Harvest of dreams
PHOTOGRAPHY: Chris Gardner
(page 1 of 3)
Fair Mountain Farm has always been part of someone’s dream. Surely the first person to stake it out and file papers on it back in the 1880s dreamt of a well-kept, snug little homestead in the shadow of the Soldier Mountains. A place where, with vision and hard work, they could grow and prosper and lead a simple, rewarding life. And who knows, maybe they did. But if they didn’t, at least their dream is still attached to the land and will continue to remain so, despite a succession of owners.
Owners, is perhaps not an appropriate title. For the longer my wife Tona and I live here, and the more we work this land, the better understanding we have of our relationship to it. And deeded papers and encumbrances notwithstanding, we know we will never truly own it. It has merely passed into our custody for awhile, and we are just its current occupants, stewards for better or worse of its health and well-being. Taking from it that which sustains us, and hopefully leaving some improvement and personal imprint that will be appreciated by subsequent occupants.
It has been called the “old Wardrup place,” the “old Pahl’s place,” and “the old orchard” by people in Camas County where it is located (about 60 miles from Sun Valley on the way to Boise). We have named it Fair Mountain Farm in honor of the 10,000–foot peak that graces the northwestern skyline and the little community of Fairfield, which sits on the prairie seven miles south. We also wanted a descriptive name with which to label our produce and food products.
Our favorites, who were first among the many previous occupants, are the Wardrups, Jack and Adelaide, and it is their legacy we admire the most. They were renowned for their generosity and hospitality. It is said that Jack, (who planted the orchard, and whose favorite activity was gardening) would have been a wealthy man if everyone who owed him had repaid. And no one ever left Adelaide’s table hungry. It was their dream that built the house and planted the first garden. The creek that waters the orchard still bears their name. And it is the Wardrup’s legacy that Tona and I feel we hold in trust.
For we too have brought our dreams to this place, and they are much like we imagined the first homesteaders to be: “To grow and prosper and lead a simple, rewarding life.” We have added “challenging and meaningful” to that. And so far, despite the minor missteps and misfortunes of first-time farmers everywhere, we are satisfied with the results. Although a commercially-viable vegetable farm above 5,000 feet in altitude adds new dimension to the word “challenging.” And harvesting at ten o’clock at night by flashlight can stretch the definition of “meaningful."
The farm produces a variety of normal, as well specialty vegetables and fruit. The mix is dictated by our own curiosity and customer demand. We add or subtract something every year for the sake of challenge and education, as well as variety. There is always a new type of carrot or disease-free variety of green bean or spicy salad green to try. Like farmers everywhere, the weather plays a large role in our success/failure ratio with any given crop, and we agonize over grasshoppers, flea beetles, and frosts. Right now we supply produce to about twenty-five individual customers. Evergreen, Piccolo, Cristina’s, Il Naso, and The Catering Company have all purchased produce from us in varying amounts, and our farm has a stand across from Atkinsons’ each week in the summer at the Ketchum Farmers’ Market. Besides twenty-five types of vegetables (some with many varieties), and fruit and herbs, we sell eggs, free range turkeys, and a variety of products developed from our kitchen. Fudge sauce, salad dressing, brownies, jams and jellies, etc. >>>