Barr Street Market Vendor Series: Plough + Stars Farm
As much as I love jewelry, crafts and pottery, it is a refreshing change of pace to bring you Plough + Stars Farm as our vendor review for this week. To me, this is what a summer market like Barr Street is all about…delicious, homegrown, fresh produce. And while Plough + Stars may be only in their second year, they act like pros and have the veg to prove it.
I grew up in Noble County on a couple acres of land and watched on as my parents tilled through fresh dirt every spring to plant their (in my opinion) gigantic garden. And although I had no problem stalking through the rows and making lunch out of fresh green beans, snap peas and cherry tomatoes, you couldn’t pay me enough to be responsible for the maintenance of that land. So, I have much admiration for the Rash and Tyree families, who have come together as neighbors and created not only a sprawling and beautiful produce farm, but a career in selling their goods.
I contacted Seth Rash with the burning question, how in the world do you make this work? It takes neighborly comradery, money and oh so much time.
This is what he had to say, “Farming is a lot of work, but if it is the kind of life that suits you, it is deeply satisfying and rewarding. I (Seth) have a genetic disorder that is causing me to lose my vision. Growing vegetables, besides being something I just love to do, is an outlet for me and a way to keep me connected to the simple treasures of hard work, the beauty of the earth, eating great food, and time with family. Scott and I both have young children and watching them grow up on the farm is amazing. We’ve been growing vegetables for a long time but this is only our second season as Plough & Stars Farm. We are learning all the time and still have a lot more to learn and discover about small scale, sustainable agriculture. The challenge of starting and growing a farm keeps it interesting and engaging. Our expectations at the beginning of Plough & Stars Farm were pretty guarded in that we weren’t sure what, if any, financial success we’d have. We imagined that we might (a very guarded might) be able to go full time at this at some point in the future but that day could be a long way off. We realize how fortunate we are to have access to such a vibrant, successful market like Barr Street and think the folks at YLNI do a great job. The potential for farms like ours to flourish in this area of NE Indiana is high and so we’re excited about doing our small part in transforming the way people connect with their community of food producers.”
Of course, after last year’s unspeakable winter, there had to be concerns regarding the crops. “Despite having a rough spring, most of our crops have turned out to be great this year”, Rash explains. “We’ve been particularly happy with the quality of our kale harvest, which is always a big seller for us. We’ve also been very happy with our lettuce, even during the hottest part of the summer, it’s been consistently good. Broccoli did really well in the spring and early summer. We’ve been told by a customer that our beets are the best they’ve ever had. It looks like our pepper crop will be strong again this year as well. Tomatoes always seem to pull through even though they are late this year. We’ve been fortunate this season in that almost everything has done as well or better than expected. We did lose our eggplants early in the season and the deer and raccoon decimated our sweet corn, but a few of those kinds of things are to be expected with farming and aren’t a major concern.”
Plough + Stars is located in Whitley County, but they bring their food to the market each Saturday. In this new venture, they want their customers to know what is at the (forgive the pun) ‘root’ of their business. “We’d like people to know how hard we work to try and be as sustainable as possible. Taking care of our land is important to us and we’re grateful to even be in a position to grow food for our customers’ tables and our own. We grow everything we sell from seeds we germinate and nurture through the seedling stage and tend through to harvest. We love what we do and we want our customers to enjoy the same delicious food we get to eat all the time.”
To some, enjoying such fresh and healthy food can be taxing. But there are far too many benefits to ignore. Seth’s family as well as the Tyrees understand the importance of eating and living healthily.
“It seems like maybe you don’t realize the benefits of living a healthier lifestyle until you’re actually doing it…then you can’t imagine not living that way. We’re fortunate in that our “gym” is just outside the back door and we’re surrounded by incredibly nutritious food. We’ve found that our desire for fresh, truly nutritious foods grows as those foods have become a larger part of our table. Now they dominate our meals and there is really no going back. If we never sold another vegetable we would still grow food for ourselves. We realize that isn’t a possibility for many people, but you don’t have to grow or raise your own food to enjoy high quality, locally produced fruits, vegetables, and meat. (Just check out Barr Street!)”