Meet Your Farmer – Verne Fallstrom

Inland Northwest Food NetworkVerne Fallstrom is the owner and operator of Strawberry Hill Nutrition Farm in Mead, Washington. I was interested in learning more about his operation and his nutrition farming techniques, so Verne graciously invited me to come and visit. It is still early in the growing season, but as we toured his farm I saw the abundance of fruits and vegetables that are growing in his greenhouses and in his fields. Pole beans, peppers, basil, rhubarb, onions, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries thrive in the healthy soil and ideal conditions that Verne has created through years of hard work, continuing education and experimentation.

How long have you been at this location in Green Bluff?

I moved here in 1979 and started clearing the land. It took years to clear out all the trees and brush. The soil was mostly rocks and clay. It was so bad early on that I would put the crops in the spring, but by summer the soil was as hard as concrete and I would lose the crops. But, I just persevered and put in cover crops and mulch and eventually things improved.

Did you always want to be a farmer?

I think what got me going was that I had kids who had health issues, and at first I didn’t know much about the connection between food and health, but I read You are What You Eat and started going to conferences and seminars. So now I grow healthy food and I have learned a lot of lessons; I am a Master Gardener and a Master Composter. I don’t use insecticides or fungicides; I refuse to do it. I used to practice organic methods, but then shortly after 2000 I began the practice of raising nutrient dense foods.

Verne, are you unique here in Green Bluff regarding your nutrition farming?

Yes. I go to conferences and seminars every year. Some years ago, when I was trying to learn about this nutrient dense concept and I didn’t have the answers, I came across a small article about the topic that really got me excited because it touched on what I wanted to know. So I contacted the author and traveled to Australia to take his complete course in 2007, and then began to practice nutrient dense farming here at Strawberry Hill.

Who are your customers?

If you come on the farm you will see health coaches, energy healers, naturopaths and others who are into health. My customers come from all over, but the common bond is that they are people who value their health and eating healthy foods.

I really would like to know about how you are able to farm without the use of chemicals.

Well, I’ll tell you, because that is what it’s all about. The simple fact is that the soil is the stomach of the plant, if you have poor soil you have a poor plant, if you have healthy soil you have a healthy plant. If the plant is healthy and not stressed, then you won’t have as many problems with insects and diseases. I am a geologist by profession; this helps a lot as I am able to work on the chemistry of the soil.

Do you have problems with insects?

Very little. (At this point Verne points to a hill where squash is planted). I study what my insects like and don’t like, and what they don’t like are nasturtiums, so you will find nasturtiums all through the squash bed.

Oh, companion planting!

Yes, I can’t say enough good things about companion planting. I do that all over the place. Nasturtiums are an edible plant, but you have to be careful with some plants, such as marigolds. Don’t plant marigolds next to anything that you plant to eat, because the root system of marigolds can impact the flavor of your vegetables and make them bitter. One year I had beautiful marigolds but cucumbers that I couldn’t eat. I learned my lesson.

So this has been an evolving process for you…

It still is. It is never ending. I love it and will never get bored with it, and now I am doing more work in the lab, such as analyzing the chemicals of the soil and also I analyze the new crops of plants right away to find out if they are healthy or not, and if there are any stressors on the plants. In most cases I find they are healthy because they don’t have stressors. I am always experimenting with different varieties of fruits and vegetables, and different growing methods. There are always new things to learn.

For more information about Verne Fallstrom and Strawberry Hill Nutrition Farm, please visit his website at: strawberryhillnutritionfarm.com or on Facebook.

Interview by Juliana Anderson.

INW Food Network