There are two main ways that veggies show up at the Market this early in the season. Remember, most of the veggies we like to eat were not designed to grow in our climate.
So that means a farmer has to baby them. The first way to get early veggies is with cover. High tunnels have been a windfall in this area, but you can only adjust the climate so much. The earlier you plant, the more you will have to heat, or cover with plastic or glass or floating row cover. Or all of the above.
The second way to get veggies for the spring before the regular garden veggies kick in is with a root cellar. No energy input. No worry. It has to be built well to be worry-free, but once it’s in place it is forever a free storage refrigerator.
So you can imagine how I stopped in my tracks last weekend at the Homer Farmers Market when I saw huge potatoes and onions as big as my fist.
Steve Chmielowiec knows root cellars. He uses the 5-foot high crawl space under his house and layers sand and straw down to place his storage veggies on, just like he always has since growing up in Wisconsin 74 years ago. Life has changed since those days of horse-drawn farm equipment, but the techniques haven’t changed.
For the last 30 years Steve and his wife Cassie have been making Crafty Alaskan Christmas tree ornaments with real fur that sell at shops all around the state. They have hit their limit on how many they can make in a year, despite the high demand, and choose to spend time gardening to relax.
With a mere three acres they are planning to end up with two 30-by-72-foot high tunnels and four smaller versions about half that size. With their root cellar measuring 50-by-75, it seems guaranteed that we will be seeing lots of veggies coming from Chmielowiec Farms.
So, head on down this Saturday to the Market from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Ocean Drive and see what veggies are coming in early.
Kyra Wagner is the director of Sustainable Homer and the Homer Farmers Market’s biggest fan.