Late Spring Start-Up

FusionFarm is back! I have been a very busy beaver since the end of January with all the biz of growing, growing, growing, so the marketing and self-promotion part always lag far behind.

BUT…here I am again.

I have done a couple of Tuesdays at the Ashland Grower’s Market, and it has been pretty good, just chatting up the folks, getting the name and the face out there and all the connects connected again. Making a little cash while I’m at it…

The plan for this season (in this moment) is to just do the Ashland retail market–perhaps an occasional Medford showing, but I’m trying to shift my focus a bit more to a direct wholesale vibe with local restaurants and stores. I’ve been talking with a few Ashland restaurant owners, and there is interest in the edible flowers, for sure. So, that’s all rolling over at the Phoenix site. I’ve got 30 varieties of daylilies in the ground as of last week.

Looks like I’ve landed in a permanent location at market, which helps tremendously. I’m no longer he grower’s market nomad–so, I’ve got the plush spot up the hill, between Sunstone Bakery (awesome bread, scones, pretzels…) and Rogue Valley Brambles (eggs, awesome olive oil, meat shares…).

For those of you who don’t know, I have a beautiful new half acre growing site at Eagle Mill Farm (aka: Geppetto’s Farm) in Ashland. All the following photos were taken in the Rogue Valley Farm to School (RVF2S) greenhouse, which has been FULL of my gorgeous greens for about a month. Snow peas are starting to deal…

Sooooo… I will look for you at the Ashland Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market (RVGCM), corner of Wightman and East Main on Tuesdays, from 8:30-1:30. Check us out.

You can always call or email with special orders.

shantrin@gmail.com, 541.973.5449

Here is a progression of before and after photos, just to give you an idea of what I’ve been up to…

Empty canvas

Building beds, seedlings going

Babies

Baby Gai Choi

All beds in

Thriving

Beka Santoh Cabbage, Mibuna, Misome, and Red Streak Mustard

Buttercrunch and Red Romaine Lettuce

Climbing Snow Peas

Red Streak Mustard and Misome

Mizuna

Purple Pak Choi

Mibuna Love

 

 

 

 

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Late summer heat!

This is a nice example of the kinds of edible flower mandalas I display in my booth. The edible flower mix has been varied and gorgeous throughout the spring and summer. My sunflowers are ending, but the borage and peas are coming back, so things will shift again for fall. I have big plans for next season’s flowers, a vastly expanded variety, and larger quantities as I attempt to sell them to the restaurants next season.

Thanks to a week or two of nice warm days, the tomatoes are finally going off. My personal favorites are the Black Plums.

Here’s a shot of FusionFarm Talent–it’s a jungle out there in tomatolandia. Not sure why I get the same amnesia every year about how tomato plants grow and how big tomato plants grow, but…notes to self: space them further apart, and climb them on fencing!!! I’ve got a chocolate cherry plant that is so dense I really can’t get inside without breaking branches…

Last Tuesday was the first day I had hot peppers in my booth–I had Serranos and Bulgarian Carrots, and I sold out of them.

The jalapenos are going crazy right now! I wish I could remember how to find the tilde (the squiggly line that goes over the n’s in Spanish that you want to sound like “nyuh”) on a PC. That’s the kind of stuff that creates a great disturbance in The Force and drives me insane… I’m weird like that. Well, not ONLY like that, but it’s ok. Insane is in the eye of the beholder.

The the greens are just starting to happen beautifully again. They have struggled, even under 60% shade cloth, but our cooler nights are helping them get back to doing their thing.

The Rogue Valley Local Foods online sales have been up and down, but are currently up again! If you haven’t looked at what they’re up to yet, here’s the link again–it’s our year-round online grower’s market, something to consider for fall and winter.

http://www.localfoodmarketplace.com/roguevalley/

Here are more photos from FusionFarm’s RVGCM booth, including one at the end of the day–not much left!

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Late Summer Magic

It’s feeling like Fall in the mornings now. Still hoping for the great extend-o summer of 2011 that everyone (like me) who has giant tomato plants LOADED with green tomatoes is counting on. Not that you can count on much with growing–flexibility is my new mantra. Man, talk about letting go of attachment, nothing I’ve ever experienced is better practice for letting go and “letting God” (whatever that means to you, we all have our interpretations, right?) than market gardening.

Just got an email from an old friend who has been doing a bunch of volunteering and working on farms and at markets both here in the states and in Mexico. It is inspiring to learn how paths ultimately converge, and how more and more people I know have been into or are now getting on board with organic farming, local foods, food security, seed saving… To me, THAT is the way and the light for all of us.

