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Violet Gage Plums and Wrens Egg Beans

I'm the first to admit this is the last place edible gardeners are going to find great ideas. Hell, any ideas. But at least I can turn you on to one of the more innovative and accessible organic farmers in the country should you ever find yourself within shouting distance of the Portland, OR. area.

Organic farmers Anthony and Carol Boutard

Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm is happy to market everything but himself. Fortunately, his extroverted and activist wife Carol -- full partner in grime -- kicks over any bushel that might be hiding his light. Dynamic duos don't come more powerfully suited than these two. photo credit: Anthony Boutard hide caption

toggle caption photo credit: Anthony Boutard

The Boutards have no website — I was lucky to find their online article on winter greens — and they don't do any shipping unless you're their daughter, Caroline, in which case you get fresh produce all year. They have been known to ship their astonishing berry preserves to people they like; I suggest courting favor. But if it's depth of knowledge you're after regarding the cultivated history of fruits, nuts and vegetables, Anthony Boutard is your go-to man.

The best way to get to know him is to get your name on his weekly e-mail, ostensibly a list of the produce he and Carol will be bringing next day to the Hillsboro Farmers Market, but more often than not an invitation into a world of agricultural insights and ideas.

Last week's e-mail was all seed patents and copyrights, all in all a subject way beyond the casual produce shopper, but one of urgent interest to those who grow and collect seeds.

Until the 1930s, plant varieties were not covered by patents or copyrights, and were in the public domain. We don't think we suffered any setback in the field of plant breeding up to that point. For example, crack open Hedrick's Small Fruits of New York (1928) and you will see a much greater diversity in every single type of small fruit than is available today. The utility patent is particularly pernicious, as it strikes at the very essence of traditional farming, saving and selecting seeds, as well as scouting out sports and interesting seedlings.

Later, he continues:

As growers, we do not begrudge paying a premium for good quality material, and we believe buying good quality planting stock is a bargain... We also know the most expensive seeds and plants we plant are those which we have selected and saved ourselves...That said, we think the granting of utility patents to plant traits and the Plant Variety Protection Act were both bad public policy, Faustian bargains benefiting lawyers and clerks, and have done nothing to advance plant breeding in this country.

Do his interests and priorities resonate with yours? Excellent. Oh I'm sorry, did you say you're only in it for the food? Then take a look at what Anthony and Carol have been harvesting these days and you'll either eat your heart out, live vicariously through his mailing list, or, Move!

Plums: A pile of plums are beginning to ripe. We should have violet gages, golden transparent gages, mirabelles, and several different prune plums.
Table Grapes: Good selection. Price and Swenson's Red on the fecund side, and Interlaken, Sweet Seduction and Canadice for fans of the celibate.
Berries: Chester & Triple Crown . . .we promise. The warm weather has done wonders for the berries. They are sweet. The Triple Crown is back in good form, surprising the Eyores among us.
Fresh Shell Beans: Vermont Cranberry, Cannellini, Flageolet and Wrens Egg. We will try to have enough for even the late risers.
Cucumbers: Biet Alpha and Boothby's Blonde.
Pole beans: Preacher, and some Fortex and Garden of Eden.
Spuds nuevas: Charlotte and Red Thumb.
Shallots: French red and grisselle

I'm not sure I'd know a Biet Alpha cuke from a Boothby's Blonde, but I feel better knowing there are people like the Boutards on the planet who are making sure that when I'm smart enough to care, both varieties will be amply available.



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The Willamette Valley is such a productive place. I hadn't heard of these folks but they are true Cascadians in tune with their environment. Mr. Boutard is certainly correct in looking skeptically at patents being granted for the basic building blocks of life. The creation of seed that has a productive lifespan of one growing season so that the farmer must return every year to buy more patented, privatized product for his crop is not a benefit to mankind. I'll be looking forward to seeing the periodic e-mails from Ayers Creek Farm.

Sent by burro | 12:19 AM | 9-17-2008

Just got my first newsletter from Anthony Boutard today and it's a great resource to know about. As you say, a useful mix of local knowledge and empirical perspective on the practices of sustainable farming. Thanks for highlighting the newsletter in your post Ketzel.

Sent by burro | 7:40 PM | 9-20-2008