Friday, September 16, 2011

We've Moved!

Squeaky the Cat is not fond of being moved around–unless she is carried just so–but even she agreed that our farm really needed to start over again with a whole new website-and-blog as 46 North Farm.

Although I have felt pretty good about our site here at Blogger, I've just become more familiar with using Wordpress as a blog site from my work with North Coast Land Conservancy, and so 46 North Farm's new online home is over at Wordpress now. It's a work in progress, like the farm in general. We'll be tinkering with the site this winter, so stay tuned for more good stuff.

In the meantime, please follow this link to our new home: 46 North Farm!

Same great farm. Same crazy farmers. Same opinionated cats. New website for all our new stories. That's all.

Thanks for staying with us!


Teresa, Packy, Eddie & Squeaky

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bursting at the seams

I have to remind myself that the sun DID come out recently- and it was glorious. I just wish it would come back, I am so tired of everything being muddy and soggy and cold.... but you can tell that the seasons have shifted, and even though winter is putting up a fight, spring is definitely moving in. Whew.

I was just prodded by the delightful and oh-so-helpful Naomi of Naomi's Organic Farm Supply in Portland to post some updated greenhouse and plant photos, so Naomi- these are for you!

Lettuce is just the most beautiful plant- so many colors and textures and shapes and sizes. Who needs flowers? Just plant lettuce....

The tomatoes are hanging in there... slowly coming to terms with the cool weather, but not ready to move outside anytime soon.

We have a plant stand outside the Astoria Co-op full of fantastic greens and herbs that are eager to get planted, and will keep it stocked through the season with great edible plants for your coastal garden. If you miss us at one of our market appearances this year, you can always get plants at the Co-op.

Isn't this the most luscious sight? I love the blocks of color you get with lettuce. From left to right: Merlot, Buttercrunch and the amusingly named but also delicious Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed. Yum!

If you need a little Edible Gardening Inspiration, I'll be speaking at the Seaside Public Library this coming Saturday, April 30th at 1:00p.m. If you came to the Master Gardeners Spring Garden Seminar on the 16th, you've already seen this presentation, but if you missed it, join me as I go through the joys and challenges of Growing Edible Plants on the North Coast! It IS possible.

But it sure would be easier with a bit more sun.

Update on the Elk Fence soon!!

Eddie and Squeaky are beside themselves waiting for me to plant some of the catnip outside, and sneak into the greenhouse for their fix when they think I'm not looking...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Over a Thousand Reasons Why We Need an Elk Fence

It was a wonderful feeling to get to spend two whole days in the greenhouse starting seeds, transplanting seedlings and breathing in that unique spring smell of potting soil, liquid kelp and growing green things. I am constantly amazed at how I completely loose track of time when I do this work–one minute I'm heading down to the greenhouse with my last cup of coffee to get started, and the next minute I go to take a sip of my nice warm beverage and find that the coffee is stone cold and five hours have passed.

Whenever I have doubts about my sanity at choosing farming as a career, I remember that this is the only job I have ever done where I continually loose myself in the work, coming to with a smile on my face and wishing that the sun would stay up for just another hour or so, as the ten hours I've already spent in the greenhouse just aren't quite enough.

Thanks to our good friend and fellow farmer Fred Johnson of Fred's Homegrown Farm and Produce in Naselle, Washington we have inherited some great greenhouse tables that are making organizing the rapidly growing number of seedlings in the greenhouse slightly more manageable. Even though this is the biggest greenhouse we've ever had (30' by 50') I can still see it being full in another month or so, once the tomatoes come out from under the grow lights.

Which is why it is suddenly very urgent that we find a way to deal with some of our neighbors:

I know there are only 14 of them visible here, but trust me, there are at least 35 members of our local gang of Roosevelt elk that saunter through the farm every few weeks, enjoying what little remains of our cover crop. And if they weren't enough of a reason:

It looks like Fawn Fawn and The Fawns have all made it through the winter, and they are savoring the cover crop as well. I quite like the 'evil glowing eyes' effect in this image–it reminds me that no matter how cute the deer are, and how sweet it is that Fawn Fawn will come right up and nuzzle at your hand (looking for a snack), they are by their nature voracious creatures who will eat every damn thing we plant if we don't put a fence around it.

