Patti Bess: Busy Broadfork Farm neighbors |

Patti Bess: Busy Broadfork Farm neighbors

George and Nancy Crews are working hard at Broadfork Farm.
Photo by Patti Bess |

Forget retirement! George and Nancy Crews have gotten a second wind.

With only 1 1/2 acres and bushels of enthusiasm, the Crews family are becoming quite knowledgeable farmers.

These are two harder working retirees. I pass their little farm every day just off of Highway 174.

Rows of hoop houses protect young plants from the early spring weather. Rich manures and compost top vegetable beds ready to be planted. On the back of the property thornless blackberries grow in neatly trellised rows. They will be available later this summer. Nearby six or seven bee hives are buzzing with activity. Bee sitting for a friend helps with pollination of their vegetables and berries.

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Nancy Crews taught kindergarten, music and special education at William Ranch School for 34 years.

Her husband, George, a building engineer, retired two years ago also. The Crews are motivated by more than making spending money. They are passionate about organic farming as an important development for our planet’s future.

Their son, Ian, is involved also. The farming/gardening seed first sprouted for him at Nevada Union High School where he worked in the greenhouse project. He graduated from University of Nevada Reno in forestry. Currently he is pursuing farming and a landscaping business–following in the footsteps of his parents? It’s hard to know who is following who.

They are each bringing their special skills to the work. Everywhere on the property you can see George’s input from the wood heated greenhouse to the solar powered gadget that protects their chickens. He even set up a flat screen TV in the greenhouse to use while transplanting vegetable starts. No, not for Game of Thrones. He watches garden shows.

“The great thing about farming,” Nancy commented, “is that you’re always learning something new.” She is experimenting this year growing microgreens and planted seeds of Shiso, a spritely mint-flavored green grown more extensively in Japan. Nancy also enjoys meeting and talking with the folks who drop by their constantly evolving vegetable stand.

The Crews are self-taught farmers. They have attended several conferences on bio-intensive farming and permaculture. John Martine Fortier is an internationally known expert they have studied. His philosophy is low tech farming without the need for tractors using intensive production to create a living for small farmers. Curtis Stone is a proponent of urban farms and is known for turning lawns into gardens. Both of these experts the Crews accessed through the internet and YouTube.

Currently, Broadfork Farm is selling chard, spinach and other greens, onions, and a mesclun aromatic lettuce mix.

Garlic scapes, the flower stock and bud of the garlic plant, is also available. It makes a great addition to scrambled eggs or on pasta. In July, full harvest mode will be underway with eggplant, several heirloom varieties of tomatoes, peppers, two varieties of cucumbers, green and long red Chinese beans.

Broadfork Farm is on Meadow View Drive, two houses in from Highway 174 in Grass Valley. They are open Friday, Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you call ahead at other times, Nancy is willing to make up special orders.

Just starting a garden or need help maintaining the one you have?

Ian is beginning a landscape consulting business. They can be reached at 530-272-9141 and on Facebook at Broadfork Farm.

Nancy prepares many dishes with greens, but this is a family favorite from their Greek heritage. It may sound complicated but after one try, it is fairly easy to assemble:

Spinach and Sorrel Spanakopita

One (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach or

Two bunches of fresh

One cup chopped scallions or green onions


One tablespoon olive oil

One quarter pound fresh sorrel leaves, chopped

(two packed cups)

One egg, lightly beaten

Eight ounces feta, crumbled (about one cup)

One quarter teaspoon ground nutmeg

Three tablespoons chopped fresh dill, or to taste

Fresh ground black pepper

Ten sheets phyllo, thawed if frozen

Three quarters cup softened butter (or use part olive oil)

Two teaspoons milk

To prepare filling: Cook spinach according to packages instructions. If using fresh, chop and sweat in a large saucepan for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander, then refresh under cold running water to stop the cooking and drain well again. Pat spinach dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel or squeeze with your hands. Transfer spinach to a large bowl.

Cook scallions with ¼ teaspoon salt in olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add sorrel and cook, stirring and adding 1 tablespoon water if sorrel is dry. This takes only about 1 minute (sorrel will turn khaki gray almost immediately when heated). Add sorrel mixture to spinach and stir.

Let cool for five minutes; then stir in egg, feta, nutmeg, dill and salt, and pepper to taste; combine mixture well.

To assemble the pie: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. With a pastry brush, lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9x13x2-inch baking pan with some of the oil. Cover the phyllo stack with plastic wrap and a dampened kitchen towel as it can dry out easily. Working quickly, lightly oil one side of a phyllo sheet and lay it in the pan oiled side up, folding if necessary. Lightly oil the top of another phyllo sheet and lay it buttered side up. Repeat this pattern with 4-5 more phyllo sheets.

Add the filling and spread evenly.

Repeat the oiling and layering of 6-7 phyllo sheets over the filling in the same way you layered the previous ones.

With the bristles of the pastry brush, push the edges of the phyllo down around the sides of the pan to enclose the filling completely.

With a sharp knife, score the top phyllo layer into rectangles, being careful not to cut all the way through to the filling. Using the same pastry brush, brush the milk along all the score marks (this will keep the phyllo from flaking up along the edges of the squares).

Bake the spanakopita until the top crust is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. If the phyllo browns too quickly, cover lightly cover with aluminum foil. Let cool until just warm. Cut out the rectangles carefully along the score marks and serve.

Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author from Grass Valley. She can be reached for questions or comments at:

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