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24/05/2017

A little patch of paradise

 

Last week, I was up early in the morning after the recent storm, heading out to Sweet Roots Farm for a visit.

Raindrops still glistened on the pine needles in the sunlight, and grasses in unmown fields swayed in the breeze. Clouds moved slowly onto their next destination. The scent of deer brush filled the air. After two days in the Bay Area, I was happy to be back home.

Driving down Auburn Road was better than a Thanksgiving feast.

I met with Robbie Martin and Deena Miller. Their Sweet Roots Farm is located on a south facing hillside and valley surrounded by Poorman's and Wolf creeks. It's a little patch of paradise. Deena's family purchased the land many years ago as a possible retirement location. Robbie and Deena began farming here in 2010. After a few years in a trailer, they moved into a small house. It was built just in time for the arrival of Hazel who accompanied her mother and I around the farm gurgling and grumbling her farming opinions.

But every story should begin at its roots, sweet roots. In 2008, Deena was a student teacher at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California Santa Cruz. There she met Robbie, who was also a student. They are two of the more than 1,500 Ecological Horticulture apprentices that have been trained in this program over the years. Many of these young people have gone on to establish their own organic farms, oversee food policy or head similar programs.

This year UC Santa Cruz is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the beginning of this program, which was instrumental in launching the organic food movement. In its five decades, the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems has cultivated a community of thoughtful leaders who are redefining organic farming. It began with two professors/farmers who were looking for a way to minimize the heavy chemical impact of California's princess crop, strawberries. In addition to training young farmers and creating a free 700-page training guide, the center's researchers developed novel approaches to many pesticide issues. Once they were considered radical innovations; today they are used by farmers all over the world.

In their sixth year of farming, Deena and Robbie are still passionate about spending time outdoors, growing things. But as business owners, they must analyze which products and services are helping them build their bottom line.

"I'm beginning to not feel overwhelmed about the farm. Robbie and I are finally seeing that there is a potential of it being sustainable," Deena said, flashing her thousand-watt smile.

Because Nevada County is becoming well known as a wedding destination, flowers have become their most profitable and enjoyable crop. Deena sells certified organic flowers in bulk buckets or does full service weddings designing and setting up all the arrangements — the table settings, bouquets and arbors. Last year she booked 36 weddings as well as special events.

"Brides are drawn to our huge palette of colors," she said, "shapes and textures that aren't available through the regular florists."

Growing and selling vegetable starts is another revenue source in the spring. They also wholesale eleven different certified organic vegetables to BriarPatch, Three Forks restaurant and other local establishments.

Everyone agrees beautiful flowers are food for the soul, but there are many that are actually edible. They add texture and a rainbow of color to a salad. Deena recommends calendulas, stock, dianthus, marigolds and bachelor's buttons; all are all safe to eat. Rose petals also give a lovely scent to a salad, but only those grown by someone you know that have not been sprayed should be eaten.

An easy and simple salad might be to start with a variety of baby greens, about 3 ounces. Grated carrot would add some sweetness and a light vinegar and oil dressing using a small shallot, perhaps lemon or orange juice, white wine or champagne vinegar, pinch of salt and fresh grated pepper. Flowers are too delicate to chop with a knife. Better to tear them apart by hand. Add them just before serving and after you've dressed the salad.Read more at:prom dress | evening dresses uk

 

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