Meet your farmer! Each week we'll present one of our market vendors and give them a chance to talk about the how, what and why of what they do.
If you frequent the market already, no doubt you've already been charmed by the infectious enthusiasm of Kate O'Brien-Mann. The positivity she brings to her booth each week is only a small piece of the heart and soul she puts into farming.
She's been a full-time farmer for 10 years now and is the sole proprietor of Homeward Bounty Farm, the two acre property she owns and farms in Grenada. Homeward Bounty runs a 20 member CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), provides food for local clubs, the Mount Shasta Farmer's Market and Cafe Maddalena in Dunsmuir. She also works with Siskiyou Seeds and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange to grow out seed crops on contract, and grows seeds for Homeward Bounty Seeds as well. WHEW!
When I asked Kate what farming means to her, she had this to say:
"I believe that answer has grown and changed with the challenges and seasons that I've experienced. Food has intrinsic meaning of nutrients and health, but for me what resonates most is to be growing food here, in the community where I grew up. To be nursing this community and my family. I never question as to whether what I'm doing has value and to me that is a priceless way to spend a life.
I've learned what this land loves to grow, and Alliums is one of those crops. Many different types of onions, garlic and leeks have become some of my favorite crops. I also love beets and cherry tomatoes!"
When asked about the seed-saving aspect of her farming endeavors, Kate did not hold back on the love there, either:
"There is something deeply magical about bringing a crop from seed to seed. I love learning about new varieties and trailing varieties at the farm to see if they excel in this unique environment. Growing seed to me brings a deeper understanding and importance to my work here on the farm. This hot dry climate is great for seed production and I feel that it's important as someone who buys seed to be able to provide organic seed, that is locally adapted and high quality, for other farmers and local gardeners."
Finally, she talked a bit on the challenges of farming in Siskiyou county - leaving this interviewer with an even deeper respect for the labor of love farming, especially in Siskiyou county, can be:
"Farming is challenging and farming in Siskiyou County is a special kind of crazy. There's a reason why our area isn't saturated with producers markets and CSAs. I have so much respect for my fellow farmers and gardeners in this area, because it's hard! Every year is unique. This year was drenched with Winter/Spring rains that made is difficult to get into the ground, as the soil was saturated. June came with the hot days of summer, followed by a last cold push. The farm had a slight freeze on the 10th, that set back crops in the ground, but also held off the transplanting of starts in the greenhouse. Aside from the weather, my biggest battle here are ground squirrels and earwigs. I wouldn't want to farm any other way than organic, so pest management has to align with those standards and I'm still trying to find the magic solution."
Thank you so much, Kate, for all your hard work, for your love of land and farming, and for bringing your wonderful produce to us each week.