Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Even in January, Farmer Les gets up before the crack of dawn—or at least he did today to meet us online for an early morning getting-to-know-you chat. We talked to the Washington State apple and garlic grower about how farming changed his life, his plans for 2013, and what winter means on Jones Creek Farms. HOMEGROWN, meet new member Les. Les, meet HOMEGROWN.

What is Meet Your Neighbors? Most of us spend a fair amount of time tending our online gardens, but it’s easy to forget there’s a real person behind every quiche recipe, chicken inquiry, and hoophouse design here on HOMEGROWN. Well, nuts to that! MYN gives us a chance to meet over the back fence and shake hands. (Or maybe hug? We’re huggers. But no pressure.)

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Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on January 18, 2013 at 10:08am

Good morning, Les! You're in Washington State, right? What's the weather like out your way this morning?

Comment by Leslie J Price on January 18, 2013 at 10:25am

Clear and cooooool!

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on January 18, 2013 at 10:26am

Sounds beautiful! This time of year, in the depths of winter, what are you concentrating on on the farm? What does a typical day look like for you?

Comment by Leslie J Price on January 18, 2013 at 10:37am

Well, with a labor force of one, that being me, there are so many things to do, sometimes it is overwhelming. There is a common misconception, get it all the time from customers at the farmers markets, that farmers like me take the winter off and fly to sunny spots, but unfortunately winter is when the real work happens. Mostly an outside day would be pruning/training in the orchard or transplanting trees, building new trellis, orchard rows. A lot of general repair and cleanup around the farm takes place during the winter too.

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on January 18, 2013 at 10:40am

Not really an off season at all—more like a lot of hard work. It sounds like, 20 years ago when you first got started, farming was a big shift for you. What led you to make the change? What made you want to do this?

Comment by Leslie J Price on January 18, 2013 at 11:09am

That's a good question and one that I used to talk about all the time to people when I first started farming. They all thought I was crazy for quitting my "real" job and entering into what was considered a diminishing job field and lifestyle. I guess I've been farming so long now I have almost forgotten why I started. My original goal in life was marine biology, but somewhere in my 3rd year of college I gave up on college and spent the rest the rest of my life in the automotive business. I was running an automotive machine shop 90 miles from here when I bought this farm and, 3 years later, I was out of the automotive trade altogether. I hope I don't offend anyone here, but I have gone 180 degrees in how I am able to feel about myself now. I am now very proud of what I do. I produce a great product in a responsible way and I get to see the satisfaction on each and every customer's face. I know they are taking something home with them that is good and healthy for their family.

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on January 18, 2013 at 11:13am

Feeling proud of what you do is an amazing thing. And, on behalf of eaters, thank you for caring about what we eat. That's huge. Speaking of, you’re going through another change this year, as you plant a certified organic block of trees for the first time for hard cider. Have you grown apples for cider before? How will growing organic be different for you?

Comment by Leslie J Price on January 18, 2013 at 11:36am

Yes, actually most of my land and crops are certified organic now. I have one block of u-pick apples and pears that are not. The garlic was the first thing I grew organic. It's a natural for organic growing! Also a great companion for interplanting other row crops like artichokes, which normally are very hard to grow with their aphid problems, but within the garlic beds ... no aphids. I have been growing traditional hard cider apple varieties of English and Normandy origins for many years and, together with a friend of mine, we have been making hard cider to perfect our technique. The new planting will be the official block for certification purposes, as right now I have trees scattered all over the place. I am looking forward to having a processed product to sell. It's still a long way away, though.

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on January 18, 2013 at 11:40am

Gotcha. Keep us posted on the cider progress. We’re thirsty already. OK, last question, and then we’ll let you get back to work. A little birdie told us you’re one heck of a seafood cook. Tell us about a recent meal—juicy details, please. And before we sign off, thanks so much for chatting this morning. We’re so thankful you're part of the HOMEGROWN flock.

Comment by Leslie J Price on January 18, 2013 at 12:19pm

Oh, I knew you were going to ask me about that! When shopping at my favorite seafood vendor, I often get a case of eyes-bigger-than-stomach syndrome. Now that I'm a bachelor again, it's twice as bad. So, I had 5 lbs of manilla clams that I steamed with a few crushed cloves of my Rocaambole garlic and some chives (another great natural for organic growing). I think I could have gotten by with 2 lbs of clams. I also deep fried some Ling Cod filet. At least I was able to cut back on this, as I could put the extra in the freezer. The cod was battered in a tempura courtesy of The Joy of Cooking '43 edition, I think. By the time I was done cooking, I realized my mistake of gluttony but just dove in! When it was all over, I was feeding clams to my chickens. Please, don't someone out there tell me chickens aren't supposed to eat clams!


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