The fence update is as follows:

We finally got our application in to the NRCS (National Resource Conservation Service) to possibly receive some grant funding to help with several farm projects, including a 'pest control fence' and hopefully some pollinator habitat, and maybe some water catchment system help.

But here's the catch- there is limited funding, and if our application is approved, it goes into a pool of all the other NRCS project applications in Oregon, where they are all ranked by priority. They go down the list funding the projects until the money runs out. Which means that even if our project is approved and recommended, it could still not get funded.

Plus, it's a reimbursement grant. Even if we did get approved and funded for our Pest Control Fence, we have to buy all the materials and build the fence first (not starting any work before the contract is signed or else the work that's been done is not eligible for funding) and then once the NRCS verifies that we have built the fence to their specifications, they will reimburse us for whatever amount they pay per foot for fencing.

The primary reason we are applying for NRCS funding assistance is because we have limited economic resources, and coming up with the cash to buy the thousands of dollars worth of fencing material needed to build the fence in the first place is a huge challenge. This part of NRCS funding is a tough hurdle for small, start up operations that don't have a lot of cash available for property improvements. If we had the money to buy the materials for the fence in the first place, we wouldn't be looking for financial assistance from the NRCS!

We'll see what happens with our application, but in the meantime we're working on some ideas for how to at least fence off the area surrounding our greenhouse on our own. It's crucial that we have a way to harden plants off outside before bringing them to market (without having to sit out all night with a shotgun, guarding them) and maybe even get some crops in the ground this year, all so that 46 North Farm can finally start earning its keep.

So, we're planning a fence-raising day for sometime in late May, and given that it will take place of our farm, it will no doubt involve lots of good food and drink and setting something on fire as well. Creative financing ideas are in the works, and we are actually feeling optimistic about it all, which is pretty amazing given the challenges.

Stay tuned for how you (yes, you!) can take part in helping our small farm take a huge leap forwards this Spring...

I got distracted and didn't do a post about the Snow Day we had in February, which is a shame as we took some amazing photos of the farm all covered in white stuff. Packy and Squeaky and I enjoyed ourselves enormously, but Eddie preferred to keep his delicate paws indoors, waiting for the thaw...

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Simple Packet of Seeds is Not So Simple

I am working on getting all of our seeds ordered for this year so that we can get seeds sown and plants growing and ready for market. I feel a bit rusty–we didn't really order many seeds in 2010, and hardly sold anything at all. Cash flow was tight, and we were focusing on rebuilding the farm's infrastructure in and around working full time off the farm to keep the bills paid.

It isn't that the cash flow is much better this year, but we are determined to at least be back selling plant starts in May and June, and maybe more later in the summer, if we can work out some fencing issues. We've missed being at the local markets, our customers have missed us too, and we don't want to stay away much longer. We can't grow produce until we get our major fencing issues sorted out, but plant starts are probably manageable. And if our farm is going to sell anything this year, we need to buy seeds.

I find myself feeling ridiculously happy ordering seeds for varieties that I haven't seen growing for almost two years now. It's like knowing that some of my favourite old friends are coming for a visit, and I just can't wait to see them. I missed the colorful lettuce varieties I've come to love growing (and eating!) each year, all the fragrant herbs and oh–the flowers! I've really missed the waves of color and texture that filled our farm with beauty and happy buzzing bees each year. There were so many plants like poppies, calendula, chamomile, borage, feverfew and nasturtiums that just happily sowed themselves on our old farm without any help from us, and I got used to just knowing they would pop up each spring and start blooming like mad. We had a few volunteers last year that came with us on the soil when we dug up our perennial herbs to move them to the new farm, but it wasn't like it used to be. I do know that it will be like that again someday. Patience is one of the first lessons in farming.

Taking my time looking through all the seed catalogs is one of the joys of winter for me. Each company has its own personality and image, and all the websites work differently which can sometimes make ordering very time consuming, but still worth it.

