by Betsy Peirce, Produce Manager
We are excited to announce that the Oneota Co-op will be selling seedlings this year from River Root Farm for transplanting into your home garden. Additionally we proudly carry Seed Savers Exchange seed packets which are already in-store for purchase. Look for a display of River Root Farm seedlings to go up outside our front doors in April which we will continue selling into June.
You may recognize our growers Mike Bollinger and Katie Prochaska of River Root Farm because they have been supplying the wildly popular micro greens in our Produce department. This year, they will also be supplying us with high quality greenhouse-raised vegetable and herb seedlings throughout the season. All produce and seedlings from River Root Farm are certified through Midwest Organic Services Association.
Mike and Katie have been in the gardening business for the last 7 years. They made their beginnings at Seed Savers Exchange after college and Katie’s Peace Corps service in Mali, West Africa. They, then, proceeded to move to various parts of the United States, pursuing their passion for agriculture and gaining valuable experience along the way. After serving as resident stewards of the Good Life Center (www.goodlife.org), they moved less than a mile down the road and began working with Eliot Colemen at Four Season Farm. There they learned all about mobile greenhouses and year-round vegetable production in northern climates. Afterwards, in and around Chicago, they gained experience which included designing and managing Heritage Prairie Farm in Geneva, IL. In spring 2009, they moved back to Decorah and were thrilled to purchase their very own farm.
Together with Mike and Katie we have chosen a nice array of herbs and vegetables based on their gardening experience in our climate (zone). According to Katie, “We are choosing the varieties we are growing for seedlings because we believe they provide a nice balance between productivity and flavor. The vegetable varieties we chose to offer at the Co-op will provide an extended harvest period throughout the season, while at the same time not sacrificing the terrific flavor that comes with fresh home-grown produce. ”
Below is a listing of some of the varieties Mike and Katie will be offering us and what they like about them.
Broccoli: The “Gypsy” broccoli has a strong root system that makes it a good choice for planting in gardens with below average fertility. The large, healthy plants are resistant to downy mildew and are suitable for multiple cuttings – making it a great choice to leave in your garden all summer for an extended harvest period.
Cauliflower: Our cauliflower variety is “Skywalker,” which has uniform self-wrapping heads that are cold tolerant and great for late summer and fall harvest.
Brussels Sprouts: “Long Island Improved” Brussels sprouts are one of the most productive commercial sprout varieties in the U.S.
Lettuce: Our vigorous varieties of butterhead, romaine and leaf lettuce are full and dense with great taste. All of our lettuce varieties are bred for disease resistance and have good tolerance to tip burn, heat and bolting in our hot summer weather.
Heirloom and open pollinated tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.
Tomatoes: Some of our favorite tomatoes include our large red beefsteak varieties- “Brandywine” and “Mortgage Lifter” – which are exceptionally meaty and flavorful and typically crack-free. Another very productive variety is “Green Zebra” which is olive yellow with deep green zebra stripes and has a sweet zingy flavor. Our “San Marzano” plum paste tomato is considered by many chefs to be the best sauce tomato in the world. Our cherry tomatoes include the famous “Sungold” (super sweet) and “Isis Candy” (gorgeous).
Peppers: We are offering “Ace,” a very productive green to red bell pepper, “Carmen” a sweet italian pepper and “Jimmy Nardellos”- an heirloom sweet Italian frying pepper with productive plants that are loaded with glossy red long peppers, very thin walled and incredibly sweet roasted apple flavor. We will also offer a few hot pepper varieties.
Herbs: All of our herb plants are suited for our growing climate and can be used in pots around your patio or in a more permanent herb garden installation.