Friday, June 10, 2005

Sandhill Farm tour illuminates growing concern

Express Staff Writer

The Sandhill Organic Farm greenhouse is heated through winter, which makes the green produce happy and healthy.

The Sawtooth Botanical Garden hosts a visit to Sandhill Organic Farm from 9 to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 11, in Corral, located on the Camas Prairie west of Fairfield. The presentation will be highlighted by a guided tour with valley botanist and Master Gardener Carol Blackburn. There also will be a hearty organic lunch from produce grown at the Farm.

Owned for 10 years by Faus Geiger and her husband, Bill Corlett, the farm is 75 acres.

"Five years ago we pretty much committed to carving out a small portion of the wilderness to be self sufficient and have a small commercial amount," Faus said. "A year ago we began devoting ourselves to it full time. We have an all-season insulated greenhouse, and this first year we grew food throughout the winter. We concentrated on greens, selling them to CK's (restaurant in Hailey). We've now increased that to other year-round crops."

Though there was a lot of speculation involved, the couple knew this is what they wanted to do with their land.

"It's been very successful," Geiger added. "In the greenhouse we have a wood stove that we never turned on. We underestimated the power of the sun. So, we had huge temps, sometimes 115 degrees in the dead of winter."

Last fall, Corlett also began work on a 1.5-acre outdoor field. They put in perennial plants that include raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry, blueberry, elderberry and gooseberry.

"It's an investment in the future," Geiger said. The idea is to use permaculture, or sustainable human environments.

Currently, they are growing tomatoes, eggplant, basil, peas, and greens in the greenhouse. Outdoors there are asparagus, three to four different types of potatoes, turnips, carrots, beets, chard, garlic, sweet Walla Walla, bunching and green onions, and more greens.

"Bill took the Master Gardener course from the University of Idaho in the 1990s knowing we wanted to do this," Geiger said. "It's the best use of the land. We leave the wildlife habitat and support our lives as well. We try to be sensitive. We're totally solar powered and are about to add wind, and micro-hydro power by using the flow of our year-round stream."

As well, the couple's house was built from recycled logs from a house in Hagerman that was to be torn down. They also salvaged two buildings from Hailey slated to be destroyed to use as a guesthouse and a storage shed.

"We're trying to let people understand that things can be used in many ways and how to be sensitive about our effect on the environment."

Participants for the tour should meet at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, south of Ketchum on Highway 75, to car-pool to Corral. The cost is $25, or $15 for SBG members. For more information and to make reservations, call 726-9358

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