Patti Bess: A balanced life
Super Tuber Farm provides tasty, organic food while enriching soil
When it comes to Nevada County organic farmers, Jeremy Mineau is well on his way to becoming an old-timer/a veteran. His farm, Super Tuber, has been in business for over ten years and maintains four full time employees. The credit for their continued success, Jeremy told me, goes to his hard-working crew. “Farming is a 50-60 hour a week job. Our team has made it possible to enjoy somewhat of a balanced lifestyle and continue as farmers.”
Jeremy earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and Resource Management from the University of Washington. When he couldn’t find a job in 2011, he applied to be an apprentice at Mountain Bounty Farm here in Nevada County. The farming bug bit him bad. It didn’t take long. He knew exactly what he wanted to do in life.
Unlike many other organic farms, Super Tuber focuses on only four or five crops: potatoes, beets, carrots and cabbage. Because he plants fewer varieties, Jeremy is able to be more mechanized and use less labor per acre. If you’ve bought carrots or potatoes at BriarPatch or Natural Selection, you know how sweet they are.
Jeremy, his wife and daughter, Bowie, live on a small property in Nevada City. In the past ten years, Super Tuber leased farmland in seven different locations. Currently, they lease eight acres on and around the Bierwagen Farm in Chicago Park.
Most commercial potatoes, I learned, are often grown in sandy soils. They are somewhat neutral in flavor. The amended soils used by Super Tuber and the unique varieties they grow make for much more dynamic flavors.
When potatoes and other grains are harvested, the plant needs to be dead to have easier access for harvesting. Conventional farms spray herbicide just days before to kill the plant and dry it down. Super Tuber and most organic farmers mow their crops down before harvest. Jeremy feels this makes more sense in terms of avoiding toxins in our diet as well as regenerating the soil.
Of course, developing a successful business is the goal of all farmers/businesses. But more importantly to Super Tuber Farm, actually taking care of the soil/land is the primary goal as well as being able to pay workers a living wage.
Regenerative farming is a concept that more organic farmers are embracing. Conventional farms are on a one-way journey of addition to keep adding more and more: more fertilizer, more chemicals at the same time destroying waterways and taking carbon out of the soils. Regenerative farming focuses on feeding the soil to build a sustainable food system through the coming climate changes. If you’d like to know more about the philosophy of regenerative farming, go to http://www.tahoefoodhub.org/climate
Super Tuber’s tasty potatoes and other vegetables can be found at Briarpatch and other Northern California co-ops, Natural Selection, Mother Truckers, and through the Tahoe Food Hub. Okie Dokie farm also sells their potatoes at the Nevada City Farmers Market on Saturdays. You can contact the farm at email@example.com
Roasted Pepper and Potato Salad
Tired of the same old potato salad recipes? This is a flavorful option. Often I roast a few extra peppers when using the grill for other meals making this salad a lot less time consuming. This colorful salad could also be made with raw peppers.
Seven cups cubed, unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes or other thin skinned varieties (about three pounds)
Three large bell peppers, a variety of colors (about one and a half pounds)
One bunch green onions
Three quarters cup finely chopped cilantro
One medium size shallot, chopped fine
About one third cup lime juice
Three quarter teaspoons salt
One eighth teaspoon fresh grated black pepper
One quarter teaspoon white pepper (optional)
Two to three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat a gas grill to high or build a fire in a kettle grill.
Place potato cubes in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover potatoes and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 8 to 10 minutes. Or until potatoes are tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
Place peppers on the preheated grill, turning occasionally, until evenly charred all over. Place peppers in a plastic bag and seal to finish cooking, let stand 10 minutes. Peel and discard skins when they have cooled: cut peppers into 1-inch pieces.
Combine potatoes, peppers, green onions, cilantro, and shallot in a large bowl; and set aside. Combine lime juice, salt, peppers, and olive oil in a separate bowl; mix to combine and pour over the potato mixture. Toss gently, cover, and chill. The flavors in this salad taste best if allowed to marinate for 15 to 60 minutes. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author. She lives in Grass Valley and grows much of her own produce
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