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I Know It's Summer When

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For me, summer begins where the concrete ends. And the zucchinis are fresh.

Growing up, "gardening" meant pulling weeds. There were no succulent strawberries or freshly-picked tomatoes. There were dandelions.

Now, in my own place, I can finally grow my own produce. But I can't fill my fridge with what I grow in my back yard. So where to go, when you love fresh vegetables, but don't have the back yard (or the time) to grow your own?

Unfortunately, for many of us, a weekend's worth of back-yard gardening still means that we end up making frequent runs to a big mainstream grocery store for the day's greens.

At a big store, you can fill your cart with produce that's been shipped from as far away as Chile. But why eat food from far away when you can go local?

Local food just tastes better. It tastes fresh. And, produce grown close to home means three things: less packing (and, therefore, less damage); less fossil fuel used to ship food and, if you choose to check out the grounds on which your greens are grown, a satisfying sense of connection to your food.

When it comes to eating local, Boise residents can rejoice. Our sources range from planting eats in your own back yard, to buying at farmers' markets (we have four), to participating in a community garden.

One way to buy local is to participate in so-called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where both the farmer and the consumer share in the growing process. Members buy shares, and the farmer buys seeds and supplies. The harvest goes back to the investors (that's us). Becoming a shareholder creates a responsible relationship between people and the food they eat, and between the land on which it is grown and those who grow it. We're fortunate to have a handful of community gardens in Boise.

Hidden Springs Community Farm

Allow me to dispel a common misconception: Hidden Springs is not a replication of Pleasantville. Actually, it is home to friendly, family-oriented folks who know their produce and have truly fused community and gardening.

Started three years ago by 75 Hidden Springs homeowners, and with a generous contribution from the developer, Hidden Springs Community Farm produces a healthy variety of organic vegetables, herbs and flowers. The farm is a non-profit operation run by a seven-member volunteer board, managed by farmer Tom Logan, and supported by a stellar volunteer force. Though only about five acres are currently under production, the farmland totals 25 acres.

Each week, shareholders stop by the community barn to pick up their produce. Unlike other CSAs, which offer the same produce to each shareholder, members of Hidden Springs are able to browse the weekly selection to pick and choose their share.

At Hidden Springs, children are encouraged to participate. The sunflower fort in the children's garden is a favorite hangout for the kids when they want a break from tending their own tomatoes, peppers, peas and strawberries.

The farm also hosts a mini-farmers' market on Saturday mornings for shareholders, sometimes offering live music, too. Families gather to pick up their veggies and flowers for the week, and take time to hang out over coffee with friends and neighbors. With Hidden Springs only a 10-minute scenic drive from downtown (simply head up Cartwright Road off of Bogus Basin Road), you should check it out. The community farm is situated along Dry Creek and adjacent to the recently preserved Schick-Ostolasa homestead. From there you can easily access foothills trails or stroll along the winding Dry Creek pathway.

Hidden Springs Community Farm--

4768 West Farm Court, Hidden Springs, ID 83714.

Contact: Dana Doherty Menlove 208-229-1881.

Peaceful Belly

The motto for Peaceful Belly farm, just beyond Boise's North End neighborhood, is, "Food should be grown close to the people that consume it."

Clay and Josie Erskine like to meet the folks who eat their produce; it's obvious by the number of plant sales and harvest festivals they host, along with their presence at the weekly Capital City Farmers' Market and their produce popping up in local restaurants as well as in the Boise Co-op. Driving West down Hill Road on any given Saturday you're likely to see signs tempting passersby with fresh, locally-grown heirloom tomato plants and xeriscape offerings. What will you find? A little bit of everything.

Peaceful Belly--Contact: Clay and Josie Erskine 208-345-8003

Morning Owl Farm

Mary Rohlfing is the owner and farmer of a bustling 8-acre farm located at the base of the Foothills. After four years, Rohlfing says she is not so much growing produce, but creating soil.

Spring at Morning Owl brings lots of greens, followed by cold crops (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage), hot crops (peppers) and, finally, the heavy crops (squash) that help you bulk up for colder temperatures.

"What my body craves, and what grows, is actually aligned," Rohlfing says. Eating seasonally is eating responsively--nourishing your body according to its changing needs.

Morning Owl Farms produces dozens of varieties of vegetables. For $28.50 a week, or $543.78 for 18 weeks, Rohlfing can provide what she calls "four American eaters" with veggies to spare. And, they deliver.

"It reduces the use of fossil fuels to get food to the eaters, and we are trying to strive toward sustainability," she says.

Browse the Web site at www.morning owlfarm.com to see why duck eggs are Rohlfing's new obsession.

Morning Owl Farm--Contact: Mary Rohlfing 208-850-6798, www.morningowlfarm.com

Noble Foods and Farm

On their Web site, www.noblefoodsfarm.com, Noble Foods lists "10 Good Reasons to Know Your Farmer." Number one: "[Members] receive fresh, certified organic produce delivered on the day of harvest." And lots of it. With just over an acre of land, farmer Jan Book has her hands full tending and raising over 50 different vegetables, 15 types of herbs and more than 45 different flowers. Each week, from early May through October, Book delivers certified organic, seasonal and locally grown produce to her 37 members. Each month features a new array of goods as temperatures change.

Noble Foods and Farm also hosts an annual harvest party for members, with live music, seasonal food and locally brewed beer.

Noble Foods Farm--

5433 Hill Rd. Boise, ID 83703.

Contact: Jan Book 208-860-4308www.noblefoodsfarm.com.

Spyglass Gardens

Don't want to purchase a share, but still want a piece of those fresh goods? Consumer, meet Spyglass Gardens.

What started over seven years ago as a quarter-acre plot of land has developed into 12 acres of fresh, seasonal produce, including cucumbers, melons, fruits, berries, peaches and apples. Owners Steve and Wendy Marler attribute most of their success to customers in the surrounding area, folks who stop by the farm on their way home from work to pick up the evening's dinner, side dish or garnish. Crops are harvested daily and stored in their walk-in cooler, a perk uncharacteristic of most farms, which generally transfer their foods from soil to heated surface.

Spyglass Gardens--3445 S. Linder Rd., Meridian, ID 83642.Contact: Wendy Marler, 208-888-3532, www.spyglassgardens.com.

Buying from local farms isn't the same as shopping at the corner store. It's not as convenient. But, it's nice to see the ground that supplies your vegetables, and meet the people who grow them.

Inspired by this, I've transformed what was a rugged, shaded, dry piece of desert into a healthy bed for tomatoes, cucumbers and basil (I'm starting with the basics). Shares are going for 5 cents a week--get in now. Maybe next year I'll be offering up some fresh zucchinis.

Searching for local? Check out: www.localharvest.org or www.eatlocalchallenge.com