Before I left for the weekend trip, I had the great pleasure to visit my CSA farm, Sweetwater Farm east of Creswell. Creswell is a short drive south of Eugene, a small town and rural community nestled in its own little valley. Farmer John and Lynn welcomed us with home brew of the regular and root beer varieties, a potluck, pizzas made in their brick oven (which sadly, I missed due to tardiness), and an herbalist table with minted elixirs of red clover and nettles. Lynn and I took the Master Food Preserver training program together, and I’m volunteering to help the CSA folks out with questions about how to cook with the vegetables in the shares.
The big joy of the 20-acre farm, of course, was the tour provided by Farmer John. As I said, I was late, so I was fortunate that he was willing to do one last tour, and I happily tagged along, listening to an articulate, passionate disquisition on soil additives, crop rotation, experimentation with chicken feed and greenhouse rows, and all manner of things. He showed us the bakery in progress, the lumber kiln, and the dank and mysterious mushroom hut, where shiitakes and oyster mushrooms bloom like pale, fleshy flowers.
The fields, immaculately maintained, are grouped by plant type. The brassicas have their own area, the twenty-odd types of potatoes (some of which are pictured above) grow in neat mounded rows next to a field bursting with hard red wheat (pictured with daisy). But where were the Yukon Gold potatoes? Why, in the shares, of course!
Rows of Asian greens fill out another field, and garlic has its own real estate. Tomatoes and peppers and herbs — really most of the hot weather crops — grow carefully in greenhouses dotted around the property. Cardoons — cardoons!! — line the long driveway up to the farmhouse. They are pictured here, the things that look like artichokes. I had never seen a growing cardoon. Farmer John said that in Italy, they bend the stalks and cover them with soil to get the blanched white color. There were strawberries, some small fig trees and the beginnings of a plum orchard, and god knows what else. The man even has an entire row of wormwood (Artemesia absinthia) and has faced — it was rumored — the green fairy.
We got to see an old Ponderosa Pine in a lovely wooded meadow, a relic, said Farmer John, of what the whole valley used to look like centuries ago. Hundreds of chickens wander around several large fenced areas, and you can see how happy they are by the size and quality of their eggs.
Sweetwater Farm has been in operation for 20 years, and doing natural or organic farming the entire time. They used to supply produce to high-end restaurants, but now they just grow for the market and the CSA shares, to maximize freshness and variety. The vegetables are beautiful, and the breadth of what’s available there is really unusual for a small farm in the Willamette Valley. I was glad I had the opportunity to visit; thanks John and Lynn!
And one last shot: I love living in Oregon. Yes, this would be purple mountains’ majesty above the fruited plain…of amber waves of grain. You know you want it.