Local farmers prepare for winter

As Eat Local Month wraps up, small-town agriculture prevails on Idaho frontier

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen reporter

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Full-breasted chickens cluck and lambs graze on the drying autumnal grass. The sky darkens with the oncoming night and thick clouds hover overhead. The Fowler family explains how they plan on transitioning their small farm to be able to thrive during the colder months.

Ames Fowler, a WSU student seeking his PhD in civil engineering, moved from Seattle back to his parents’ farm. His parents Helen and Nathan Fowler used to tend it themselves, but Ames Fowler wanted more experience in agriculture. He plans on focusing his degree on electric hydrology but said he can’t consider this a full-time career just yet.

“This is just a learning hobby for right now,” Ames Fowler said.

As part of Eat Local Month, Rural Roots partnered with the University of Idaho Extension and Buy Local Moscow to host a farm tour of Hands and Hearts LLC on Monday evening. The Fowler family runs a 5.5-acre farm, which includes their house. Their vegetation haul includes five major components: chickens for both eggs and meat, vegetables, flowers and lambs.

Ames Fowler tossed in a pile of dried brush into the lambs’ pen. The fluffy mammals bounded over to eat, their human-like voices carrying into the humid air. Lambs don’t stay at Hands and Hearts LLC for long, Ames said, because it’s difficult to upkeep in the winter and wetter months.

“Their story is pretty short,” Ames Fowler said. He looked at a straggling lamb and pointed to its dry brush dinner. “Come on, I know you want it,” he said to the lamb.

The farm has remained low-tech, Ames Fowler said. They use old skis from when the family lived in Colorado to hold up some of their vegetable structures, and a commercial-grade refrigerator to keep some of the produce in a nearby garage-like barn. They still plant seeds using rusty hoes and bed rakes for seeding and garden taming.

Hands and Hearts grows and sells vegetables at the Tuesday Community Market in Moscow, the Moscow Farmer’s Market and the Pullman Farmer’s Market. They will transition from tomatoes to cucumbers as autumn takes hold. They also grow apples and bulbous indigo plums but aren’t quite ready to sell those. Greens — spinach, kale, arugula — line some of the irrigation ditches and the front of the Fowler family house.

The tour wraps up and Ames Fowler, in his loose-fitting dirt-patched button-down, offers himself for questions about the farm. His wife Delaney stands beside him, and the two watch quietly as the 20-or-so attendees filter out of the isolated dirt road on which the Fowler family farms.