I always feel a thrill when the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog arrives. Packy refers to it as Seed Porn, and he isn't far off. It is one of the most beautiful catalogs I've ever seen, but more than that, they have such an amazing selection of heirloom seeds. I have to be careful, as their Mid-western climate is way different from the North Oregon Coast and there is much on offer that will just die a horrible death here in our challenging growing season. All those exotic melons and eggplants, and the 100+ day winter squash that you know will never ripen here, plus all those amazing tomatoes..... I would love to grow some of those huge, beautiful, colorful heirloom tomatoes! But I know better, and try to stick to the smaller, shorter season ones that at least have a chance of ripening here.

Anther favourite catalog is Seed Savers Exchange. Gorgeous to look at, but also full of beautiful heirloom varieties that have amazing stories to tell about the history of plant cultivation. I love the stories almost as much as I love the actual plants, and Seed Savers Exchange is a wonderful organization, doing critical work to support the diversity of plant varieties available to both home gardeners and commercial growers.

A big topic of discussion among growers lately has been the acquisition of Seminis Inc., a leading vegetable and fruit seed company, by Monsanto, a company whose very name inspires strong feelings of loathing from much of the small organic farming community. Why are the champions of genetically engineered seeds getting into the organic seed market? There is a lot of speculation, and I don't suppose we'll really know how it will play out for a while. There is a great article on this subject on Seed Alliance's website that I recommend reading if you are interested in knowing more about this.

Why is this an issue for us? Well, I'm not eager to give my money to a company like Monsanto if I can avoid it. Many of the catalogs we love to order from like Johnny's Selected Seeds of Maine, and Territorial Seeds of Oregon buy a lot of their seed from Seminis, and now Seminis is owned by Monsanto, so it means that even if the seed I'm buying isn't one of their GMO gems, I'm effectively sending money to Monsanto anyway.

Cue the Darth Vader theme music....

I'm really struggling with this one. There are things I love to order from Johnny's and Territorial, some things I can only get from them, and they haven't sold out to Monsanto. I'm sure they aren't thrilled about the situation, but they are just as stuck with the situation as their customers, as there are no other companies out there that can supply the volume they need. But if I order from them, how do I know that the varieties I'm buying aren't Seminis Seeds, and thus by buying them I'm supporting The Evil Empire? Jeez. I just want to grow good healthy plants from organic seed wherever possible, and this is just not something I want to wrangle with! I haven't decided what to do yet, but I'm running out of time.

I've already been struggling with the guilt of buying one packet of Cottage Red marigold seeds every other year from Burpee, who I still can't forgive for moving Heronswood Nursery from its home near Seattle (before I ever got a chance to visit in person!) to Pennsylvania, transforming their eloquent, extensive, picture-less catalog into a glossy on-line deal that dumbed down the plant offerings and now focuses on hardy perennials that favor East Coast gardens. Grrr.

Cottage Red is one of my favourite marigolds–I love using it in our Edible and Ball Jar Bouquets. You can whack hard at it all summer and it keeps blooming like mad, and is one of the last flowers to give in to frost. Unfortunately, it was discovered in Mexico by Dan Hinkley, the founder of Heronswood, and apparently the seed got sold to Burpee along with the rest of the business because they are the only ones that carry it, other than The Cook's Garden, a charming little seed company that is now owned by- you guessed it- Burpee. This year, I swear, I am saving seeds from this plant.

Fortunately the equally beautiful Frances Hoffman's Choice, my other favourite marigold to grow (pictured above in one of our Edible Bouquets) was bred by the brilliant and committed-to-plant-diversity Alan Kapuler of Peace Seeds, and is widely available from seed companies I actually want to support. Whew.

The consolidation of seed company ownership is a huge topic, and one worthy of it's own post someday. It is worrisome for anyone who cares about biodiversity, and I am not happy about it. A long-term goal for our farm is to begin saving our own seeds wherever we can, and all this seed company consolidation just inspires me even more to do that. I already struggled with this 'who am I really buying seeds from' issue when Seeds of Change, one of the pioneers of organic seed, was sold to M&M-Mars Candy (!)