One of the other very nice farmers at market clipped an article out of the SF Chronicle last week and his very nice partner passed it my way.  I think I’m going to laminate it and hang it up in my booth. It’s a really well-written, comprehensive piece on Edible Flowers, encouraging folks to grow their own.

I am happy that edible flowers are experiencing renewed interest lately–this is the second article in as many months about them in regional papers. I was speaking with one of my market neighbors about this most recent article, expressing some concern that more and more folks will just decide to grow their own flowers to eat. Of course, I totally support people engaging fully in producing their own food, but as this is my business, I do sort of count on people to buy their edible flowers at $4 a box, from me!

However, she reminded me that many humans are basically lazy, and would prefer to have someone else do “it” for them whenever possible, whatever “it” may be. Phew, thanks for the reminder!

Here’s what’s headed for market on Tuesday in Ashland:

Green beans–They’re still dealin’! The trick is to figure out which ones are too big and dried out (but great for seed), and which ones are still crunchy and sweet for selling.

Cukes–Now I’ve got regular Marketmores, and the incredibly crunchy, light green, totally epic Armenians. You don’t even have to peel them! The kids pull them straight off the plants and grind them down as they cruise the garden. I love grazing children.

Thai basil–fragrant and delicious, I’ve got more in the ground, again, hoping for some continued heat!

TOMATILLOS!!! I think lots of people have no idea what to do with them, but think salsa verde. Not only for fresh salsa, but also for dishes like pork verde or pozole verde with chicken. You can make the sauce now and freeze it or can it, and you’ll have it all year. I think they’re delicious fresh, as well. Tomatillos are expensive in the winter, and I’ve never found organic tomatillos around here at that time of the year. I think that will be my recipe for the week.

Black Plums–These tomatoes are juicy and sweet, not the least bit mealy or pasty, like the San Marzano Romas can be. At this point I’ll probably have one pint basket for the first lucky winner, with more to come.

Greens mix–I usually have a few half or quarter pound bags on hand.

Pak choi bunches–Perfect for a small stir-fry.

Edible Flowers–This week’s mix includes Sunflower, Nasturtium (flowers and leaves) Calendula, Garland Chrysanthemum, Johnny Jump Up Violet, Pansy, Dianthus (Pinks), Impatiens, and maybe some Borage.

This is an interesting time–staying focused on the summer crops, and now feeling called to get the Fall stuff going, all the greens starts and snow peas and…

Such a cool cycle, and it never ends.

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FusionFarm with Rogue Valley Local Foods

Good morning!

If you don’t get it already, check out the Rogue Valley Local Foods newsletter, where FusionFarm is featured this month.

http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/677182/c72ca6ada9/505953459/d457e40f0f/

Rogue Valley Local Foods is a year-round farmers’ market. Farmers post their seasonally available produce, meats, dairy, eggs and specialty products (like edible flowers!) each week and you can shop online Friday through Tuesday. We deliver the products to centrally-located pick-up sites on Thursday, or home delivery is available.

So far, I’ve got the edible flowers for sale on their online market, with more to come.

Down on the farm(s)…

Green beans are going off right now, and they are incredibly crunchy and sweet. They are an Alicante variety, which I’d never tried before, and they are divine. Show up early on Tuesday to get some, or email me and I’ll get you whatever I’ve got on hand.

shantrin@gmail.com

Cukes are coming on like crazy, I’ll have Marketmores next week, and Armenians are on the way.

I’ve added some Dianthus (pinks) and Pansies to the flower mix, as well as Sunflower–the Day Lilies are just about done (boo hoo!), so things are shifting there.

The Thai basil mix (Standard Thai Basil and Thai Red) is lovely, aromatic and yummy. The Thai Red tastes a little spicy, with a hint of licorice and flowers–very complex, awesome flavor.

We have loads and loads of green tomatoes, so… a couple more weeks on those babies.  

Get ready to make and freeze your salsa verde, because there are PILES of tomatillos on the way too.

Chiles are coming –there’s a Bulgarian Carrot variety that is new to me this year, apparently they are medium heat and they are looking lovely, just waiting for them to turn orange!

I just planted several flats of gai choi, and purple and yellow pak choi for the greens mix. Red Romaine and baby choi goes in today.

Greens in the summer are supremely labor-intensive–flats need to be seeded continuously, so planting is pretty much constant too. The Asian stuff blows out fast in the heat, so it’s been a really intense education trying to stay on top of the greens. They are so worth it, though, that mix is absolutely gorgeous, delicious, nutritious (the word “mighty” has been used to describe them), and I’m getting excellent feedback from customers.

