Friday, March 27, 2009

What We Are Growing, and Where You Can Buy It

It seems an obvious thing to have a comprehensive list of all the varieties of vegetables that we are growing in a season, and to make that list available to you, our loyal customers and friends. Each year I've meant to do it, and each year I realize that it's August, and the list is still lying in pieces around me.

But not this year!

Follow this link to the snappy new Plant List Page on the recently updated Ostman Farm Website. There you will find listed everything that will be coming to market at some point this season, including our ever popular Tomato List.  (I tried to control myself this year when ordering seeds, but failed miserably, so we are growing 29 varieties of tomatoes this year (!!), up from about 13 last year.)

As always, we will only bring things to market when it is reasonably safe to plant them outside, so don't look for basil or squash in early May.  If there is something on the list that you really need to have, get in touch with us and we will work out a way to make that happen.  If you have a greenhouse and want to get a jump start on things, we will find a way to get plants to you early.

We are excited to have two events coming up  in April where you early birds can get a jump on market season and buy your plants way before the Astoria Sunday Market even opens.

The first is:

 Spring Into Gardening!  on Saturday April 18th from 8:00 am -4:30 pm. 

The annual Garden Love-Fest put on by Clatsop County Master Gardeners is always a fun event, and a great way to get inspired about the coming growing season here on the coast. The theme this year is 'Home Grown Made Simple', which is a concept close to our hearts here at Ostman Farm.  The MG Website gives a bare bones description of the event, which is somewhat useful, if not very inspiring. (We really need a garden enthusiast with good technical chops to join Master Gardeners!  Anyone out there?) There is a much better description in this week's Daily Astorian 'Coast Weekend' edition here.   I'm not sure how long they leave their links up, so if the link no longer works, e mail me and I'll try to get the information to you.  There is a great line up of speakers this year, I am really looking forward to hearing them.

The first speaker starts at 9:00, but the doors open at 8:00 am so you can come early and get first crack at the MG plant sale, and of course Ostman Farm's great selection of fabulous plants. We are bringing a lot of edibles this year, so make room in your veggie garden, or make a bigger garden! (Who needs a lawn, anyway?)  There are going to be a lot of great vendors this year, and as always the vendor marketplace is open FREE to the public all day long.  

Admission for the speaker series is well worth it.   Register by April 16th, and it's $15 for the whole day, $12 for seniors and Master Gardeners. Admission at the door is $18.  Students are Free!  We are very excited about some of the speakers this year, and Packy and I are already negotiating about who gets to hear which speaker, and who has to stay and mind the booth.

9:00 am The keynote speaker is Vern Nelson, taking you 'Beyond Peas and Carrots'.  Vern is the owner of A New Leaf Edible Landscape Design, and he has, among many other  cool accomplishments, written  a guide for kitchen gardens in the northwest.

Then at 10:50 you have to choose between:

'Fruit Tree Care and Pruning' with Luke Colvin, an ISA certified arborist.  I haven't heard Luke speak yet, but anyone that can help demystify fruit tree pruning is well worth listening to.
'Children (and other people) In the Garden' with Sunny Hunt, our own OSU extension service Master Gardener Instructor, and coordinator of the local community garden project.

At 1 pm, the choice is between:

'Home Entertainment- Wild Birds in the Garden' with Mike Patterson.  Mike is a famous local naturalist, and a GREAT speaker.  This guy knows his birds, and you will learn a lot about how to make your garden into wonderful bird habitat.
'Organic Food Production' with Liza Ehle, who operates By-the-Sea Gardens on the South Oregon Coast.  You can never know too much about growing organically!

I think the final sessions start at 2:00 pm, and then you have to choose between:

'Tips for Gardeners' with Chip Bubl, who is the Agricultural and Community Horticulture Faculty and Staff Chair for OSU Extension Service in Columbia County.  Chip comes and teaches some of the regular MG classes in Astoria each year, and I can tell you from experience, he is a fantastic speaker with great stories to tell.  You will learn a lot, and be entertained while you learn it.
'Growing Cut Flowers' with Linda Beutler.  I own a copy of Linda's wonderful book, Garden to Vase- Growing and Using Your Own Cut Flowers, and I LOVE it.  Love it. I cannot recommend it highly enough for anyone who likes to grow flowers to cut and arrange.  I love it so much I may go all fan-girl on the day and bring it along to have her sign it for me.  I've learned a lot from this book, and am so looking forward to hearing her speak, and I curse the person who scheduled her to speak at the same time as Chip.

The second opportunity to buy your veggie starts early from us will be at the 
Cannon Beach Earth Day Celebration on April 25th, 2009

I don't know a whole lot about the event yet, and will post more information when I do.  But I do know that we will be setting up our booth and selling edible plant starts- and absolutely no cut flowers! :) from probably 12:00 pm-2:00 pm (it might be 10-2, I'm not quite sure yet.)  We will be set up in the US Bank parking lot, next to the Cannon Beach Farmers Market booth.  Part of the proceeds from our sales will go to benefit the new Cannon Beach Community Garden program, so come buy a lot for your spring garden and know that you will be benefitting the community as well.

