farm day at sweetwater farm!

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.

5 thoughts on “farm day at sweetwater farm!

  1. trillium 10 July 2008 / 10:23 am

    hi there!

    I followed you over from a blog in pdx talking about noris dairy delivery. We’re interested in setting that up here in Eugene, we liked there products when we lived in pdx. I’m wondering if you’ve done it…if we’re neighbors and may want to share delivery… etc etc.

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  2. Eugenia 10 July 2008 / 1:49 pm

    Hi Trillium! Yes, I’m still a big fan of Noris dairy, and buy cheese, butter, milk and cream from them. I’ve decided not to do delivery, though, because the products are available at the Friendly Street Market near me, and I just can’t see them making a special trip to my house (plus I don’t mind going to the market once a week). They also have Noris products at the Market of Choice on Franklin (though not the one on 29th). But if you do decide to do delivery, please let me know how it works out for you!

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  3. trillium 10 July 2008 / 3:54 pm

    Yikes… the dreaded there instead of their… oh well.

    We are neighbors! Friendly St Market is near me too, but we didn’t see any cream at the Friendly St Market last night. We were so happy to find the milk there, though. I need cream by the gallon because we like making our own cultured butter, but maybe they will do a special order for us.

    I’m very happy to find someone you and your blog, we’re missing our Portland and Madison food friends and people at work sometimes think I’m a little nutty when it comes to discussing the finer points of different strawberries or complaining that the Saturday farmer’s market is too small. Plus, I get funny looks when I talk trash about all the restaurants here.

    If you can see my email address, please feel free to use it!

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  4. trillium 10 July 2008 / 4:01 pm

    Blast, I mixed up my markets (but we’ve only been here two weeks, so I get a pass). We are near the New Frontier Market, not the Friendly St. Market (which, btw, has fantastic almonds from Italy that make you realize why almond extract is flavored the way it is).

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  5. Eugenia 11 July 2008 / 7:12 am

    Trillium, don’t despair. You’re not going to find a fantastic restaurant scene here, sadly, because this town is obsessed with an endless stream of burger joints, pizza places, and ice cream venues, but I think that the farm produce and meats, especially, are superlative. Have you discovered Pomegranates Market? It’s a small Middle East-specialty market on Willamette near 29th, and has a decent selection of Italian imports, too. There’s a link to the right.

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