This week we take you many miles west to the lovingly tended Tumbleweed Farm in the small town of Parkdale, Oregon. Andrea and Taylor Bemis own and farm the six-acre organic vegetable farm and run a robust CSA program from June through late October. They recently took the time to tell us about the changing of seasons and the trials and tribulations of two dedicated, food-loving farmers.
We’re not as familiar with the seasonal rotations in the Northwest. Can you give us a general idea of what and when you plant and harvest?
We begin seeding starts like onions, kale, and greens in the greenhouse as early as February. We grow many successions of vegetables so we continue to seed greens weekly through August. We start harvesting spring vegetables in May and continue harvesting summer and fall crops through November.
What was most surprising about this season on the farm? Did you face any new challenges? How did you address them?
It didn’t rain!!! Literally, we went months without a drop of moisture. We spent so much time moving irrigation around, it was a full time job just keeping the plants watered! Another issue we faced this fall was deer. We have a six-acre farm and a deer fence for the whole property is out of our budget at the moment so we had to rely on temporary fencing and the deer outsmarted us. We lost a lot of our autumn greens from deer damage. It was really devastating.
What are some of the favorite fall vegetables you’ve harvested in the last few weeks? What foods are you most looking forward to eating as we head into winter?
My favorite fall veggies are brussels sprouts, winter squash, beets and carrots. I love spending the evenings making big batches of soup this time of the year.
You run a CSA program, sell at the farmer’s market and to local restaurants, as well as maintain a well known (and wonderful) blog— how do you juggle all of these commitments?
Sometimes all of the work can be overwhelming but it’s our livelihood and to be honest, there really isn’t anything else in the world I’d rather be doing. Even on days when I’m in tears from exhaustion I feel grateful for the life we’ve chosen to live and the community of people we get to feed. The blog and cooking come second after farm chores but my husband and I have worked out a really good system where I come in from the fields an hour or so before he does so I can prepare dinner/photograph our meal. We then eat together, do dishes, and depending on the time of year head back out to finish with evening chores. Having a CSA program keeps me inspired to share our meals so our members have a lot of recipes they can reference when they receive their weekly boxes.
What do you think is the biggest deterrent for people when deciding whether or not to join a CSA program? How do you encourage them to join one?
I think the biggest deterrent for people joining a CSA is the unknown and the fear of ending up with too many vegetables that they won’t know how to cook. I try and encourage people to embrace the unknown and try something new each week. Also, how rad is it to get a few varieties of vegetables that cannot be found at your local grocery store? It’s pretty special! I love when customers email us photos of the meals they’ve made using new to them vegetables. Sharing food and recipes makes a CSA a really awesome program to be a part of.