Home is Where the Farm is
Full Circle’s home farms are now just about one-third planted for the year, with roughly one hundred acres in potatoes, beets, carrots, greens and other crops. Cultivation crews are running tractors daily at all three farms, turning new beds and keeping weeds down, while planting crews continue seeding and transplanting. We’ve planted the chard crowns selected and saved from last year’s trials in the second season of breeding for bolt-resistance; we’ll save seed from the last plants to bolt and plant it next year. Later in the year we’ll trial an heirloom carrot variety called Red-Cored Chantenay. A little workhorse with wide shoulders and strong tops, it is prized for its excellent flavor and ability to sweeten during winter storage. Other heirlooms we’re growing this year include Ailsa Craig and Italian torpedo onions, Amish Deer-tongue and Forellenschluss lettuces, and a lovely melon called Petit Gris de Rennes.
Our second trip east of the Cascades found asparagus harvest still underway and our farming friends transplanting hot crops. Manny Canales, who grows grapes, asparagus and row crops on 66 acres outside of Yakima, was preparing to set out the tomatoes he’s agreed to grow for us. The Canales family started as migrant workers in the fifties, but soon saved enough for their own patch of dirt; Manny bought some of his father’s acreage and managed to raise 5 children on the proceeds of the farm. On the day we visited, Manny and daughter Alisha were finishing the morning’s asparagus pack before moving on to the tomatoes.
Further southeast in Mabton, Hilario Alvarez was transplanting peppers with all nine of his children on the crew. Talk about family farming! Don Hilario looks as fit as a fiddle, and his love and pride are evident as he talks about his farm. We walked fields planted to July garlic, beets, onions and other crops in beautiful sandy loam which, frankly, made us a bit envious.
Late afternoon brought us to Sunnyslope Ranch in Wapato. A winding gravel track wound past the end of the county road and through acres and acres of orchard. We stopped to let a pair of quail and their tiny chicks cross. All safe? Wait – two more! Twelve total. At the top of a rise we came to Rebecca Hunt’s stone fruit orchard, a little slice of heaven with the kind of southern exposure farmers dream about. Amid a chorus of cricket song, we walked amongst the trees as she explained orchard management and the varieties and timing of her harvest.
Once again we heard of the struggle of small producers to remain viable in a market where price is driven down by the large packing houses. Small farms keep local economies vibrant while maintaining community and environment, and since it seems all of the farmers we visit are looking forward to production agreements for the 2013 season, we’ll be able to deepen our commitment to support them.