Even if I didn't hate their new plastic seed packets –which I profoundly do– I still just feel weird ordering from them now that they have sold out to an enormous corporate food company. When the new Seeds of Change switched to plastic seed packets, they made a big pitch for how much better they are, how they are re-sealable, and that they don't use that much plastic really. Hmmm. I find that small seeds get such a static charge from the plastic that they stick to the inside much worse than paper packets, and much more is wasted. Plus- plastic! What are they thinking?! How does that fit with their crunchy organic image? I still get their catalog, it is quite beautiful, and it seems like they do many good things as a company. But there is so much less variety in the seeds they offer now, and I just don't feel as compelled to buy seed from them anymore.

However, even in the midst of this 'who do I order from' frustration, I find that there are options. This year I am excited to be ordering from two small organic seed companies, both of them located in the Pacific Northwest, both of whom source their seeds from Northwest growers. Siskiyou Seeds in Williams, Oregon, and Uprising Seeds in Bellingham, Washington are both small, and their selection is not extensive, but they both have some great varieties for sale. The upside for us is that these are all varieties grown in our region, so the likelihood of them doing well here on the North Coast is good.

I found both catalogs at Naomi's Organic Farm Supply in Portland, and I thank her for turning me on to both these companies, because they are just the kind of businesses that our small farm wants to support. It feels good to keep our seed buying a bit more local where we can. As a small business ourselves, we know how much it means to us when people choose to spend their money buying from us, knowing that they can often get something similar somewhere else, and probably get it cheaper too. It's a challenge for a farmer- obviously you want to grow the varieties people want to buy, and you want to offer them the best choice for the best price you can give them and still stay in business and be reasonably profitable. Add in trying to do the right thing and buy seeds from companies that are not part of the corporate industrial food system and you find yourself walking though a rapidly changing minefield.

We'll do our best to offer the best selection we can this year, try to find out as much as possible about where our seed comes from, make the best choices we can, and pass that knowledge on to you so that you can make your own choices as well.

And as we always have, we'll continue to focus on growing plants that do well on the Northwest Coast. We'll use organic seed wherever it is available, and grow primarily heirloom and open-pollinated varieties, with the occasional hybrid thrown in where it is really just the only thing like it. Like Sungold tomatoes. I hear rumor that someone is trying to de-hybridize Sungold and breed a stable OP version of it. I am really looking forward to trying it.

And yes, Eddie, I promise we will grow lots of catnip this year.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Gathering of Farmers and Fishers

The most amazing full rainbow I've seen on our farm yet! See this post's end for the other half...

I am still buzzing from the great gathering of local farmers and fishermen at the Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe last Sunday night! When North Coast Food Web, the Astoria Co-op and BSB were first planning the event, I knew that it had potential to be a productive evening. It turned out better than I had even hoped. In spite of the torrential rain and flooding that sadly kept some of our South and Tillamook County folks from being there, attendance was huge and the mood was enthusiastic. I was especially encouraged to see so many new growers show up.

The plan was to bring together both new and experienced local food producers for an evening of socializing and information sharing. After enjoying the delicious soup supplied by the Blue Scorcher and the many tasty potluck offerings brought to the table, we got down to the program. Our main goals were to give everyone up-to-date information on selling at local farmer's markets (especially the new food only River People Farmer's Market coming to Astoria this summer), provide helpful information on local wholesale selling and to give the NCFW board a chance to listen to farmers and fishermen speak about both the barriers and opportunities they encounter here on the North Coast. This will help NCFW focus our future efforts to better support the emerging local food economy in our region.

The discussion was stimulating and informative, and I think the best part was all the socializing and connecting that went on before and after the official event. I wish we could have spent longer on some topics, but I know we will be having more meetings like this in the future, and hopefully we can dig deeper into those subjects then.

Local chefs checking out the Cannon Beach Farmer's Market

I'd love to see a Farmer-Chef Connection event like the one that happens in Portland take place here on the coast! I know they can be a lot of work to organize, but with the great chefs we have here in our region, and the growing number of local food producers, it could be an event to remember. (I'll just add that to my to-do list, shall I?)

I know this picture doesn't relate to anything I'm saying here, but I just love this old tree on our farm with the lichen covered branches, and couldn't help but stick a picture of it in in here somewhere...

