In this week’s 'Behind the Stand', Siri Erickson-Brown gave us a peek into her farm Local Roots and gave us some tips she hopes you’ll use on your next trip to the Capitol Hill Farmer’s Market.
How the Farm Took Root
“Luck of the draw.” Siri found herself working as an apprentice at Nature’s Last Stand, a farm located in the Snoqualmie Valley who also happens to be a vendor at the Capitol Hill Farmers Market. Surrounded by other Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance (NFMA) farms, Siri’s excitement for the field grew.
Just one year into her apprenticeship, Siri was approached by a landowner who was looking to start a new farm. “We had no idea what we were doing. [It was] an unofficial incubator type situation.” A situation in which many talented farming hopefuls find themselves when faced with the steep start up costs of a new farm. After farming the land for 4 years, Siri and her husband, Jason, went from incubation to a full-fledged farm.
Is Local Roots Organic?
Local Roots isn’t certified organic, but their practices sure are. “We’ve been growing with certified organic growing practices since we started,” Siri said. The main reason farms like Local Roots don’t get certified is the cost, which can include everything from the time it takes to maintain records to the various application fees. Since Local Roots sells direct to customers via the farmers markets, they are able to tell the story of how their produce is grown to each shopper.
“My favorite [response] to people when they [ask], ‘Are you certified?’’ is ‘No we’re not. What are you concerned about?’” When people look for the organic label, they tend to care about pesticides, labor practices, and the carbon footprint of the farm. The list goes on. With the organic label, the only guarantee you have is on the matter of pesticides. “There’s no labor standard associated with organic.” An organic tomato available elsewhere could still have been grown using exploitive labor practices.
“If you’re driven by ethical or health concerns, the best place to buy food is the farmer’s market because you can have a face to face conversation with the person who grew it. Maybe you can even go to the farm and see for yourself.” Siri’s farm has an open door policy... “Just email us before you show up on my driveway,” Siri said with a laugh.
What Makes Local Roots Stand Out?
“Every single week we will have the best lettuce you can find.” Salad greens, escarole, frisee--if it’s leafy; Local Roots does it right. “We really love it and we have an expert crew. We plant fresh crops of lettuce once every week, but there’s really one day a week where every head of lettuce is at its peak. Sometimes the stars align and the perfect day for a particular variety of lettuce is the day we pick for the market. Just ask [us which variety]. Don’t be afraid!”
This is especially true of their radicchio, a farm favorite. Siri drives their passion for radicchio into practice by both providing the same care they put into their other greens, and by selectively sourcing their favorite seed varieties from Italy. Local Roots greens aren’t just fresh produce, they are the culmination of experience and painstaking decision making. Now that’s a salad to sink your teeth into.
Any other produce I should check out at Local Roots?
Local Roots also grows a lot of other delicious produce. Garlic, fennel, peppers--there are a lot of options. The zucchini they grow is dense and sweet with few seeds. This is in stark contrast to the watery, seed filled, and blander zucchini you tend to find elsewhere.
“We started growing melons for the first time last year and holy smoke, I thought I didn’t like melon.” These new melons might not be displayed front and center, so be sure to ask what’s available when you stop by their stand.
Want to get in touch with Local Roots?
Stop by the Capitol Hill Farmer’s Market! We’re open every Sunday, 11 AM to 3 PM. When you come make sure you follow Siri’s advice:
Thanks to volunteers John Espinosa and Ricky Wozniak for sharing this story!
Checking out their stall at the Friday Phinney Farmers Market, you see two things: a large and varied row of potatoes on one table, and an array of deep freeze foot lockers on the other two tables. Not very picturesque, compared to the displays of other stalls, but the proof is in the eating.
Brent and Kira Olsen’s family farm, located near Colville in the mountain valley in Northeastern Washington, comprises about 300 acres, plus much more leased land nearby. According to his wife Kira, Brent started farming in the mid 1990s with a vegetable crop, then switched to growing potatoes, then to hayfields. Sticking with the potatoes and the hayfields, he then got interested in raising livestock.
Today their cattle are raised on green grass pastures and are fed their hay and potatoes in the winter. “We feed the cows only what we grow on the farm, no outside food sources or animal by-products,” affirms the farm’s website. “Our pigs are fed barley grown just across the road from where they live and our lambs are moved throughout the region to remain on pasture for as much of the year as possible.” The farm’s animals are naturally raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics.
Kira Olsen is one of those multi-taskers: farmer’s wife, mother, and office worker (including at the farm’s USDA-certified meat processing plant nearby). And with Kira there’s a personal connection to our farmer’s market: She managed it in 2009, then met her husband through that connection. With all that, the couple have two daughters, 15 months and 2 ½ years.
Oh yes, the potatoes…the farm’s huge variety in both flavor and color lends itself to tasty recipes—suggested likewise on the Olsen Farms website, www.olsenfarms.com.
Oh and heads-up: there are only three more Fridays left for the Market this season.
story by Dick Gillett