Monday, October 4, 2010

Iron Creek Farm: visiting my CSA farm

In Northern Indiana, the corn is standing 8 to 10 feet tall, dried out and yellow now by the summer sun and cooling autumnal temperatures.  The weeds are creeping back to find their old homes they knew last fall, as weary farmers' hands and backs allow their fields the rest they need around this time of the year.
Every Saturday morning, rain or shine, I walk over to my local farmers market to the same stall, and pick up a box of produce.  For those of you that are just newly getting into this whole "know your food, know your farmer" movement, this is a great first step.  I paid for my boxes in May, making a good trade for me and for the farmer.  I get a whole box of produce for much less than it would cost me if I went stand to stand on market day, and the farmer has money up front to buy seeds, tools and hands needed to do the work.
On a chilly but sunny Sunday afternoon, I drove out for a little visit to see the ground where my goods have sprung from and met Tamera and Patrick at  Iron Creek Farm.  We went for a tour pulled along by the tractor.
Picked pumpkins...
and opened a window into the world that's been producing my peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers for the last 5 months.
Their wood-furnace heated greenhouses have vines that produce fruit from May until December.  Tomato and pepper plants grow to be 30 feet tall and about 1.5 inches wide in diameter.  Once fruit is picked on the lower bit of the stem, leaves are removed and the plant is trained to grow up, leaving space below for air to move through the green house and circulate.
My red and butter lettuces are grown in hydroponics and take about 6 weeks to reach full maturity.
Tamera and Patrick made the decision to grow organically after thinking about the kind of environment they wanted to raise their kids in.  "Farms can be toxic," says Tamera, "and we didn't want to live in that kind of environment."  Laughing she says, "don't get me wrong, organic farming has its fair share of things we put on the fields. Chicken manure, fish emulsion, most of it smells pretty funny."  They started growing organically 4 years ago and are in the process to get some of their other land certified.  Land has to sit barren for three years to rid the soil of chemicals.   They acknowledge that it takes quite of bit of patience but say they haven't lost any yield in switching to organics.
It's exciting to be a farmer right now, Tamera says.  Her bright eyes sparkle when talking about people beginning to care about where their food comes from, and who grows it.  I asked her, "do you feel empowered just knowing that people like us care?  I mean, do you think about that ever when you're pulling weeds."  I smile.  She beams back, "you know, I haven't but next time I'm pulling weeds I'll think of you!!"
Next spring, or even this fall, I really encourage you guys to subscribe to a CSA.   Community Sustained Agriculture means you are face to face with your food, and directly supporting a local farm that isn't growing food in factories.  You are paying for quality and nourishment for yourself and your family. 
There is something transcendent in knowing face to face who is making your food.  I'm newly grateful for my lettuce and peppers and beets and leeks.  And while I'm cooking them tonight, I'll think about dirt on my hands and dried corn in the fields.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Jo, how very cool! We found a small orchard/vinyard along Lake Pepin on Saturday, where we picked 5-6 varieties of "heirloom" apples, and what wonderful flavors and textures! Carol made a pie in our new pottery pie pan that we picked up that day in Stockholm, WI. Mmmm!