red Wattles pig, processed as individual cuts vacuum-packed and frozen.  Now you can try this wonderful pork without committing to such a large purchase.


Recommended additional reading:  “Righteous Porkchop” by Nicolette Hahn Niman.

See the Pork page of the Kookoolan Farms website.

Interested?  Try our pork!  You can now buy just a package of pork chops or shoulder steaks, or any of several other small cuts.  You really can taste and see the difference.  See you Sunday!


As always, we sincerely thank you for your patronage of our little farm.
Best wishes for your health and see you this weekend!


Chrissie and Koorosh Zaerpoor
Kookoolan Farms
Yamhill, Oregon
May 31, 2012

Pick A Pepper At Gales Meadow Farm

Sarah West

 

Gales Meadow Farm will have starts of sweet and hot peppers this Sunday at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market, including some varieties which are not found elsewhere in the Portland area.
 
Aci Sivri is an heirloom from Turkey, a mildly hot pepper which is also intensely sweet and flavorful. The fruit are shaped like cayenne peppers, only longer, brilliant red and a little wrinkled looking.
 
Black Hungarian is similar in shape to Jalapeno, a little larger, a little hotter, and shiny black in color for most of the season. By the middle of September, it starts to turn a deep brick red, and then it is sweet as well as hot. We make one of our hot sauces from Black Hungarian.
 
Purple Glow in the Dark is the hottest pepper we will be bringing to Hillsdale. It’s a beautiful plant. New foliage comes out neon green and darkens to deep purple. The peppers themselves, of which each plant produces a prodigious number, are fat half-inch purple cones.
 
Beaver Dam is spicy rather than hot. It’s shaped like an elongated bell, and good to eat from its early lime green stage. It ripens to a mix of yellow, orange and red. When it’s fried or roasted, most of the spice is gone, and a rich delicious flavor remains.
 
Bull Nose Bell was grown at Monticello by Thomas Jefferson. He probably did not do the work, but he surely appreciated this sweet bell, which is smaller and more flavorful than newer varieties. The stocky plant produces a dozen or more peppers. It will turn red, but we recommend eating this one green, as there are other peppers which ripen to red much earlier.
 
The earliest bright red sweet pepper is Jimmy Nardello, an Ark of Taste variety. “This variety of pepper was originally from Basilicata, a southern region of Italy.  It takes its name from seed saver Jimmy Nardello, who brought the seeds from Italy while immigrating to Connecticut in 1887.  . .  Jimmy Nardello’s pepper is sweet and light when eaten raw.  It is considered one of the very best frying peppers as its fruity raw flavor becomes perfectly creamy and soft when fried.” –  US Ark of Taste Slow Food USA (link)
 
Two years ago, about 2 % of our Jimmy Nardello pepper plants were noticeably sturdier. These surprised us by producing yellow sweet peppers, which have a lighter, less sweet version of the Jimmy Nardello taste. We saved the seeds, grew them out and of course, we call it Yellow Nardello. Growing this is a roll of the dice, as a small percentage last year reverted to the red color and a few even developed a bit of heat.We selected seeds only from the sweet yellow ones, so they should be more predictable this year.

 
Another yellow sweet pepper is Gatherer’s Gold, a variety developed by Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seeds in Philomath, Oregon. It is bigger than Yellow Nardello, and a bit later to ripen, but well worth the wait for its flavor and beauty.
 
A new one for us this year is Sweet Red Cherry.  The description in the Nichols catalog is not exactly detailed, but we are hoping for a tasty sweet red pepper small enough to pickle whole.

 
We are growing more than fifty varieties of pepper this year; these are the ones which are ready for our last Hillsdale Farmers Market of the season this Sunday. Of course, we will also have more than fifty varieties of tomato plants, and starts of a number of other tasty vegetables.