July 7th Newsletter: Farming Practices by Split River Growers

A Message from your Market Manager

In an effort to provide market patrons with the ability to make informed decisions about the foods that they buy and feed to their families the St. Johns Farmers Market would like to spend some time this season looking at vendor farming practices. Farmers, ranchers and food producers have different reasons for the way they amend their soils, where they source seed, how they treat their animals, which certifications and licenses they hold and a myriad other things, and we would like to allow them to share those reasons in their own words. Please look for newsletter articles that profile some of the vendors at the market this season and their farming practices.

We first met Ted Whitaker and Laura Bruder of Split River Growers last season, when they were growing certified organic produce on the southern tip of Sauvie Island. They were in their first year of farming, dealing with the challenges most beginning farmers face and excited to be providing “the freshest of what the earth has to offer” to their community. This year Split River Growers are leasing a plot of land on the other side of Sauvie Island, they have expanded their vegetable production, and they are attending an additional farmers market. As St. Johns residents who have lived in the community for a combined total of thirteen years, Ted and Laura look forward to “chatting-up our neighbors every Saturday morning at the St. Johns Farmers Market. We cherish the personal connections that we’ve made with our fellow community members and are honored to provide food to so many amazing people!”

When asked which principals guide their farming ethic, Split River Growers said: “During our first season in 2011, we learned how to expand our organic gardening methods into organic farming methods. We were Certified Organic under the Oregon Tilth certification of the larger farm that we leased from. We purchased and recorded our seed according to organic standards; we bought fertilizer and soil amendments according to organic standards; and we learned the ins and outs of organic farming from experienced farmers. This is how we learned how to farm: Organically, by the book and also in spirit. This is what we know and how we operate. We will never use any products that are known to endanger our health, our animals’ health, our customers’ health, or our community’s health.”

When asked about their farming methods, Split River Growers said: “We grow a lot of greens, so we are constantly battling slugs. The best defense against them is to keep all grass and weeds at bay, so we are constantly weeding all over our growing area. We try random things like decoy lettuce. The idea is that slugs are lazy, so they’ll hit up the first thing them come across. If there are easily accessible lettuce pieces creating a border around our rows, we think it may help in keeping the slugs away from our main crop. I have on occasion found a slug or two munching on a beautiful head of lettuce, and taken the liberty to enthusiastically relocate that slug to a far away area of the farm. There are endless tips for how to control slugs, but at some point you just have to accept that they are part of nature’s cycle. Thoroughly rinsing your lettuce before eating it is really the only way to make sure they don’t end up on your dinner plate.

“For our heat loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, we use a layer of agricultural plastic to retain heat in the soil and keep weeds at bay. We use row cover/low tunnels to protect our delicate transplants from excessive rain and wind, as well as to keep predatory insects at bay.

“We love to introduce beneficial insects onto the farm. The arrival of a new batch of ladybugs is always fun!

“We firmly believe that just as a healthy person has an improved chance of fighting off illness, we believe that a healthy plant has the fortitude to ward off maladies. Whereas most conventional farms douse plants with chemicals to treat disease and pests, the tenets of Split River Growers are quite the opposite. We continually fertilize our plants with Ted’s scratch-made organic fertilizer blend to make them as strong and healthy as possible. A healthy plant has the best chance of fighting off disease, resulting in a successful crop untouched by nasty toxins!

“Produce begins losing nutritional value from the moment of harvest. The vegetables found in a large chain supermarket possess significantly less nutritional value than the vegetables grown in your own backyard. Our role is to provide you the next best thing to your homegrown, freshly picked veggies. Our produce is harvested less than 12 hours before market and travels less than 7 miles from our farm to our market booth.

“We are a hand cultivated farm. The small size of our farm allows us to spend time with each plant, making sure that each one has the nutrients it needs to produce the healthiest possible food. We have our hands in the dirt every single day. We know exactly where the dirt transitions from super sandy to a little more rocky. We can probably even tell you how deep the subsoil is in the various rows.”
To learn more about Split River Growers’ farming methods, ask for advice about your garden or get in a good ol’ chat, please visit them at the St. Johns Farmers Market. You can find them each week on N Philadelphia Street next to Black Sheep Creamery.                                     ~ Gentiana Loeffler, Market Manager

Market Day Events for July 7th

Market Music:
Nelson & Tony from La Cuatra de la Habana   9 am

Boka Marimba   12 pm
Sprout CornerThe Montessori House  10 am to 1 pm

Market Day Poetry at St. Johns Booksellers:   12 pm

Market Day Deals:
Coffee Kids – 25% off all apparel items!  Open 10-6 on Saturday
Crow – All baskets will be 15% off on Saturday, June 7th.  Stop in and pick up a basket for all your SJFM goodies!  Open 11-6 on Saturday

Volunteer Corner

Interested in volunteering with us? You can find all the information you need about how to apply to become a volunteer, the volunteer positions and how to get signed up for a specific shift at our website. Visit the volunteer page, or contact volunteer@sjfarmersmarket.com for more information. We’d love to see you this season!

SJFM Monthly Meeting

The St. Johns Farmers’ Market has its monthly community meeting the first Thursday of each month at 7 pm. The meetings are held at the BES Water Lab on 6543 N. Burlington Avenue Portland. We meet tonight, July 5th! The following meeting is on August 2nd.

We always welcome fresh faces and ideas! If you have an agenda item you would like to add, please contact us prior to the meeting.