Pokey Creek Farm
January 30, 2017
Greg and Leah Sempel own and operate Pokey Creek Farm, which is near Santa, Idaho. The produce that they grow is Certified Organic, and you will see them during farmer’s market season at the weekly markets in both Hayden and Moscow, Idaho. They also supply produce to Pilgrim’s Market in Coeur d’Alene and to the Moscow Food Co-op.
Tell me about yourselves and about Pokey Creek Farm.
We came to the area in 1977/1978 and started our homestead, where we built the log cabin that we still live in today. We have lived quite rustically over the years, and only obtained electricity eight years ago. During our time at the homestead, we raised our four children, developed our garden and planted fruit trees. We call it Mountain Truck Farming, because we have a farm of 3-4 acres on our mountain homestead, and we lease 4-5 acres along the St. Joseph River. We have gotten move heavily involved in farming during the past seven years, and while we have always gardened organically, we are now entering our fourth year of having the official designation of “Certified Organic” for our farm.
What are the most rewarding things about farming?
(Leah) “I love the promise in the spring, after everything has been turned under and you look at the fields; just thinking of what is to come. I love the connections with the people that we sell food to; the people at the markets and at Pilgrims are like kindred spirits. We all kind of believe in the same things, which is good, wholesome food”. (Greg) “I like doing it because of the health benefits for people”. We are supplying fresh local foods picked sometimes on a Friday and delivered on a Saturday. Our customers are getting fresh food with a very high nutritional value. We live in a pristine area. The air and water are clean, and we are surrounded by forest. We irrigate from deep wells and we are away from any type of contamination. We live remotely and grow this food. We feel so blessed and thankful to have this opportunity in this place to be able to do this. We want to do this as long as we can. It is a passion.
What are the most significant challenges that you encounter?
Labor is our major challenge, because it is hard to find workers. Another challenge is aphids. We never had them until ten years ago, but we are learning how to control them with a variety of different approaches. We are getting much better about the science of farming, especially nutrient management. But every year is a new challenge. Some years a particular crop will do great and the next year it won’t. We have to be flexible and keep in mind that there is no guarantee with farming. Sometimes, it is having a feeling as though you are jumping off a cliff and crossing your fingers, and you just have to hope that everything will go smoothly.
What do you see for the future of our local food systems, and what are your hopes?
(Greg) “My ultimate hope is that the whole world will become organic. I would like to see more education about how important this is. You have to start small, and start in your communities to educate people. (Leah) “You make your stand; you stay put, and little by little people start getting interested in what you are doing. They see that you work hard, they see that you are honest, and they see what is coming out of your hard work and your honesty. The whole idea is that everyone can eat healthy. That is why we grow organic, it is not for personal profit; it is for people to be able to be healthy”.
Interview by Juliana Anderson.