I can’t believe that a month has passed since my last post… Asi es.

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Blog neglect

Hey, here’s the latest on what I’m up to. Gonna try to be more on top of this blogging concept, because I want to document the season well. Additionally, my blog photos have looked like it’s mid-spring  since… mid-spring, and there is so much new stuff happening and getting ready to go off right now!

I have narrowed my market scope to Tuesdays in Ashland, and Thursdays in Medford, at the armories. At some point I’d like to be in a postition to do Saturdays in Medford at the new Black Oak Village market as well, but all in good time. I learned by going to them that some of the other markets around the valley I’d listed a while ago seem to lend themselves better to crafters and food vendors than to growers.

It’s funny reading my early blog posts about how I thought I’d be doing soooo many markets! FusionFarm, EVERYWHERE, eight days a week!!! Crazy, and hilarious now, there is just no way. I’m settling in to the idea of twice and week, which literally is all I can humanly do, and that feels right for now.

The whole point in devoting large chunks of each day to market gardening was to continue to shift my livelihood in a way that supports my main job, which is MOM. Aside from the fact that I don’t have enough produce to sell more than 2 days a week, if I tried to do more right now, I’d pretty much never see my kids. The realities of how long everything takes (seeding, transplanting, planting, fertilizing, watering, harvesting, cultivating, selling, etc…) are, well, pretty real. I am having a great time, working my ass off, and I am seriously tired, salty, and sore at the end of each day. Feels great. I love it when the kids come down and hang at market. They are really good about helping me harvest when I need it as well–they’re becoming good little calendula pickers, cooler carriers, waterers, garden companions…

Huge props as well to my main partner in crime/super workhorse/cheerleader/all-around incredible human being…Marcus. Talk about a hard worker. You tore up your whole front yard for us to grow, and are becoming a master gardener before my eyes. I can never thank you enough, love.

 

As I’m sure you’re all aware, it is July and extremely sunny right now. My greens look up from their beds at me and say… Seriously? I’ve got them shaded and well-watered, but this is not their favorite scene to grow in. Some of my Asian greens just refuse to hang on, and I understand. It’s hot out.

My borage is pretty much done, snow peas are over. They are positively, divinely beautiful flowers, and I miss them in my mix. However, the beauties that are happening intensely right now are the nasturtiums and the day lillies, which are glorious–bright oranges, yellows and reds. They contrast gorgeously with the purple and blue of the violets and greens of the nasturtium leaves and stems.

Adios, lovely peas

Nasturtiums

Biz ebbs and flows for sure, I have a couple of regulars who come specifically for the greens mix, and all kinds of people are starting to stop and chat. Lately, the conversation usually starts with how daaaaarling the baby artichokes are. I have a plant that volunteered in my garden about 10 years ago, that is now over 7 feet tall and LOADED with these crazy little walnut to raquetball-sized artichokes.  I wasn’t sure what to do with them, because I could not for the life of me find pictures of this particular variety anywhere online. So, I just decided to cook some up and see if they worked. I always give my customers the disclaimer that they’ve gotta want it if they’re going to buy the baby artis. The reason is that you have to remove the top, bottom, and most of the leaves before you get to the goods, and you need at least 10 of the babies to get a pound of them. Labor intensive doesn’t begin to describe it–but man, they are worth the work. Delicious.

Baby artichokes flying high

I will be including a recipe each week that goes with whatever I have on the table. Today, for example, I had a bunch of the artichokes, and included a simple sautee recipe with them. I also had stir-fry bunches with red mustard, mizuna mustard, spinach mustard, and joi choi. I sold the last of my snow peas, and several bags of greens and flowers.

So, if the conversation starts with the baby artichokes, most often it seems to end with the flowers. I had my best day ever in Medford last week, which was very encouraging. Even if people aren’t buyin’, they smile, or comment on how beautiful the display is–my twice-weekly art projects seem to be working. I certainly get a lot of happiness from this art form. It is dumb that I don’t have a photo of one of the flower mandalas that I make for my table display, but I’ll take one on Tuesday…

The folks who notice the display best are always kids. Their parents will walk by, but the kids stop. Some are adventurous and willing to try eating flowers, some not so much, but all of them will look and many have great questions. I don’t necessarily miss having 30 of them in a classroom on a daily basis, but I love that what I’m doing draws that bright, clear, and curious kid energy around the FusionFarm booth. It really loosens up that way-too-in-a-hurry-all-the-time adult energy.

OK, that’s it for now, more soon!

Shaded baby greens

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FusionFarm @ Tuesday Market in Ashland!