One of the most thought provoking moments of the evening for me came from Garth Porteur who operates the fishing vessel Little John out of Astoria. His story of the crazy regulations that govern how he can–and mostly can't–sell his fresh hook and line caught fish make many of the barriers that small farmers moan about pale by comparison.

As I understood it, he is the only person who can sell his fish, and he can only sell his fish right off his boat at the dock, not from a truck in town, not at a farmer's market. He is only allowed to sell his fish directly to the customer- meaning that if I'm going down to pick up fish for myself, and you give me the money to pick one up for you too, I'd have to be licensed and bonded to do that, otherwise it's illegal.

If he has caught huge 25 pound salmon, you and I can't go down to his boat and buy the fish together and then go over to the filet table, split it, and each drive off with half a fish- that's illegal. If Garth is injured or ill, and a friend steps in to sell his fish from his boat for him before they go bad–that's illegal. There was more, and it all just made me furious. None of the regulations made sense unless you realized that they exist simply to prevent independent fishermen like Garth from prospering at their craft. That has got to change somehow. Unlike for small farmers, there is no 'Friends of Family Fishermen' organization, but there should be.

To me the evening was a great success, and I'm excited to think of it as being the first of many gatherings like this. I left feeling a renewed enthusiasm for farming on the North Coast, and looking forward to the upcoming growing season.

Astoria Sunday Market 2009... sigh.....

Packy and I are determined to have our farm back at some of the local markets this year! Since we're starting the season with an intact greenhouse, we'll definitely have plant starts available earlier this year, so all you local plant lovers that missed us last year, take heart! Our plan is to sell plants through the Astoria Co-op, and we will definitely do some of the Astoria Sunday Markets as well. I don't know about the other markets yet, but I promise we'll try.

One of my favourite flower combinations- color and more color!

For you flower fans out there who keep asking, I am really hoping to be able to bring some of our Ball Jar Bouquets and Edible Bouquets to market this year. It all depends on the weather, and whether or not we can get our elk fence built in time to make planting flowers worth while. We already have the best fed elk and deer in Clatsop County–they have been dining on our winter rye and vetch cover crop for months now. I refuse to feed them my flowers as well.

I want to finish and get this posted before I get distracted by the Real Job again, or my seed ordering obsession, or one of the many other things that absorbs time these days.

I do just want to put out a 'Save the Date! call to all of you, and let you know that I just agreed to be a speaker at this year's Clatsop County Master Gardeners 'Spring Into Gardening' event on Saturday April 17th, so put it on your calendars. The focus of this year's event is on the right plant for the right place, so my talk will focus on the edible plants that will do well here, on the North Oregon Coast. And I promise, it won't just be a passionate plea for greater kale appreciation! There are a lot of delicious plants we can grow here, and I'm going to inspire you all to dig up your lawns this year and plant some of them!

All the recent rain has been a challenge to everyone's mood here, but hang in there- you know that sometime soon that magic week in February is going to arrive. You know, the one where the sun comes out and it feels warm, and you can strip down to just a t-shirt if you're working outside, and maybe even get a wee bit of sun on your face. You get over excited, start digging in soil that is way too wet, and plant things outside that you really shouldn't put outside yet.

It's a glorious week, but remember, it's going to bring in a hail storm. So just be ready.

The other half of the rainbow....

As we stood in the greenhouse watching the amazing, vivid rainbow shift between single and double that day, I observed that this was obviously a blessing on our truck! However, about a week after the photo was taken I was driving this same truck along Highway 202 and hit a patch of black ice, skidding off the road into a ditch. All was ok, and a very nice neighbor rescued me and gave me a ride into town to find Packy, as cell phone reception is pretty spotty out where we live. Once the truck was towed out of the ditch and examined, neither the truck nor I had a scratch on us.

Come to think of it, maybe the rainbow blessing did work after all....

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reflections on a (belated) anniversary

Late Summer 2010

This was a rather distracting autumn for us, and recently we realized that an important milestone had passed by without much fanfare, no champagne and little celebration: September 24th was our first anniversary of Buying the Farm.

