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Lindsay Howells has been farming in Oregon City, Oregon since 2016, and demonstrates her care for the land through farming. She grows an astounding array of produce on just 1/3 acre–including a unique variety of garlic that her customers have completely fallen in love with.
CNG: Where is your farm located?
Lindsay Howells: Oregon City, Oregon about 20 minutes outside of Portland.
CNG: How long have you been farming?
LH: I started the farm here 4 years ago. The first farm I worked on was in Thailand in 2009 and then I came back and worked on a farm on Bainbridge Island in Washington, and ever since then I’ve been collecting various farming and homesteading skills. I now grow on a third of an acre. I call it “ninja farming”. Everything is close together!
CNG: How did you first get into farming, and growing garlic specifically?
LH: I always grew up wanting to do something that made a difference in the world, and with an appreciation for nature. During and after college, I started working at a farm to table restaurant where we got to tour the farms where our food was produced, and I became interested in that side of things. Sustainable farming became something that makes me feel optimistic about the future of our planet–that there are positive actions we can take to heal the world.
Garlic is definitely something that we wanted to grow from the beginning. It was part of my plan to be a really diversified farm and to start a CSA. When you’re a small farm and have different things to think about, those longer-in-the-field and longer-storage items like garlic are such a relief. We plant it in our winter squash beds, right after harvesting squash every year.
We got super lucky with our garlic seed. I had a friend who was stopping farming. He gave us a bunch of seed called “Thai Fire,” a turban variety. It’s really good, has a beautiful pungent, flavor and it heads up beautifully. I grow all hardnecks because I love the scapes. I’m thinking about incorporating soft necks, too, for their longer storage, and the possibilities of making gifts like braided garlic.
We had a few garlic varieties our first year but we didn’t love anything as much as Thai Fire. This special variety does really well at the market, and people ask for it every year. It’s great when you have a variety that works for you that sells well–it helps build ongoing relationships with customers.
We also make garlic salt with unsellable heads. We’re expanding more beds this year so that we can have garlic all summer, and garlic salt in the fall.
CNG: Why did you decide to join CNG? How has it impacted your business?
LH: CNG was recommended to us when we started our farm by the market manager at OC farmers market. They require that new farms demonstrate natural and sustainable practices. We signed up for CNG during our first year.
CNG is a great way to talk with other farmers. Peer reviews and on-farm inspections are great ways to find out how other farms are growing and thriving.
Also, CNG offers such a nice, easy way to talk to customers about farming practices. Most people are concerned about chemicals. They’ll ask if we spray, and we say no, and that’s often as far as the conversation goes. But being CNG enables us to extend that conversation, with a brochure or flyer to give them all the information they need in a really warm, accessible way.
“I especially look up to other CNG farms.. I love the shared knowledge that we are building together.”
CNG: Please tell us about any farming heroes or mentors of yours.
LH: My biggest farm heroes are my farm friends and other farmers in my area that I look up to. I especially look up to other CNG farms like Brown Bottle Farm and Sun Love Farm, who are both at the market with me. Anytime I’m concerned or questioning something I can ask them. I love the shared knowledge that we are building together.
Other big mentors of mine are the people who I farmed with in Washington, years ago. The farm was a small Certified Organic and Certified Biodynamic farm (no longer in operation). Working there I got to learn about the logistics and magic of farming. We farmed with the stars and the moon, and I really want to bring that to the farm here.
I am also very inspired by the permaculture mindset, and would like to integrate more medicinal perennials and bring in more diversity from different types of plants. I’d love to plant a food forest, for example.
CNG: How did you come to have a commitment to sustainability?
LH: Farming definitely is one of the few things that I’ve found in my life and in the world that feels like an action in optimism about the future. It’s something that is simultaneously small and big at the same time. As a farmer, I get to see the world through this lens where local is so important, inspiring and actionable. I believe that small actions can change a landscape, and that’s what makes me optimistic about the future.