Here’s what’s on for Tuesday:

Artichokes–First of the Season!

Rainbow Chard

Snow Peas

Bunch o’ Stir Fry–Red Mustard, Spinach Mustard, Joi Choi, Tatsoi

Asian Green Salad Mix–Red Romaine, Amish Speckled, and Buttercrunch Lettuce, and a Variety of Asian Greens

Edible Salad Flowers–Arugula, Snow Pea, Calendula, Bee Borage, Chive, Rose

See you at market!

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FusionFarm @ Market Tomorrow (6/7)

Hey there,

I will be out at the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market at the Ashland Armory. I’m catching up, and have lots more greens! Coming soon, business cards and A BANNER! Oh Dolly, I’m hot today… I am on a roll, people. Here’s what’s on for Tuesday Market:

Asian Green Salad Mix 

A variety of  Asian Greens, mixed with Red Romaine, Amish Speckled, and Buttercrunch Lettuce. Quarter or half pound bags.

SALAD FLOWERS!

A beautiful mix of yellow and orange calendula, arugula, white and blue bee borage, mustard, rose, violet, and snow pea flowers.

See you out there!

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FusionFarm’s BACK at RVGCM

Goooood morning!

I will be out at the new Ashland Armory on East Main TODAY from 8:30-1:30.

Here’s what’s on:

STARTS

Cilantro, cilantro, cilantro! I have lots.

Asian Salad/Stir-Fry Mixes with Chrysanthemum Green, Red Giant Mustard, Baby Pak Choi, Mizuna Mustard, Joi Choi Pak Choi, Tatsoi.

Arugula (Easy to grow, tangy and delicious in salads)

Misome (Cross between Tatsoi and Komatsuna Spinach Mustard. Gorgeous dark-green, spoon-shaped leaves)

Beka Santoh Cabbage (Loose-leaf and mild, great in stir-fry and soups)

Komatsuna Spinach Mustard (Use like spinach when it’s young, and throw it in a stir-fry as it matures and gets spicier)

SALAD FLOWERS!

A beautiful mix of yellow and orange calendula, arugula, white and blue borage, mustard, snow pea. Yes, all flowers, yes you can eat them all, and yes, they’re delicious! I also added some daikon sprouts to spice up the mix.

GREENS

I have some quarter pound bags of yummy greens that escaped the flea beetle wrath. Mixed red romaine, Amish speckled, Buttercrunch, and a variety of Asian Greens.

Hope to see you out there!

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Rollin’ with the Big Dawgs

Good morning!

Well, yesterday was huge for FusionFarm in lots of ways. RVGC is the big show, for sure. I set up with my tiny starts on my tiny table and a tiny basket of “the salad mix to come” (because of course I didn’t have any to sell)–feeling pretty… uh, tiny. The voices in my head chimed in– ‘In a little over our heads maybe Shani?’ Yes, and, who knows, but it turns out I’ll be revising my revised market schedule, because that’s the reality of the situation right now.

I will tell you that this point hit home hard for me yesterday–it’s possible that we take for granted the number of seriously bad-ass growers we have in this region–let me just remind you that we are beyond blessed to have so many people mindfully and heartfully growing our food for us.

Whatever price they’re asking is worth it–there is so, so, so very much for them to think about and do all the time, and the farmers work like nobody else on the planet. 

We’re talking about very young people who had already interned at many other farms before they got their own scenes going, and as a result have a ton of experience and wisdom about growing.

So mostly, I got to learn how very much I have to learn. Not in the “learning opportunity” way that I mentioned yesterday, but in the “wow, THIS is exciting, holy s*$! I’ve got to move my ass” kind of way.

Before the bell rang, I cornered a couple of the more successful grower/businesspeople about my flea beetle woes. They were gracious in light of my relative inexperience, totally willing to share what they knew based on their experience, and just really nice folks in general. I was so impressed by that. I guess I was expecting to see more of an old cutthroat business model and was under the impression that people might have their elbows out a little more, be a little bit more competitive and unwilling to care about my little issue. Not so. Not that I’m any big threat to anyone out there, but the receptivity was a wonderful surprise.

The crop losses that folks with more land are able to absorb and work around, are the same lossess that are devastating for someone like me. For example, before a conversation I had with one farmer, my thinking was that I couldn’t so much afford to plant part of a row of red mustard to trap the critters and keep them off my other more valuable crops–I NEED that red mustard! But it’s what the beetles want, so unless I can somehow change their minds about eating it, I’ve either got to be better at protecting it, or just plant it for them and stop resisting. Of course the other growers knew that, they knew how, and I appreciated their great ideas and help. While it will create more a lot more work for me on top of everything else, I love that work, and it is better to start over and do it right.

