Sunday, March 14, 2010

The people of Tierra and who does what: Lee

If there is one thing I have discovered again and again while operating the farm stand this winter/spring it is that not enough of you all know Lee. Lee James is the "sister" half of the farming team, Wayne compensating for the the other half. These two have been paired up on this project since 1980 (about the time I was born), Evie joining them as expert sales and marketing manager and point of contact, hence most of you know her well.

Lee operates the newly completed greenhouse out on Chalk Hill Road in Healdsburg, also her home and also the original business and packing site of the farm prior to gaining an office and commercial kitchen in Windsor a few years ago. She is the one who selects the seeds and varieties of vegetables that we delight in all season long. She plants, coddles and cares for these seedlings this time of the season.

Then, once the greenhouse is situated for the day, Lee is off to the commercial kitchen often times, working to concoct new and unique products with the vegetables she has grown. It is hard to go wrong as the ingredients are always fresh, incredibly well grown and different from anything you might in conventional grocery shopping outlets. In this scene she is overseeing a huge batch of chile jam...there is also hot sauce, sauerkraut, dried chile powders (there is lots of coughing when this task is being executed). She is not afraid to try to creatively preserve anything for you all to discover and is absolutely an expert at traditional and innovative methods of doing so. From Mole and Enchilada spice mixes to slaked hominy corn, you never know what you might find brewing in the Tierra kitchen.

Seemingly a busy lady already, there is plenty more. Lee is the primary packer of the CSA. She oversees the doling out of goods, especially those that are delivered to three sites across Sonoma County each week.

Then, she and Wayne convene at the field to plant and oversee management of field operations. She assists in stocking the farm stand with items from the kitchen or storage which is often from a great old barn on her place.

Then, as Friday rolls around again, it is time to prepare for the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. If anything dictates her weekly schedule, it is this priority. A good market is a good source of income for a small farm and that is what this market has become for Tierra over the years. Friendship with vendors and customers make all the hard planning and work worth while as Lee packs up each week for her longest day on Saturday.

Lee and her Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market neighbor, David of Little Organic Farm, indulge in popcorn samples in this image. Note Lee's felted will always find her in this during the cold season. Additionally, she is now accompanied by not just one, but two Sheltys. Her non-farming expertise happens to be in dog behavior and her pups are the best behaved I have ever known.

Standing in her chile patch, Lee was filmed and interviewed by the Emeril Green show last summer. She speaks with expert confidence on the topics of what she does for a living....a never-ending source of information on growing, harvesting, preparing, storing, and selling vegetables. She also likes to have fun while doing all of these things. I'm often delighted to see her having fun with the minuscule tasks of her day.

If you have never met Lee before, she is a pleasure to know and quite an important figure behind the entire Tierra operation. Keep your eye out for the felted hat in the winter or the trail of puppies in the summer time and say hello to one of your farmers. She works incredibly hard to serve us all!

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