Brave New Year

It’s been 3 years since I last used this website, and now it feels like a time capsule–of my sweet little farm business before COVID, and also my sweet little brain before explosive growth of that business through a global pandemic. I started this website as a way to chronicle how it felt to start a farm business on a rented quarter-acre with $10,000, and that is no longer my story. Now Blue Fingers Farm is in its 6th season of operation, has a permanent home, and is growing into a food cooperative. So, we are rebuilding our website to tell the new story. All of this content will be gone within a month, and we’ll be throwing up new pictures and explanations of what Blue Fingers is becoming. Some brief news for the transition:

Emily Alleman, Our Hero

Delighted to announce that Blue Fingers Farm LLC is now cooperatively owned. Emily Alleman started working with me in 2020 and is now the sole owner and culinary mind behind Blue Fingers Ferments, which will be nested under our collective farm food cooperative. I have spent two years roadmapping the best way to onboard coworkers, and I have decided that there is only one thing I can share that demonstrates my commitment to people who decide to work with me–actual ownership of my business. Emily and I spent two years working together, so when she asked if she could take the ferment business, I gave it to her without doubt. She is exactly the kind of person I want by my side planning the next steps for Blue Fingers. Her ferments are still available at the Sandpoint Farmer’s Market, and are now available in Winter Ridge Natural Foods. I want to thank all the ferment fanatics out there that bought our ferments through the winter; marketing the ferments wholesale is a huge coup that extends income through the winter and allows our reputation to grow year-round. Emily is planning some new recipes; I’ll post any news as new ferments become available on our Instagram and Facebook.

The Farm Grows on Gooby Rd

It’s been a whirlwind of log cabin assembling, well drilling, and soil building out on Gooby Rd. The soil is finally plantable, and I am starting to sell produce this year. Getting to this point was only possible through a large network of friends that helped Steve and I put up a fence, build a cabin, and get access to heavy equipment and people who know how to use it. The financing available through the Farm Service Agency made my business expansion possible; they agreed to finance a loan when I only had a hayfield on the property in 2020. I especially would like to thank Moose Griswold for her advice on cover cropping and soil building–her advice made it possible to get our dirt where I need it to be for salad greens germination. I’m going to begin the farm by only selling salad greens wholesale to local restaurants for the next few years; salad greens were the most profitable and dependable product I grew on rented land in Oldtown, and I learned through 3 years of dabbling out there that most restaurants in Sandpoint don’t buy local greens because no regional farmers can supply the quantity they need. So I am going to be that farmer, and grow two acres of only greens, conditioning the soil and building my reputation in our culinary scene. I’ll keep you updated where and when you can buy a salad as our greens get into restaurants!

Sandpoint Sourdough Bread Dynasty Continues to Rise

The bread lives on! Thanks to the continued support of our customers at the Sandpoint Farmer’s Market through the last two turbulent years, our sales have doubled every year for 5 years, and my sourdough bread business has grown into a quirky but serious player in Sandpoint’s bread scene. Jill Severson is the only reason I’m still producing bread; she generously rents out her bakery (and magnificent stone deck ovens) every Friday night during the market season so I can bake hundreds of loaves of bread in 5 hours and somehow sell all of them the next day. I am thrilled to bring a new baker into the Sandpoint bread world–Katie Heil is working with me this season and learning the basics of sourdough baking. I’m especially excited to bring Katie’s extensive experience brewing beer into our recipe development to nest more grain fermentation into our breads and continue to push the frontiers of flavor depth and combination in sourdough bread.

Last year we were gifted a historic starter from a family friend; her great great great grandmother began this sourdough starter in 1870 and homesteaded with it in Alaska and the Yukon. Her ranching family has kept it alive since then, and it is now starting all of our breads. I’m so grateful for this starter because it inspired me to find a world of sourdough baking outside of European Artisanal bread traditions. Artisanal bread is a world of perfect temperature and ingredient control to develop flavor and rise. The Alaskan sourdough tradition is a history of survival and ingenuity–depending on sourdough as a lifeline through brutal weather and somehow keeping it alive in the wilderness, where flour was hard to find, let alone bread proofing equipment. My baking story involves rising bread in vans, in trucks, in buckets, with space heaters and car heaters and air conditioners; I’ve spent a lot of time sobbing in strange kitchens because the dough isn’t rising or rose too fast. I’m inspired by the homesteaders that were literally called “sourdoughs” because flour fermentation was so important to them. I’m focusing my research on them and trying to bring more of their recipes into our market.

“Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.” Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

I’ve been thinking a lot about what a fresh start means; this year feels hopeful because of how much we’ve grown, and what I and my business have survived these last few years. As I gather more resources and experiences around Blue Fingers, we’re better prepared than ever before to adapt to whatever comes next. The future feels uncertain. The challenges of climate change are already convincing farmers in my community to retire, and Sandpoint is changing faster than we can understand. I enjoyed starting this farm immensely. The person who wrote these blog posts about being a new farmer six years ago solved and survived a lot of problems to become the person writing this today. These have not been the happiest years of my life, but they have been the most spectacular.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for buying. Thank you for encouraging me to keep going. I wouldn’t be doing it without you.

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