Prairie Sun Farm
Carol Rast of Prairie Sun Farm has been a fixture at the Ketchum farmers' market for almost two decades. What began as Carol's backyard garden passion has grown into 1.5-acre farm with two greenhouses five miles west of Fairfield. She credits slightly acidic soil, cool nights and "massive amounts" of hand weeding for her success growing sweet delicious carrots, a notoriously challenging crop. Carol uses no chemical inputs on her produce, which also includes cherry tomatoes, beans, peas, strawberries, radishes, herbs, peppers, and specialty beets.
LFA: When and why did you start growing food?
CR: As a kid, I helped with my dad’s garden. I never appreciated it then! But it stuck with me and I developed a love for growing gardens. My little garden got bigger and bigger, giving away and eventually selling the extra supply, finally becoming a little business 22 years ago.
LFA: Can you describe your farm to us? (Size, location/climate, what you grow)
CR: We are 5 miles west of Fairfield, 1.5 acres of garden. We have unpredictable climate, with frost possible any night. The outside garden has the cool crops: many kinds of greens, carrots, beets, onions, radishes, turnips, peas, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage. The unheated hoop houses protect the warmer loving plants: tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, beans, herbs, peppers. squash
LFA: Carrots can be challenging to produce around here. What’s your secret?
CR: The slightly acidic soil we were graced to have and the cool nights. Also the MAJOR amount of hand weeding. ( I have been known to talk to the plants...carrot whisperer??). I also ask a blessing as I work on all who will eat from the bounty. Maybe the plants are blessed too?
LFA: What’s your favorite food to grow?
CR: That is a little like asking who my favorite student is: all of them! But maybe particularly I like to work with tomatoes, greens and carrots.
LFA: You use no chemical inputs but aren’t certified organic. Why?
CR: I use organic methods because it is sustainable and the right thing to do for our health, environment and our planet’s future. We were certified for eight years, I dutifully did all the ridiculous paperwork that was set up for 50-acre mono-cropping! The organic inspector mentioned that selling just to friends, it was not really necessary to keep that up. I still do my own record keeping and use the same organic methods. It is just less stressful.
LFA: What do you love about our local farmers’ markets?
CR: Meeting with so many wonderful people who have become friends and almost family for me!
LFA: What keeps you busy during the off season?
CR: I teach Spanish classes at the Camas County School January through May, Kinder to 8th grade.I grew up a missionary kid in Mexico City and Guadalajara so Spanish is my second language. Of course, I also sell carrots all winter and start my dining room window-garden (indoor seedlings for my hoop houses) in January!
LFA: What’s your favorite locally sourced and seasonally inspired meal?
CR: Nothing beats a good versatile stir-fry in summer. Fast and it turns out different every time I make it!
LFA: Who is your food hero?
CR: All the folks who are willing to purchase the wholesome foods we grow.
LFA: What change(s) would you like to see in the Wood River Valley region in terms of food?
CR: Education is something that is a constant thing. Better understanding and appreciation of seasonal availability.
LFA: What’s your advice to women interested in farming?
CR: Don’t pay attention to all those who tell you “You can’t do that” or “it won’t succeed.”
LFA: Be willing to fail and then regroup and keep going. Do what invigorates you!
CR: Where can people find your fresh produce?
At the Wood River Farmers Market in Ketchum every Tuesday, from June 11 to early October. This year, the market is held at the River Run lower parking area near the lodge. I also offer a few things at NourishMe in Ketchum. You may be sampling some of our produce when you eat at CK’s Real Food in Hailey and at Vintage Restaurant in Ketchum.