Growing Partners: Midori Farm
Growing Partners interviews are conversations with customers, seed growers & community non-profits we work with that are leading the way in environmental and social stewardship. We’re proud to share their trail-blazing work with the world, and we hope to inspire the real food leaders of tomorrow to follow in their footsteps.
Marko Colby and Hanako Myers own Midori Farm in Quilcene, WA, where they produce our Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed. They are talented farmer/breeders and dedicated High Mowing customers.
HMOS: First off, please give some background on Midori Farm, including your location, crops grown, how much space you have in production, and how your product is distributed.
MC: Midori Farm is a 29 acre farm on the Olympic Peninsula northwest of Seattle. We have pasture, about 10 acres of mixed vegetable and seed production, run a small nursery, and produce traditionally-fermented sauerkraut and kimchi. Our products are sold through a CSA, farmers markets, restaurants and regional retailers.
HMOS: Why did you start Midori Farm, and how has it changed over time? How have your priorities changed, and how are these changes reflected in your business?
MC: We started Midori Farm out of our love of food and the joy of being outside all day. We had both been working on farms as hired help for a few years, and in 2008 we rented an empty pasture and planted our first market garden. In 2013 we purchased part of an old farm in Quilcene and spent a year getting it ready, then moved to the property and began farming full-time.
It was a big shift in many ways. As our business has expanded, so has our load of responsibilities. We currently have nearly year round staff, endless paperwork and record keeping, equipment to maintain, and of course crops to care for and land to pay for. These changes have been reflected in our business in that we are making more decisions based on long term planning instead of a year-to-year mindset. As we get to know our new place better we are devising a strategy that will build a solid foundation for the farm to sustain itself financially and ecologically—bringing us to the realization that we want to work on more breeding projects and grow more seed.
HMOS: What is the relationship between your farm and your local community, and how do you foster this relationship?
MC: We live in a fairly rural part of Washington State, but it’s easy to interact with lots of people in the community. For 7 years we have been hosting a weekly work trade day during which volunteers come to the farm and work for 4 hours in exchange for a CSA share. We participate in 3 local farmers markets, offer a CSA with low income scholarships, and we donate plants and seeds to all of the community gardens and school garden programs in Jefferson County. We also participate in the Jefferson County Farm Tour, when area farms are open to the public for a day.
HMOS: Tell us about your location – what are some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with your area?
MC: The North Olympic Peninsula is a rural area about 60 miles by road and ferry from Seattle. We are about 25 miles from Port Townsend which is the biggest town in the area with 11,000 residents and a seasonally robust tourist economy. There is great interest in local food and farms in the area. Our farm in particular is set back from the interior coast and backs up to the Quilcene range of the NE Olympic mountain range, and as a result the Quilcene valley gets much warmer and colder than many locations closer to the Puget Sound. Our farm was formed on the old flood plain of the Big and Little Quilcene rivers. The soils vary from sandy loam to gravely loam to rocky sand mixed with heavy peat, sometimes in the same field! We have good irrigation water, mostly good drainage and a long, mild growing season, with most of our rain falling between October and April. The mild climate makes it possible to overwinter biennials for seed production, and allows us to grow dry-seeded crops such as spinach, beet, chard and brassicas.
HMOS: What are the biggest challenges with the crops you grow, and how have you overcome them?
The challenges we face are high weed pressure, and just enough humidity to proliferate all manner of fungal diseases. We are continually refining our cultural practices to better manage weeds. To address fungal diseases we work on improving our soil health, lessening our weed pressure and selecting plants that do well with our particular challenges.
HMOS: What High Mowing varieties do you grow, and are there any special techniques you use for success?
MC: One of the seed varieties we grow is Abundant Bloomsdale Spinach, which we developed in partnership with Organic Seed Alliance and now sell to High Mowing. We worked on Abundant Bloomsdale for five years, selecting it for dark green savoyed leaves, disease resistance and bolt resistance.
Timing is everything for spinach seed production. It needs to be planted early enough to ensure that it is pollinating while temperatures are still cool, and it’s important to flame-weed just before the spinach germinates. We advise new seed growers to use the plethora of resources available online and in books, choose varieties that will mature well in your region, and select crops that you love to work with.
HMOS: What are your goals for Midori Farm, and how do you envision its future?
MC: In the future we want to bring more animals onto our land, increase the depth of understanding of our crew so they may take on more management responsibilities, and work on breeding new vegetable varieties suited to organic production.
Marko & Hanako grow: