I began working this land about 25 years ago. It is good sandy river bottom with irrigation rights that go back to the early 1700’s. We were committed to raising some of our own food, so the first year we planted a garden and some additional fruit trees. When we had a surplus we would share with our neighbors or donate the fruit and vegetables.
In a good year we would have enough to take the pickup to the farmer’s market. The wonderful thing about a farmers market is that it is a community – almost like a second family. People appreciate what you do. They share in your success and know how difficult it is to lose a crop. Many years a late frost will take the fruit. Summers are dry and the water gets scarce. Several times in those early years grasshoppers came through and ate every leaf. We were committed to sustainable farming, we planted trap crops, and we pulled through. I guess it is in my blood to be a ‘dirt-scratcher’ as my neighbor put it.
We plant on several nearby properties in exchange for helping to keep them up. If hail hits one place, it may spare another. Our niche is to bring the first field-grown tomatoes, along with other produce, to market. With a collection of hundreds of heirloom varieties, something always does well and generally, so do we.
The last few years we have been saving enough seed from those varieties to be able to market the seed as well. I began to do a number of my own crosses and share those with fellow farmers and gardeners. Most importantly, I get a chance to visit with people from everywhere and be part of a remarkable movement that connects all of us to the land.