Be Good to Your Body
(page 5 of 5)
FROM FARM TO FORK
Winter Farming in Idaho
When winter takes its hold on Sun Valley, and the summer days of lush gardens and blooming farmers’ markets are just warm memories, the concept of buying a fresh apple without a “grown in New Zealand” sticker may seem far-fetched.
There are, however, lots of people growing high-quality produce year-round, right here in the state of Idaho—many of whom are right around the corner from America’s original ski resort and who practice (labor-intensive) winter farming methods. Organizations like Idaho’s Bounty, an online non-profit food market, and restaurants like CK’s Real Food in Hailey, which includes locally grown and raised ingredients as staples of their menu, are helping to make sure that even during the freezing and snow-filled months, fresh, local food can make its way from farms to forks.
Clarence and Tona Stilwill of Fair Mountain Farm have been growing fruits and vegetables at the base of Soldier Mountain in Fairfield for 20 years now and they know the wilds of Idaho winters well. Clarence explained that during the winter months, when the ground is frozen and unsuitable for growing vegetables, they use “hoop houses,” which are solar-powered greenhouses, to produce hearty leafy vegetables like spinach, arugula and mustard greens. In addition to wintery greens, they harvest starchy root vegetables like beets, turnips and onions during the fall and store them so that they’re available all winter. Fair Mountain Farm also produces organic eggs all year, even though Clarence said many of his 40 hens would prefer to head to Florida for the winter.
Lynea Petty has a frenzied schedule as Idaho’s Bounty general manager, and she certainly doesn’t slow down just because produce is not as plentiful during the winter months. Although most root vegetables and storage crops are available throughout the winter, Lynea said, “People would be surprised to know that produce like kale and chard are not available only during January and the first half of February.” That said, generally only those farmers with access to geothermal heating can produce a variety of vegetables in the winter and Onsen Farm in Buhl is one of the most well-known. Onsen (which is Japanese for healing hot springs) grows vegetables like tomatoes in late winter and salad crops in early spring. The neighboring Hagerman High School greenhouse also contributes a tomato or two to Idaho’s Bounty, but the majority of their 4,000 products are grown and crafted by Idaho co-op farmers.
One Wood River Valley resident with a serious commitment to seasonal eating is Chris Kastner of CK’s Real Food in Hailey, whose obvious passion for local food fills his winter menu with unique flavors created from hot and hearty vegetables. Kastner’s mantra is to cook out of the refrigerator, just like at home. He sticks to this idea even during the cold winter months, transitioning mainly to root veggies, featuring them in potato dishes, soups and purees, and sticking to roasting and pureeing vegetables like parsnips and sweet potatoes. Kastner said that he gets a few greenhouse vegetables like cucumbers during the winter, but that there is simply “not enough light during the Idaho winter and that the energy commitment is too great.”
Whether your idea of a winter-worthy meal is a salad of local greens and roasted beets or a plate of CK’s roasted leg of lamb and creamy mashed potatoes, make sure to check out what Sun Valley has to offer in the way of local winter produce. Our Idaho farmers work hard during these months so support them by eating your vegetables this winter. -Margot Ramsay