46 North Farm Autumn 2009

For those of you who have followed our farm story for the long haul, you will know what a phenomenal moment that was in our lives. I remember sitting in the title company office with Packy and Sally ( our fabulous and very patient real-estate agent), Dan (the mortgage broker), and the very cheerful title company representative whose name I can't remember. Packy was covered in flour, having rushed away from the bakery for the appointment, and I only had so long before I had to head back to my Real Job too. We sat there signing reams of paperwork, each page going by in a blur of rapid explanations which were all, I am sure, very relevant but quite frankly could have been "and please sign here to indicate that you agree to give five pints of blood for every day that you are late with a payment" and it would have seemed just another weird thing we had to go through in order to Buy the Damn Farm.

This past year has been a struggle with the irony of our situation. We have attained a holy grail moment that many young and beginning farmers can only dream of: we actually managed to buy land to farm.

Spring 2010

Summer 2010

Of course, the only way we could manage to do that was to stop farming completely so that no where in our income stream would it say "farmer", because if it did, the bank would not loan us the money. We got 'Real Jobs', with paychecks. We made assurances that the only reason we wanted 18 acres of agricultural zoned land with a house and barn and outbuildings was because we just wanted to continue living a 'rural lifestyle'. Yep. I confess, it's true. Our fingers were crossed behind our backs, and you know what? I don't feel bad about that at all.

This home-loan route was our last resort. We'd tried to get a small business loan and been shot down by every bank we talked to, including the greenest, most theoretically eco-friendly, we-love-local-organic-agriculture bank around, The Bank That Must Not Be Named in our house. (I confess to not a small amount of schadenfreude at their recent troubles.)

We'd talked to the USDA about their small farm loans that don't actually seem to apply to farms as small and apparently non-farm-like as ours.

46 North Farm chemical-free rodent control plan

Our business plan was based on the farm we were operating at the time, selling edible plant starts, herbs and flowers. We were adding in produce, chickens-for-eggs, and on-farm workshops, all things we had been wanting to start on our old farm but were unable to begin due to our rental situation. All this was mixed with some seasonal off-farm income to make it all work financially, especially during our re-start up phase. Although what we were proposing was a completely normal modern small farm, not at all unlike most that you see at any farmers market you go to anywhere in the country, apparently the business we were proposing is what the USDA calls a 'Residential/Lifestyle Farm', something for which they don't give loans. If it hadn't been for the off-farm income, I think we could have qualified as one of their equally flattering other small farm descriptions, the 'Limited Resource Farm' or the 'Farming Occupation: Low Sales' farm.

Dan the Brushtamer tilling the future orchard Late Summer 2010

If USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is serious about the goal he threw out this past July of having 100,000 new farmers in the US in the next few years, one of the first things he could do is have his department describe the kinds of farms these new farmers are most likely to be operating with a bit more respect. How can you take a farm and its farmer seriously enough to loan it money for operations and equipment if you so obviously don't respect the work they are doing, or consider them 'Real Farms'? The benefits that small farms bring to their local communities are tangible, especially in rural areas where access to fresh food that doesn't come from a massive factory farm hundreds or thousands of miles away is often limited.

Late Autumn 2010

Small farmers like us choose to operate small farms not because we are slacker loosers who can't get it together to run a Real Farm, but because we actually prefer operating small farms. We don't aspire to grow thousands of acres of commodity crops or operate a CAFO, we don't want to take out massive loans to buy harvesting (or chemical spraying) equipment that is larger than our house, we don't want to Get Big or Get Out.

We want to stay small and diverse, grow healthy food for our local communities, strengthen our local economies and live a simple, good life that involves a lot of hard work and rewards that are things like "getting to work outdoors" "helping provide fresh healthy food to people who need and want it" and "doing something I love and believe in". Less corporate, more community.

Already feeding our local community Early Summer 2010

Sure, we want to make a living at what we are doing by running a good business. We'd like to be able to pay ourselves more than slave wages, even minimum-wage would be nice to begin with. We'd like to have health insurance, access to low-interest loans and credit to help us operate effectively, and maybe we'd like to be able to afford to hire some local help, especially during harvest season. We'd love to have a retirement plan that wasn't just "keep working until you keel over, and hope that you're strategically located near the compost pile when you do to save on funeral costs".

