By Jessica Freeborn
When I was asked to visit and write about a local organic vegetable farm in North Idaho in the middle of November, I anticipated an anticlimactic agricultural experience as the growing season had been over for months. I checked out Moose Meadow Farm’s website and was intrigued when they stated that they grow year-round. I loaded up my two sons and we headed north to Clark Fork, ID on a stunningly scenic drive.
As soon as there was a turn out, I was compelled to pull over and take in the scenery of the vast Missoula flood plains carved out from the ancient glacial floods. As I took in this open wetland, I could visualize the cataclysmic events of glacial ice damns rupturing and causing turbulent waters to carve out and channel the Clark Fork River. These massive floods swept in huge deposits of mineral rich settlement that built up the fertile soil that Moose Meadow Organics gets to work with. We followed the Clark Fork River for a short stint to turn left before a bridge on a dirt road that leads right into the heart of the mountainous valley. I knew that we had arrived at the right place when I saw multiple greenhouses, hoop houses and a young couple working the fields. Katherine and Spencer greeted us with smiles and welcomed us right into their growing operation.
The first greenhouse we peeked in looked like a Persian carpet of living purple and green delicacies. It was massive and impressive. My favorite greenhouse, and the coziest of all, was the microgreen nursery. Nasturtium flowers line the north facing wall, and there were beds upon beds of sweet and tasty microgreens! I thought about how delectable and vital these microgreens will be to a North Idahoan enduring winter, when fresh greens are few and far between. I asked if I could sample some of the delicate sprouts, and I have to say that they are, hands down, the tastiest microgreens I have ever tasted! It must have something to do with the mineral rich soil, the stewardship and care of these young farmers, and the relationship that they have with the land.
Small family farms like these are a huge asset to our community, and are a vital part to the regeneration of our food production and sustainable agriculture. Katherine and Spencer live the life of their dreams – being stewards of the land and working in harmony with nature rather than against it. Their ethos stated on their website, “Our number-one goal is to grow and sell the tastiest, healthiest, freshest produce money can buy all year long. To meet that goal, we have established a few guiding principles.
After initial ground prep, we do not till the soil at all. We aim for biodiversity, astute observation, and thoughtful practices to keep pests, diseases and weeds to a minimum.” Moose Meadow Farms is an inspiration to the farming community, as they are on their successful third year of growing organic produce without the use of chemicals and fertilizers. You’re probably wondering how on earth they are able to grow year-round in north Idaho. They explain, “There are four main principles to follow when growing food in the winter in northern climates. They are light, timing, double covers, and variety selection. By paying attention to these factors and principles, we are able to extend the harvest season on many crops and extend the growing season on others.”
It is truly amazing to see their principles play out successfully each year. Pilgrim’s Market proudly carries Moose Meadow Organics year-round. Consuming locally-grown super greens is a tasty way to stay healthy during this winter and by doing so you are supporting local agriculture which ultimately makes a difference to our food system. This is true wisdom of our ancestors; you reap what you sow!