Cedar Mill
Community Website

Search the Cedar Mill News:

About The
Cedar Mill News

Volume 9, Issue 5
May 2011

chickensCurious Farm
By Virginia Bruce

Cathy and David Smith moved into their home in the West Haven neighborhood of Cedar Mill about eight years ago. They began to plant fruit trees on their two-thirds-acre lot and increased the space for their home garden. As the years went by, they added more edible landscape and garden areas, and started raising chickens for eggs. Eventually they had more eggs and vegetables than they could eat, even with the addition of their daughter Eloise, now six. Neighbors were happy to purchase the extra produce and eggs.

Although Cathy has lived in Oregon most of her adult life, some pivotal years working in New York City gave her a taste for really wonderful pickles, sauerkrauts, and other brined vegetables. After she returned to Oregon, she couldn't find the products she missed, and so she began trying to make them at home.

Cathy in her “pickle factory”

She started to experiment, collecting books and doing a lot of trial and error, to learn all she could about fermentation. As her garden expanded, so did her pickle-craft. Eventually, she and her family decided they could make a business out of her passion for pickles.

She did the work to get her kitchen certified by the state so she could produce food for sale. She finally received word last September that her work had paid off and she was certified. In March she was delighted to be chosen to sell her pickles and a little produce at the Beaverton Farmers' Market.

She calls her place Curious Farm, and describes it as a suburban farm. In addition to the cucumbers for traditional pickles, she grows peas and beans, garlic, and herbs that she uses for seasoning her preserved goodies, along with a variety of veggies and fruits.

Most of the pickles she makes are fermented. This process uses the healthy organisms on the surface of naturally grown produce, along with salt and time, to turn fresh vegetables into crunchy delights that actually have more vitamins than fresh.

kimchiAmong the varieties available at the Beaverton Farmers' Market will be her amazing kimchi. She describes it as, "a snapshot of what's in season." She uses traditional Korean methods to make it but adds varieties of produce that grow well in our region. As the season progresses and offers new harvests, every batch is different.

She makes traditional sauerkraut as well as sauerruben which is made from turnips. You have to try this to see how good it is even if you think you don't like turnips—amazing what a snappy flavor can come from just salt, turnips and fermentation.

For people not accustomed to eating pickles regularly, she suggests adding some kimchi to a bowl of rice or other cooked grain. Kimchi or one of her sauerkrauts can work wonders on a sandwich. Pickled snow peas with cocktails, anyone?

Curious Farm's garden in March. Hoop houses are covered with plastic to hold in heat that gives plants a head start.

She will sell her pickles by volume in take-home containers, so that people can experiment, taste and learn what they like. All her products need to be refrigerated, because they are fresh, and not cooked or canned.

Some things taste better when preserved in vinegar, such as pickled onions, beets, and baby turnips. And she also makes beet kvass—described as an elixir full of health-giving probiotics, it's a drink made from the brine of fermenting beets.

Cathy calls herself a "pickle anthropologist" because she loves learning about different cultures and how they preserve foods. She's interested in honoring traditional preserving methods from around the world, and she loves hearing from people about pickles and preserves that have special meaning in their families. She hopes people will drop by her booth at the Beaverton Farmers Market to share family recipes and unusual pickling techniques

eloiseStarting a farm and a new food business hasn't been easy, but Cathy's husband David—an engineer who loves to solve problems (no matter how big)—has been a great help and tireless supporter. Even young daughter Eloise, who has grown up in the garden (eating all the berries), helps out by being Curious Farm's main pickle and sauerkraut tester. Cathy writes about progress on the farm and in the "pickle laboratory" on the farm's website:

One entry says, "It has been tremendously affirming to recognize how far we've come this year. It hasn't been easy, and I still want to cry from frustration sometimes, but—you know—we made a working farm and a pickle business in a year. It's amazing what a woman can accomplish when her child goes to full-day kindergarten."

She holds occasional pickling/fermentation classes at her farm, and we're working to put together a few classes at the Grange Hall later this summer. Visit her at the Beaverton Farmers' Market starting on May 7.



Sign Up Now to receive
The Cedar Mill News by email each month

Cedar Mill News Subject Index
for past articles

Published monthly by Pioneer Marketing & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291