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Dishing Up the Dirt
Andrea and her husband are the proud owners of a six-acre organic vegetable farm called Tumbleweed Farm in Oregon. Her blog Dishing Up the Dirt is a way for her to document the meals made with the produce they’re growing and to inspire us to prepare fresh meals for ourselves and loved ones.
I am so happy to have Andrea Bemis of Dishing Up the Dirt here on the show today.
(*All images below are Andrea’s.)
On What Drew Her to Farming:
My husband grew up on a organic farm back East in Massachusetts. I did not have desires to work on a farm growing up so it happened organically. About six years ago, we decided to quit our day jobs. We were just working pay check to pay check, not doing anything that we felt was very important and decided to roll up our sleeves and go work on this organic farm back East in Massachusetts. And dove right in, head first, which was awful and great at the same time.
I did not realize how much work went into producing food and I didn’t grow up cooking or eating the types of vegetables that we grow. And now, it’s gone full circle and I absolutely love it. We’re going through a heat wave right now so I don’t love it but it’s gone full circle. I’m really proud of what we do.
I had this vision that it would be really romantic and it would be slow paced and we’d just pluck vegetables from the ground and it would be really lovely and it’s not. It’s go, go, go but it doesn’t matter if it’s 90 degrees out or 20 degrees out. Things need to get done. So that was an eye-opener.
On Their Farm:
The one thing that is different is it does not rain in Oregon in the summer which is ironic because Oregon is such a rainy state, but from June until October, we have to irrigate like crazy. Back East, almost every afternoon, we got a rain shower which is great. But aside from that, growing-wise, we can grow pretty much the same vegetables as we did back there. Our seasons are a little bit shorter here because in Parkdale, Oregon, we’ve got a little bit of elevation.
It’s a little different everyday but I guess I could start out with this morning which started at 5:00 a.m. running out with the toothbrush still in my mouth to yell at a couple of deer that were eating our strawberries. We’re on deer patrol all the time. The days typically start around 5:00, have coffee and go over a list of what needs to get done.
Tomorrow is the CSA day so today we’re prepping, trying to stay up with irrigation, planting, weeding. We do succession planting so we’re always planting all the time for 20-something days, so we’ll be planting.
We continue to plant but tomorrow is our big day, we harvest starting at 4:00 in the morning because we take our crop up to Portland. So Tuesdays are always a really long day. It depends on the day. We’re just at the farm if we don’t have restaurant deliveries or CSA deliveries. Then we try and stay on top of farm chores and keeping things happy and healthy and a lot of irrigating and weeding.
When you’re away from the farm, it’s scary because you’re away and anything can happen and so you have to make up for the hours that you’re gone when you’re back.
On What They Grow on Their Farm:
We do a combination of 50 different varieties of vegetables. We do all the really common and uncommon spring vegetables. We do basically anything that we know is going to do well and that we know people are going to be pumped to receive. So we don’t grow anything too crazy but we grow things that we know we can sell easily, and people want, and that they’re going to do well for us.
We’ll always grow kale. It does really well. It’s a pretty easy crop to grow. If there’s a really hot trendy food out there we might try a small little plot of it. But for the most part, we keep to the same vegetables year to year unless we have a huge crop failure and some things don’t seem like they’re going to ever work for us, then we won’t grow that. We stick to pretty much the same vegetables year in and year out.
On Growing Produce for Beginners:
My first piece of advice is to grow things that you would want to eat. I have friends who end up growing a bunch of bok choy. And they’re like, “I don’t know what to do with this. I don’t even think I like it.” I’m like, “Well, okay.” I would say pick a few things that you like to eat so if you want to have a lot of salads, lettuce is pretty simple.
My folks have done this. Letting things sit for too long. Things can turn bad pretty quickly especially in the heat. So even if something didn’t totally size up, I would grab it. I think people sometimes will let things go too long. Pay attention and think of the farm as your baby. I don’t know what people’s situation is but it’s like if something looks like maybe it needs water. If you already watered and it’s wet, don’t water again. You can over water, you can underwater. So pay close attention to your garden.
Crop rotation is pretty important just because each crop takes different nutrients from the soil so it’s good to move things around. But it’s not the end of the world. We typically have a map of our farm. We try and rotate things on a 5-year rotation. That’s ideal.
And diseases can spread a little more easily if you’re planting the same place over and over.
On a Resource for Those Wanting to Learn More:
My favorite book for beginner farmers or gardeners is The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman. We still reference that. It’s an easy read but it’s also informative and I recommend that to anyone that’s trying to grow vegetables for the first time.
On Writing Her Blog:
Our CSA, we have a 50-member CSA and 90% of these people are members because of the blog. We don’t know them but the blog, it’s turned into like a job.
I want people to be pumped with their vegetables. Even if they’re not supporting us personally I want to inspire people to go to their local farmers market and cook up vegetables that really are in season because I’m a big supporter of small farmers. I think that they are making a big difference and it’s really hard to make a living. So if more and more people support farmers then the world would be a better place.
The cooking and the recipes can be challenging at times if the day has been super busy but I typically come in about an hour before my husband does to cook something, take a few photos, and depending on what it is, I’ll either keep it warm somewhere and go back and finish evening chores, or get a salad or something. We’ll eat it a little bit later.
I’ve been doing this for five years. We’ve nailed this system. And then at night, I’ll just do a little blog post, they’re pretty simple, not too crazy. I don’t know why people are really surprised that I just create the time for it, it actually is a nice little break from the fields.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I don’t watch any right now.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I like reading Naturally Ella. She’s got some really beautiful photos and great recipes and they’re really simple too. I think her goal is pretty quick, easy, no fuss recipes.
I like My New Roots a lot. Her recipes definitely take a little more time but I think the photography is great.
Cookie and Kate is another good one that I like.
They’re all vegetarian food blogs but they’re pretty inspiring.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
Instagram is the only one that I really use and I follow a lot of farms on Instagram but as far as food ones go, Dolly and Oatmeal. She’s got some really great photos. There’s a local girl and her blog is Local Haven and she’s got beautiful food photos.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
A bottle opener. That and maybe my immersion blender. I use my immersion blender every single day for making sauces.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
Maybe mustard. I love mustard and I used to hate it.
I think it was too many bad hot dogs when I was a kid with mustard on. Now I love mustard.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I’m not reading a ton of cookbooks right now. But I subscribe to Food & Wine Magazine and Bon Appétit and it’s like Christmas every month for me. I get really inspired by both those magazines. And Real Simple magazine too so those are my go-tos and it’s nice to have subscriptions to them because they’re a highlight to the month.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
For me, when I’m cooking, it’s more like a wind down time so it’s nothing too crazy. I guess right now I’ve got the Gillian Welch station on my computer and she’s just nice and mellow.
On Keeping Posted with Andrea:
Well, DishingUpTheDirt.com. I post there three times a week. And then otherwise, I’m on Instagram, that’s my only social media that I’m on quite a bit, I love it.