Maybe some people out there are more stuck in old ways of doing biz (because we are dealing with a variety of humans afterall), but that was certainly not my experience yesterday.

As far as my experience in my booth went…it was a great time. I’m sure it helped that I scored one of the more established grower’s spot for the day because they didn’t come, and people are used to looking there. My neighbors were cool. I was right across the way from Rosa the tamale lady, and I always have a blast rapping out with her in Spanish, she’s hilarious. I got to see first-hand how long her line gets at lunchtime. Whoa.

I had many other real conversations with smart and funny people. LOTS of friends came looking for me to support and hang out. Other folks I didn’t know either bought starts, or commented on the beautiful salad mix with the pretty flowers on the table.

I even sold the tiny little bag of greens I had to freshen up my demo for a couple of bucks, and my friend Kevin insisted on buying that half-wilted demo at the end of the day!  Hope it perked up for you in water, buddy.

After reading yesterday’s blog post, Tim (grower extraordinaire) rolled down to the market with an organic critter remedy for me to try.  How cool is that?

So that’s the other piece that closes the circle and keeps it spinning and growing in healthy ways–it’s the vast community support of this market that makes it work.

I felt so proud of my little town yesterday, and I hope to be out at that market more.

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FusionFarm Debuts @ RV Grower’s and Crafter’s Market!

 

Hey there,

I will be out at market in Ashland at the Armory today from 8:30-1:30. I am a little nervous, as a flea beetle infestation is currently decimating my joi choi and mustards. They seem to enjoy most everything else out in my beds too. Turns out, their favorite things to eat are red mustard, pak choi, daikon…yep, that’s right, ASIAN GREENS AND VEGETABLES! Which would be…what I am growing. Hmmmm, I wondered why nobody else around here was growing them on a large scale, seemed like such a brilliant idea at the time… And lord knows they love arugula too! Popular and delicious salad green, you know? Eatin’ the crap outta that, too.

I have NEVER had pest issues. Maybe a slug here or there, but nothing like this. Nothing a few cups of beer couldn’t handle. Pound a few of those, and the slugs don’t seem to matter as much… Seriously though, for those of you who don’t know, a lot of slugs are slimy little drunks–whether it’s a nice black ale or a PBR, they don’t seem to discriminate. It’s an old trick–you can dig a few holes right in your beds between your plants, set cups inside the holes (just make sure the lip of the cup is at ground level), fill them with beer, and in the morning you should see some floaters and some sinkers. If you are squeamish about the killing part, rest assured that they died doing what they loved. The cups do start to stink depending on the weather, so change them out here and there. But that’s slugs, and that’s when it’s really wet out.

If you don’t know what flea beetles do to plants, imagine a tiny Elmer Fudd out in the garden with his shotgun, blasting pak choi. That’s what it looks like, tiny pin holes that wouldn’t be a big deal if there weren’t like 100 of them per  leaf. Bastards!

It’s a learning opportunity. You know how lots of people (maybe even you) like to call big problems learning opportunities these days? I heard it a lot when I was teaching. I think it’s meant to be a super duper positive way to motivate people to better meet challenges. It’s about turnin’ that frown upside down, and it’s really pissing me off right about now. Fleas beetles, I am learning, are indisious. In their larval stage, they start underground, eating the plant roots. They get strong and healthy down low, then rise to the surface to grind down the rest of the plant! They are tough to catch because, as their name suggests, they jump around fast like fleas. Flea beetles also are vectors for disease, like blight. Ugh.

But, nevermind. I have a few ideas about getting them under control, including yellow sticky traps, diatomaceous earth, and nematodes. All new frontiers for me, so in the meantime, I just get smarter and more tech about what I’m doing, which is good. Thank you, InterWebs!!!

So, the sad, sad news is that I have no greens mix for today. I have some to try, and it looks beautiful, but not enough to sell. I picked all the greens, including 3 kinds of lettuce, pak choi, mizuna, misome, tatsoi, gai choi, joi choi and cilantro, and am adding calendula petals as well as blue and white bee borage flowers. It is lovely, delicious, and nutritious. Someday maybe I’ll have bags of it to sell to people.

I also have some pretty little starts–snow peas, cilantro, baby pak choi, red romaine lettuce, komatsuna spinach mustard, tatsoi, and the awesome ASIAN STIR-FRY + SALAD GARDEN!

That way, you can grow your own flea beetle food at home.

Enjoy all your opportunities today!

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