These aren't extravagant aspirations. It's not like we're demanding that we should get massive government financial payments to ensure that the price we receive for our chemical-free locally grown produce always remains consistent. The free market seems to apply to some farms more than others in this country.

Lurking Elk Summer 2010

Our farm's best hope for USDA assistance that will help us produce food for our community is our EQUIP grant application with the National Resource Conservation Service. The grant will hopefully provide some funding assistance to allow us to build a much needed elk exclosure fence, and plant lots of native plants on our farm for pollinator habitat. It isn't free money- it comes with a lot of restrictions, and it also counts as income for our farm that we will then be taxed on, which for a small operation like ours can be a big deal. Still, any help that will get us back in operation is welcome at this point.

One thing that really struck me at the Community Food Security Cooalition conference I attended recently is that there was so much talk about the need to get more farmers on the land. Everyone wanted more locally grown fresh food for their farm-to-school and farm-to-institution programs, for their healthy community programs, for their food justice programs, for their healthy food system programs. "We've got to get more beginning farmers on the land!" was practically a battle cry. I think we can all agree on that. Hell, even the Secretary of Agriculture agrees.

But no one seems to really be able to tackle the sticky question of HOW. How do you do actually do that? How does it work financially? There is a lot of farmable land out there in America, most of it owned by people who are near or at retirement age. How does a beginning farmer with limited financial resources but who is willing to take on the incredibly hard job of growing food for people who either can't or won't grow food for themselves get access to one of those farmable pieces of land ? Access to land that they can either own or lease, or lease-to-own and that they can then afford to actually farm?!?

Fall 2009

This question drives me crazy. I swear, as much as I want to get our farm off the ground again, I want to also work to find answers to those questions because I want our farm to exist within a greater community of diverse small farms operating all across our country. No farm is an island entire of itself, if I may paraphrase the long dead but still rather wise John Donne. (Although some small farms are located on islands.) What hurts or benefits one small farm can hurt or benefit us all. We need to stick together.

Drilling the greenhouse post holes Early Spring 2010

I celebrate our first anniversary of living on 46 North Farm– a year spent slowly, sloooooowly rebuilding our infrastructure to get started again, accomplishments that have only happened with a lot of support and help from friends and family. We got our greenhouse re-built, and lots of cover crop was sown. Some of it may even still be there in the spring to till under if the elk and deer are reasonably thoughtful. We have plans for next year that are starting to get me excited about farming again, in spite of the ongoing need for full time employment to make our loan payments.

I know how lucky we are to be in this position, living on a beautiful piece of land that we can actually make long term plans for. We have the rest of our lives to make this farm work, and as long as we are moving forwards, then we're heading in the right direction.

Tim and his crew re-roof the barn Winter 2009

We offer heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped us get as far as we have. You all know who you are. We couldn't have gotten as far as we have without you- you are the best community of family and friends a farmer could hope for.

Happy Anniversary, 46 North Farm.

December 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Food Talk!

In the spirit of my recent promise for 'more frequent posts with more pictures' I submit the following news. Bear in mind that the 'more pictures' part is only possible by using the not-extensive-enough 46 North Farm image archives, so these pictures don't necessarily go with what's being said, but there are lots of them! Enjoy!

This coming Monday, December 6th at 9:30 am is the premier of the new program Food Talk on KMUN Astoria 91.9 FM. It's all about the local food world on the North Coast, with myself and Kristin Albrecht as your charming hosts. The program will be once a month, on the first Monday of the month. If you're not in the area you can stream KMUN online, and if you miss the show you can listen to a podcast on their website, we are told.

(Your Food Talk hosts shown enjoying locally made box lunches from Bread and Ocean in Manzanita on the North Coast Land Conservancy-Lower Nehalem Community Trust 'Riding the Coastal Edge' train ride last year)

This week we're talking to John and Patricia Edwards of Linda Brand Crab from Ilwaco, WA, and Bob Neroni of EVOO Cooking School in Cannon Beach, all about Dungeness Crab and the upcoming commercial crab season.

(I don't have any pictures of crab, so enjoy a picture of Squeaky the Cat looking Crabby.)