So there you  have it.  Two great ways to get a jump on the season and get some great plants from Ostman Farm.  

Market Season starts in May, with the Astoria Sunday Market starting on Mother's Day.  Then look for the Cannon Beach Farmers Market and the Manzanita Farmers Market to start up mid-June.  

It's going to be a great year for locally grown produce, whether it comes from your own garden or your favorite local farmer.  See you all soon!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Our Photo Shoot is Hijacked by Junkies

We've been working hard to update our website with new plant lists (more on that soon!) and new photos, and had finally gotten around to shooting the catnip stuff this afternoon.

We're all excited about 'Eddie's Homegrown', our new bags of Straight Up Catnip, which we have been trying to get organized for a while now and will finally have at our 2009 markets.

Some of us were more excited than others.

And then they tried to get us to order them a pizza.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Grow Your Own

WWII Victory Garden poster, 1945

Last year we noticed a surge of interest in home grown vegetables among our customers.  We were intrigued by the number of people that came by our market booth looking for vegetable plant starts- both seasoned gardeners wanting to add to their home started seedlings, or first-time gardeners wanting to try growing some of their own food for a change.  All ages, backgrounds, economic levels and hairstyles- everyone wanted home grown veggies on their table.

It seemed to be a combination of tightening economic times and the wave of food scares that happened last year- remember the tainted spinach, the salmonella tomatoes?  Every time one of those industrial food system bombs went off, more people showed up on our doorstep, looking to bypass the system altogether and get their food straight from their own gardens.

Some people had read Michael Pollen's recent books, The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, or the wonderful and inspiring Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver, and were determined to change how they ate, and where their food came from. (If you haven't read these books, I highly recommend them all.)

Whatever their reason for wanting to grow edible stuff,  it was great fun for us to help so many people through their first food-growing experiences, and to talk to such a number of enthusiastic gardeners about the joys and challenges of growing food wherever they were from, but especially here on the coast.  ( I think we need to start a 'Coastal Tomato and Basil Growers Support Group.  Or maybe it should be grief counseling!) 

WWI Department of Agriculture poster

This year the swell of interest in home-grown produce is becoming an enormous wave.  From people advocating for a Farmer in the White House to seed companies running out of their most popular varieties due to overwhelming demand from customers, this year the Victory Garden is really back in style.  I've read where some media people are trying to dub this new wave of home vegetable growing 'Recession Gardens', but I find that a rather gloomy name for something so positive.  It also implies that the only time anyone would want to grow their own food is during hard economic times.  I'm sure that's true for some, but I hope many in this new generation of gardeners learning to rotate their crops and thin their carrots will stick with it long after the global economy has rebounded.  I'm pretty confident that once a person experiences what vegetables should taste like, and the has the satisfaction of eating food they've grown themselves, it will be hard to go back to tasteless supermarket veggies and fruits.

I still like the name Victory Gardens- not just because I love the great poster art that was produced in support of the concept during both WWI and WWII, but because of what the gardens did for individuals and communities.  They truly  helped people achieve victory over deprivation and hardship.  The statistic most often quoted says that during WWII, forty percent of the food supply in the United States came from home gardens.  Forty Percent!  If we today cannot accomplish even a fraction of what our parents and grandparents (and great-grandparents, for some) did during the last Great Depression and World Wars, then we really should hang our heads in shame.  There is also no reason why we can't have a damn good time while we're at it too- share seeds and plants with friends and neighbors, swap recipes, trade produce, get your kids involved, try making jam, sing while you weed, whatever it takes. Growing food can be fun.

WWII Department of Agriculture poster

If you can't grow your own, make your way to your nearest farmer's market- there are thousands of them now all across the country, and those that are seasonal will be starting up soon.  We here on the North Coast are blessed with three- the wonderful and fun Manzanita Farmer's Market, the huge and yet still enjoyable Astoria Sunday Market, and the new kid on the block, back for their second year of fantastic edibles, the Cannon Beach Farmer's Market.  There are great farmers and local food producers at all of them, and I encourage everyone to try and shop truly locally this season, and make sure at least some of the food you eat is produced here on the North Coast.  (Or near your own community, wherever that may be.)

On a final note, I am so happy to see that poster art of the sort that came from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the first Great Depression is alive and well. Recently,  ReadyMade Magazine asked five artists to reimagine the populist poster art of that era; you can read the article here.  The one created by Christopher Silas Neal deserves to be displayed in every kitchen, garden mud room, farmer's market and supermarket across the country, not just because it is a great image, but because of the sentiment behind it:

 " Solving the world's energy and food problems would do a great deal to strengthen the global economy, prevent disease, and reverse the effects of climate change.  The original Victory Garden program was designed to ease pressure on the public agriculture supply and support the war effort by encouraging families to grow their own food.  I wanted to expand this idea to the more broader concept of buying and eating local food."

You can download a free copy of the poster here.  Check out the others in the series here, they are all great.  We know our bicycle-mad friends over at the Blue Scorcher Bakery will especially like the bike one.