Crop Mobbing at Pokey Creek Farm

As the rich green hues of the Palouse begin to shift to a more rustic palette we start to see harvest celebrations centered around local food, like Buy Local Moscow’s Eat Local Week (great post with details here). Last Sunday I had the privilege of rounding out a wonderful week of local love at Pokey Creek Farm in Santa, Idaho. The Moscow Food Co-op teamed up with Pilgrim’s Natural Market in Coeur d’Alene for a Crop Mob to help out shared friends, Greg & Leah. The day was filled with education, a little hard work, great food, and a lot of scenic views.
Leah shared that Pokey Creek Farm maintains two properties; one by the St. Joseph River which they call the “river farm” and the farm we were working at, which is their “mountain farm.” And mountain farm it was. We met at the Santa Post Office so that cars that weren’t up for the drive could park and ride up. The further we climbed, the more surrounded we were by lush, dense forest, and the bumpier the ride was.
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The morning began with Leah welcoming us into the cabin they built themselves and shared stories of their past adventures. As we exited out of the other side of the house, we saw the greenhouse they added onto the cabin the second floor of the cabin, then began the tour of the grounds before getting to work.
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Before splitting into three groups, we learned about each of the three tasks we could help with: harvesting potatoes, “popping” garlic, and/or planting garlic. Pulling potatoes appears easier than I thought, although I didn’t get the chance to try it. Greg demonstrated by pulling the long greens straight up out of the ground, dangling from the leaves were several deep purple ‘Huckleberry’ Potatoes. Then he felt around in the hole the potatoes had left for any extras. Then we went on to learn what it meant to “pop” garlic.
“Popping” garlic is how you prepare garlic seed for planting, and turns out it is something quite familiar to anyone that cooks with fresh garlic. The most important part of the lesson wasn’t technique though, but purpose. Greg asked us to only pop the large, healthy heads because those are the best harvest and thus will be the best seed for the next crop. The small heads were reserved for them to keep for personal use.
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Greg taught us that each garlic clove is a seed, so we separated, or “popped” the head into cloves and tossed any that were broken or marred. After popping on the back porch, we went and planted garlic and got some great tips for a healthy harvest. Garlic cloves are planted with the rough top part pressed lightly down in the soil, about one inch. The big tips he gave were to have the cloves face the same direction – the concave curve on the same side – and to give them at least six inches between each clove so it has enough space to grow as big as it can. Although we didn’t see it, Greg said they would add compost to help the soil and to grow large, healthy garlic which would be harvested nearly a year from now, next fall.
Pilgrim’s Market brought lunch and the Co-op brought cookies which were all shared by the 16 “mobbers” while Greg & Leah continued to shared their stories on the back deck, overlooking a sea of evergreen trees and a beautiful sense of peace.
If you missed the gift bags of potatoes and garlic we were given before leaving Crop Mob, you can still find Pokey Creek Farm’s goods – from potatoes to kale – at any of the five local markets they attend: the Moscow Farmers Market, both markets in Coeur d’Alene, the St. Marie’s market, and Palouse Grown Market. You can also find them at Pilgrim’s Natural Market, and at the Moscow Food Co-op produce and deli departments. Keep a look out for the next time the Moscow Food Co-Op coordinates a crop mob on their Facebook page and their website. Now, you’ve got some tips for planting your own garlic too!