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From Asparagus to Zucchini

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Growing community supported agriculture

March 27, 2002

On the second day of spring, March 21, despite the 40 inches of snow blanketing the landscape near the mouth of Bull River, several farmers met and talked about growing crops. Perhaps it was Old Man Winter’s last gasp, but the early spring snowstorm last week seemed to make the notion of planting a garden a bit premature. But it isn’t, really, and especially not for these particular farmers.

    At the home of Rodd Gallaway and Jill Davies gathered these experienced gardeners/farmers who created the fledgling organization known as Cabinet Mountain Market. It is among the newest in a nationwide explosion of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) cooperatives. Inspired by Diane Green of Greentree Naturals in Bonner County, and with their maiden year behind them, plans are taking shape for expanding their services this year to more customers.

    The farmers in this small group include Steve “Red” Jewett, Pat and Joan Kelly, Greg and Margaret Gilman and Rodd and Jill, all in the Noxon area. The purpose behind this endeavor, as stated on their brochure, is, “Delivering locally grown food pure and simple.” And their emphasis is on organically grown food – vegetables, fruit and meat free of harmful pesticides and other chemicals so prevalent in the large-scale corporate farming dominating the food industry today.

    Each of these farmers have been growing gardens and producing much of their own food for many years. They decided to share their bounty during an organic gardens tour of western Sanders County in the summer of 2000 and agreed to begin a CSA co-op. The following spring they had their first 12 customers.

    The theory behind Community Supported Agriculture is in making “a connection between a nearby farmer and the people who eat the food the farmer produces.” So says Elizabeth Henderson in Sharing the Harvest: A Guide to Community Supported Agriculture. Her book, co-authored with the late Robyn Van En, is widely regarded as one of the top discourses on CSAs in America. In the Foreword, Joan Dye Gussow makes the point, “Across the country, a movement is spreading that acknowledges a long-ignored reality: most of what we pay for our food goes to companies who transport, process and market what comes off the farm, not the farmers themselves.”

    And what comes off the farm these days is almost certainly treated with chemical fertilizers and pesticides; and how many people in the United States knows where the food they consume is cultivated? “Most people do not know where or how their food is grown,” states Henderson. “Food comes from stores and restaurants and vending machines.”

    The healthier alternative, believe the farmers of Cabinet Mountain Market, is a return to “building sustainable community systems, and food is a good place to start,” as Jill expressed it.

    The mission of Cabinet Mountain Market is fivefold:

    To promote, support and help sustain local food production on family farms.

    To utilize and encourage organic and Biodynamic farming methods.

    To foster an appreciation of sound environmental practices: land stewardship, recycling and composting.

    To educate and enlighten people to the dangers of current mass production trends which deplete diversity and poison the food chain.

To charge a fair market value based on needs and actual production costs versus “what the market will bear.”

Though production is still several months off, the growing season is already here for the farmers of Cabinet Mountain Market. In a letter to last year’s subscribers Margaret wrote, “Seeds have been purchased, many starts are already sprouting and we’re eager to dig in the dirt! Joan and Red have a ‘First Tomato’ contest going in the greenhouse with plants over three feet high.”

A large variety of produce is grown by each of the farms represented in the co-op. In Jill’s Garden Jill Davies raises fruits and vegetables in raised beds and does all her cultivating by hand. She also offers more than 20 varieties of herbs. At Fussy Farms the Gilman’s are organically restoring an orchard and vegetable garden and are producing heirloom vegetables, apples, plums, blueberries and raspberries. Pat and Joan Kelly’s specialty at Daybreak Farm and Greenhouse is natural, grass-fed, lean beef and lamb. Their livestock have no hormones or antibiotics. Also, they offer bedding plants and perennials as well as a selection of vegetables. “Red” Jewett has spent more than 20 years on Rockhouse Farm and follows strict organic practices for his produce, poultry and eggs.

Food baskets made up of vegetables will be available to Cabinet Mountain Market subscribers beginning in mid June. The agreement between the farmers and their customers is a full or half share food basket each week for 18 weeks at a cost of $17.00 (full) or $10.00 (half) per week. A full share will typically feed two people and the half share is designed for one person or light eaters. For the entire season, the cost is $306 and $180 respectively. Eggs and portions of meat, as well as flowers and homemade breads, can be added to a customer’s subscription at additional cost.

Delivery of baskets can be arranged, but customers are welcome to pick up their baskets at Daybreak Farm on Pilgrim Creek, or other arrangements can be made.

The catch to participating in a healthier way to eat and the building of sustainable community systems with the farmers of Cabinet Mountain Market is the principle of “first come, first served.” Because they are few in number, these four farms aren’t yet able to feed the masses, so they have to limit the number of customers they can serve. Jill noted that 11 of their 12 subscribers from last year intend to return, so they will only be taking on perhaps another five or six subscribers.

The benefits to the customer in participating in a CSA are great. By subscribing to Cabinet Mountain Market, the consumer will be supporting local farmers, helping preserve productive open space, adding to local economic development and reaping the rewards of pure healthy food. And these four farmers go even further than that: “We want you to feel that the farms of Cabinet Mountain Market are your farms and invite subscriber participation on many levels. Just a few of the many excellent benefits to expect throughout the harvest include the annual harvest party, selected farm tours, a monthly newsletter and recipes and food preparation tips.”

Cabinet Mountain Market presently serves the communities of Trout Creek, Noxon and Heron. To find out more about each of their operations, contact the farmers themselves (find phone numbers in the sidebar at right). Conscientious growers are also welcome to call to find out what future potential there is in joining this co-op.

Meanwhile, despite the deep snow, these farmers are doing more than just talking about the upcoming growing season. Not only are they enjoying the fruits of their labors stored up in pantries and larders for the winter - Jill exclaimed that she continues to harvest kale from her garden by digging through three feet of snow to the still-green leaves below.

You can be a part of connecting families with farmers, building a stronger sense of community, encouraging stewardship of the land and eliminating the immense distances food travels in this day and age through Community Supported Agriculture. Garrison Keillor said on National Public Radio on March 28, 1998, “America of the future will be all malls connected by interstates. All because your parents no longer can their own tomatoes.”

The farmers of Cabinet Mountain market are doing their share to see that doesn’t happen. As their customer, you can too.

The A to Z of produce at Cabinet Mountain Market - The following is a list of crops grown by this local CSA co-op: Asparagus, Basil, Beans, Beets, Blueberries, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cilantro, Corn, Cucumbers, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Green onions/Chives, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Parsnips, Parsley, Peas and pea pods, Peppers: hot, sweet, Potatoes, Radishes,Raspberries, Rhubarb, Rutabagas/Turnips, Sage/Oregano/,Thyme, Spinach,Summer squash, Strawberries, Swiss, Chard, Tomatoes, Winter squash, Zucchini, Other Products: Farm Fresh Flowers, Eggs, Chicken, Beef, Lamb,Fresh Bread.

 

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Dennis Nicholls Dennis Nicholls was the founder, publisher, janitor and paperboy of the River Journal from 1993 to 2001. He passed away in 2009.

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