As the garden supply areas for both Co-op stores begin to fill with all of the great spring offerings for local gardeners, it is important to recognize the folks who bring those wonderful organic starts of herbs and veggies to us.
Chris Robinson and Melissa Southwick have been supplying the Co-op with starts for over 10 years. Farmers for the past 30 years, they have been farming their fertile Spring Creek Farm near Rochester for the past 16 and offering their bounty at the Farmer’s Market for around 30 years. In the summer, gardening becomes a family affair when Chris’ two older daughters come home to help with the busy farming season.
Early in their work tilling the soil at Spring Creek Farm, Chris and Melissa decided that they wanted to grow plants that worked with the environment. Because lavender doesn’t have to be irrigated, and deer leave it alone, they decided to grow it on 3 acres of their open, at one time cattle pasture land. At that time they were growing and selling around 60 varieties of lavender and also making body and essential oils to sell. Now they farm about 1 1/2 acres filled with 5,000 lavender plants of about 30 varieties, plus 250 varieties of herbs and veggies. From this bounty, they sell bulk lavender, and fresh and dry cut bouquets at the Farmer’s Market, and to the Co-op they bring perennial and annual herb and veggie starts.
Although they are not certified, they work hard to grow organically. “All our materials are listed by the Organic Material Review Institute,” Chis told me. “We make our own soil out of the compost that comes from the Olympia curbside waste and gets composted in Silver Springs. It is certified organic through Washington State. We add other things, all from that list of organic materials, but that is the main ingredient.” He appreciates the fact that this creates a closed loop effect from household to compost to farm and back to household.
Chris pointed out that their watering system is basically sustainable. “We have 3 wells,” he said. “One is gravity-fed and the other two are pump wells.” I learned that during part of the year Chris and Melissa are able to water from the gravity-fed well, transferring to the other pump wells as the season turns dryer. He is proud of the fact that much of the watering on the farm is done off-the-grid. “Watering the veggie starts is done by a solar pump set-up we have on one of the wells,” he proudly stresses. He also adds that they have been quite frugal. “We recycle as many pots as we can. I just recently bought 3,000 pots from a grower who is going out of business. We haven’t bought new one-gallon pots in 15 years,” he told me. It is obviously important to him to be running an operation that walks as lightly as possible on the earth, while at the same time producing good, healthy, products. “The emphasis of the farm,” he told me, “is to be as low-impact and sustainable as possible, while at the same time providing a quality product.”
So as you begin to prepare your garden for the coming growing season, know that you can find just about every wonderful organic start you are looking for at both Co-op stores, Eastside and Westside. Come and be greeted with a large variety of starts from Spring Creek Farm: herbs, peas, onions, leeks, lettuce, kale, spinach, beets, corn and beans. They are also expanding this year to offer blueberries, strawberries, hops and figs, so look for these too. And…Happy Gardening!