I'll tell you now, the show has been pre-recorded, and probably will be for some time. It was basically madness for Kristin and me to commit to anything new in our schedules with the kind of work-volunteer-home life (hah!) combination overload we both suffer from. We made it through our first recording with not too many mishaps, thanks to our great guests and patient engineer.

This month, I learn a lot about commercial crab fishing from John and Patricia, only make one major gaffe (I think) and Bob shares some very tempting ideas for how to prepare crab. Kristin stays cool, shares a unique use for sake, and we remember to do our station identification break. Yeah!

Please be kind when you listen, it's our very first show and there are a few awkward pauses of the "I thought you were going to ask a question now!" sort. We'll get better, I promise.

This was such a great opportunity, and it is going to be both fun and fascinating to connect with people in the North Coast local food world. We'll be talking with producers- farmers, fishermen, dairy folks, foragers, and hunters, and also to consumers- chefs, bakers, cheesemakers, brewers, small artisan food producers and just generally people who love good food that comes from our region. As our snappy catchphrase says, "Fresh conversations about local food on the North Coast!"

(Above are several of the folks that we will no doubt be talking to in the coming months, shown enjoying the Slow Food potluck that 46 North Farm hosted in our almost finished greenhouse this past May. Oh, and I realize that fourth from the left is Bob Neroni of EVOO Cooking School, so I did have a picture of one of our guests after all!)

Kristin's patient husband Mark (seventh from the left in the black vest) is bravely taking on engineering responsibilities, although we are both committed to learn how to run the sound board ourselves. We are only driving him slightly crazy as we figure out this radio thing.

One of my very favourite parts of our show is our fabulous theme song. When the idea of doing the show came up, we talked about what music we would play as the intro and exit for the show. Most shows choose a song or piece of music that they like, that represents their show to them.

Well, when a farm has had semi- resident musicians around for many months (and very talented ones at that) and when you're sitting at the Fort George with some of them one night, drinking lots of good beer and laughing about the crazy idea of doing a radio show about local food, there is a good chance that you might leave the pub with a promise of a theme song jingle for your show in your back pocket to go with your lovely Oatmeal Pale Ale buzz.

(In addition to being musically talented, the band is now highly skilled at old-school-bus-turned-tour-bus techniques such as trying to get the spare wheel hoisted into place.)

Kati and Luke came through for us with the best theme song we could have asked for. They tell me that the title was Packy's suggestion, and given that we were drinking a lot of beer, and Packy was involved, I'm somehow not surprised. Someday I think they should write words for the whole song, right now it is just a loop of the hook-y bit. It's called 'Stick it in Your Face'.

"Stick it in your face, 'cause it comes from the place you're living in."

I almost passed out from laughing so hard the first time I heard it, and it has a tendency to get stuck in my head whenever I think about it. I love that it makes me smile each time I hear it.

Home Made Ice Cream Tangent Begins here:

Luke and Kati are big local food fans themselves. They are talented cooks (Kati makes a mean pizza, with impressive ariel dough spinning), mushroom foragers and all around good people to have near a kitchen. We shared some fine food experiences over the past summer, such as the evening of homemade ice-cream and pie. Although it looks like they are practicing their best Huck Finn method of getting Israel to do all the work, I assure you they both took their turns at the crank.

As did my niece Julia, visiting from San Francisco. Go Julia!

The finished product was well worth the wait, accompanying some amazing homemade pie baked by my brother-in-law Andy, involving peaches and berries from the Cannon Beach Farmers Market. It was phenomenal. We use a great ice cream recipe that doesn't involve raw eggs, just lots and LOTS of cream and sugar. Yum.

End Homemade Ice Cream Tangent. Until next summer.....

Hope you like Food Talk, if you get to hear it. I think next month we'll be talking about the idea of growing wild rice on the coast, which should be interesting. I always like the idea of using wild rice, but I very rarely do. Maybe if it was a locally grown crop, I'd take more of a look at it.

We'll find out.

Sadly, this picture was taken back in early October, when we still had a beautiful batch of basil thriving in the greenhouse. It's all well dead by now, except for what went into our basil vinegar, and what we froze. I just wanted to remember what all that fresh basil looked like.