Monday, April 05, 2010

Grow a Salad Bowl

My friend Rebecca Gerendasy of Cooking Up A Story invited me to head out to Hillsboro to visit Rainyway Farm and talk with Joan Baune, a market farmer. Our first collaboration resulted in the video above and the story below. Fun stuff!

When Joan Baune heard customers bemoaning the fact that they didn't have room on their tiny city lots to grow their own vegetables, she knew she could help people eager to grow their own food no matter how little land they had.

Joan and her husband Ron both grew up on farms near the Oregon coast and, though they didn't meet till they were grown, when they married they knew they wanted property of their own. Kids came, and the pastures around their home, now called Rainyway Farm, were filled with the livestock the kids raised for Future Farmers of America projects.

Joan Baune of Rainyway Farm.

When the kids grew up the Baunes decided to expand their small vegetable garden and plowed up the well-fertilized pastures to plant vegetables. Ron built a greenhouse for plant starts that they began selling at a nearby farmers' market, and when that garden reached eight acres, they decided to hit the big time with a space at the much larger Portland Farmers' Market.

While their plant starts were a big hit, they realized that city people didn't have the larger parcels of land that were common in the suburbs. This "aha!" moment led Joan to the realization that potted vegetables would be a great value-added addition to their product mix, and she came up with her Rainyway Farm Salad Bowls.

She first fills the 20" plastic pots with a rich potting mix and then gently adds 15 to 20 lettuce and chard plants that she starts from seed. Joan's eye for composition is evident in the red lettuces and colorful chard that she adds, saying that the different textures and colors make it look prettier on a patio.

After planting, the pots are then moved into the greenhouse to mature and fill in before going to the market. Joan said that many people buy them for gifts as well as for their own use, trimming off the outside leaves as they mature and using them in green salads. When the lettuces are exhausted, customers can use the pots to plant other vegetables like tomatoes for the summer or braising greens for use throughout the winter.

Her recipe for success? Just a keen ear and a willingness think outside the garden.


Zawacki said...

Excellent read and an awesome idea. Thanks for the video, too :)

kab said...

I'm constantly amazing by the innovative ideas that farmers come up with to add value to their crops, whether that's "salsa kits" made up of their tomatoes and peppers, polenta ground from corn or potted vegetables and herbs. Brilliant!