Tend Blog Staff - Jul 17, 2018

Farm of the Month: Squash Blossom Farm

This year marked the beginning of our new "Farm of the Month" series on the Tend Blog, where we highlight the amazing work and delicious produce and food that small organic farms are producing across the country. July’s farm is Squash Blossom Farm run by Sara Berman and Ed Zinader in Bellevue, Idaho. Check back each month for new features. To be considered for our series, please email [email protected].

Owner/Manager Name: Sara Berman and Ed Zinader
Location: Bellevue, Idaho
Website: squashblossom.farm
Number of Employees: Owner only
Acreage: 7 acres (1 acre vegetables)

How did you get into farming?
We came at farming from different directions. Ed's family has farming roots, which he chose to follow after college through an internship on a vegetable farm in Montana. Sara first got interested in farming through a high school class that explored ideas of sustainability and the food industry. Both Sara and Ed had worked on different farms throughout the world before meeting and starting Squash Blossom Farm.

Tell us about the story of your farm – how did you (and your farm partner) get started? What was that like? What challenges did you encounter?
Our passion for food and farming quickly drew us together as a couple, and it became clear that we both wanted farming to be a part of our lives together, but we were ready to create our own vision instead of working on someone else's farm. When a piece of land became available in our valley, it was an opportunity we could not let pass. The creation of Squash Blossom Farm has been an intentionally slow evolution -- every year we choose to tackle bigger goals -- from increasing our growing space, reaching out to new markets, and ultimately quitting our other jobs to be full time farmers. There have been challenges every step of the way. Finding the right resources for a small, sustainable farm in the middle of vast, mostly industrial agriculture-centric Idaho has been a roadblock. We have also struggled with soil fertility and learning how to adapt our growing practices to a high mountain desert region with short growing seasons.

What are some important things you’ve learned since you started at your farm?
Communication has been a big area of awareness and growth for our farm. We are continuously learning how to best communicate with each other as farm partners, how to communicate most clearly with customers and CSA members, and the most effective ways to communicate with other buyers like chefs and retailers.

What is the most challenging aspect given the location of your farm?
Ecologically-speaking, our very short growing season is challenging because it limits our ability to produce and generate income through half of the year. We also get essentially no rain through the entire growing season, so are completely reliant on irrigation. Water rights are amongst the most controversial issues in our regional politics, so having access to water long-term is always a tenuous thought in the back of our minds.

What do you love about your community that makes it a special place to farm?
Our community is full of people that are incredibly passionate about leading healthy lifestyles, from playing outside in the mountains to nourishing their bodies with good, clean food. Although there is not a history of small, sustainable farms within our valley, the community is very supportive of the local food movement. With Sara having grown up here, it is amazing for her to be able to contribute her own part in supporting healthy Idaho living by providing friends, family, and neighbors with delicious natural food.

Name something you would love to grow that you haven't tried or been able to grow yet?
We would love to expand our production in the hoop houses to include more diverse things such a sweet potatoes, ginger, turmeric, and horseradish.

Where do you see your farm 10 years from now?
We would like to see Squash Blossom stay roughly the same size in term of growing space, but to have a continued increase in production, efficiency, quality of soil and crop, and overall economic sustainability. We see farming as not only a career, but a lifestyle that can sustain us financially, emotionally, and physically through the cycle of seasons for years to come.

What are a few of your favorite farming pro tips?
We always try to continue exploring new and diverse techniques and tools that allow the farm to continue to evolve. Instead of getting stuck in a rut when things don't work out as planned, we try to look at problems from different perspectives so to try and find a new path forward.

Who are your greatest farming influencers?
We have been greatly inspired by farmers who have taken us under their wings in the past.
For Ed, Steve & Lucy of Lifeline Farm in Montana; for Sara, Bruce & Lisa of Fox Hollow Farm in Ohio. We also learn so much from market farmers around North America who are actively sharing their work experiences in the public realm - Andrew Mefford, Eliot Coleman, JM Fortier, Curtis Stone, Ben Hartman.

How has Tend helped your business?
Tend has been an instrumental tool for us, particularly when it comes to crop planning. By having a visual guide that allows us to create a vision during the off season, Tend's software gives us a clear and proven road map to follow when it comes to the sprint of the planting season. It takes a great weight off our shoulders knowing that all of the crops we need fit in our beds in a way that maximizes plant successions in our small growing area. Tend also has allowed us to launch a website that we feel proud of and that helps streamline our CSA program through online sign-ups and payment.

What are some of the greatest challenges, for your farm, that you have overcome? How?
We are still working on overcoming our greatest challenges!  While we overcome many challenges every day and have completed our first few years successfully, we are still trying to wrap our heads around bigger challenges such as soil fertility, creating the right infrastructure for our goals, and the overall economic viability of our farm.


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