Greentree Naturals Newsletter Summer 2017
August has delivered a smoky haze from all the forest fires in nearby counties. Anyone that spends much time outside is noticing burning eyes and a raspy throat from all the smoke in the air. There are hundreds of forest fires burning up thousands of acres of forest in NE Washington, North Idaho, Eastern Montana and all of British Columbia, and we are located right in the middle of it.
Alicia Best, Diane's Farmer's Market Partner
We know of people who have gotten burned out of their homes in BC, and hear of many locations that are a "stand-by" alert, meaning you should be ready to go at a moment's notice. We have not had to face that forest fire evacuation to be contemplating what is irreplaceable, and what is not. When I think about it, If we had to pack up and leave because of a pending fire storm coming through, what would I pack up to take with me? I am drawn towards packing photographs and a few art pieces; pack up some changes of clothes and try to figure out how to get the two dogs, four cats in the car together with our stuff. The chickens could be set free and would hopefully be able to escape a fire. I am hopeful that we never have to face that reality. I've lost everything I owned to a fire and it was oddly freeing at the time. I think its good to remember it's just material "stuff." Granted, most of it has cost us hard earned money to have, but it's not all that important in the realm of life, health, and happiness.
We are at the peak of the harvest season right now. One thing this hot and dry weather has done for us is bring on a bountiful garden. The heat loving crops are thriving on these five or six weeks of 90+ degree days. Thom is harvesting about 120 pounds of tomatoes each week, and pretty much the same of summer squash, beans, and eggplant. Our heirloom tomatoes that come from seed that we've been saving for 15+ years are plentiful and huge! Typically, tomatoes will not set fruit if the temperatures are over 90°; that said I am convinced that our seed saving efforts have paid off with tomatoes that are better adapted to endure the climate change. The bounty is wonderful!
One of the true pleasures of being a small acreage farmer is being able to share the harvest with our community. I like knowing people in Sandpoint are eating our food as a part of their weekly meals. I think it's important for the community to be able to put a face to the farmer who is growing their food so some sense of connection to the food system is made. For me as a farmer, there is no greater moment than one shared with an enthusiastic customer who tells us "that is the best tomato I've ever tasted!" It's also a pretty special moment when I'm introduced as "this is MY farmer".... this brings a true sense of place for me.
This marks my 27th year at the farmers market. Last year, I believe I only attended 9 markets due to an injury (torn ligament) in my left ankle. This year. I've only been to 3 markets due to a broken right ankle, so am now seriously contemplating future marketing options. Not sure what lesson I have to learn from another debilitating injury, but it is pretty much the only thing that keeps me away from the farmers market! I love the farmers market and being a vendor there. It provides a portion of our farming income and gives a connection directly with our customers, some who have been loyal to us for over a decade. We do a fair amount of wholesale sales to our local natural foods store and a couple of restaurants that we've been with for many, many years too. We just don't get to see the faces of the people who are eating our food through the wholesale outlets.
Brad Huhta with some of the garlic harvest
Having a broken ankle has minimized my mobility in the garden as well as in the marketplace. I can make the telephone sales, but it's up to Thom to harvest, prep and deliver all that we have to sell. He accepts this responsibility with love and does what has to be done to make things happen. It is a bit of a challenge to stay in a position with my ankle elevated to improve the healing process that has had some complications. Taking this recovery one day at a time and hoping for a speedy healing. Thankfully, friends and neighbors have stepped up to offer assistance on the farm. The community outpouring of support has been greatly appreciated. People have brought us prepared meals and come to help with harvest, watering in the greenhouse, helping with CSA days and more. The kindness surrounding my accident is greatly treasured!
In the previous newsletter, I mentioned that we have a mentorship agreement with a new neighbor who is a retired cardiologist. Brad has been a true gift to the farm and we so value his dedication and enthusiasm for learning about small acreage farming. The day I slipped in the garden and broke my ankle, it was good to have a doctor on site to immobilize the break and help Thom get me out of the garden and off the emergency care. I appreciate his choice to retire early from cardiology and be moving in a direction of sustainable living.
When I think of the internships and apprenticeships at Greentree Naturals over the years, it is very humbling to see the influence we have made with different mentorship relationships here. Some that came here determined that they definitely did NOT want to become a farmer because it was too much work. Out of 36 apprentice/internships, 6 went on to start a small acreage farm of their own; one of those 6 went back and rescued her family heritage farm, and others have started small acreage farming enterprises, some with livestock too. Ben became an arborist and has a successful business in Spokane, WA. Ana developed a private charitable Foundation that works with farm to school programs in Colorado. Angela went on to get her masters in Horticulture/Sustainable Ag and now works for the Dept of Ag Organic Inspection for WA state. Erin is working as a field manager for a farm to school program in Mancose, Colorado. Anna is working as a farm manager for an Intercity community garden in San Jose, CA. For more information about our mentorship program, visit our website!
Some of these mentees will be a part of Greentree Naturals forever. Others, we never hear from again. I feel good about the opportunities we have provided for learning about organic and sustainable living. I believe that the life lessons associated with just being here on the farm pairs well with learning about the farming process. Every year is different, as every relationship is different with each individual. I love sharing the knowledge and teaching what I know, and strive to be the best mentor I can be.
This year's summertime is quite unique to others since I am physically unable to actually be in the gardens. It's been a lesson in letting go of the things I cannot change. I miss my garden time though and have resigned to accept my status as somewhat disabled for the time being. I have an option to choose how I respond to this, and choose to stay optimistic towards a positive outcome. In the meantime, I am often found with right foot elevated, yearning for garden time because it is where I am most contented.
Be well, stay healthy and happy! ~ Diane