Wednesday, April 25, 2012

At the Market and Online too: Clock is Running for Choosing Dahlia Tubers

Andy beams from a stall full of tubers on a market day.
    Lynch Creek Farm's booth at the Olympia Farmers Market is still chock-full of fat, healthy dahlia tubers just waiting to go into the ground. The warehouse at the Farm is still replete with tubers to grow beautiful dahlias in a wide range of colors and types.

   But the clock is running. Planting time is looming for the gang at the farm, and tubers of some varieties are running low. For the best selection, now is the time to make your choices and order your dahlia tubers online or, if you're in Western Washington, to stop by the public market at the north end of Capital Way in downtown Olympia.

   The Olympia Farmers Market is a fragrant, colorful array of wonderful, fresh produce: fresh greens and salad mixes, the season's first Washington asparagus, root vegetables and fruit delight the senses. Dairy products include farm-fresh milk and artisan cheeses; baked goods include bread, savories and sweets. Fresh, pastured meats, smoked meats, shellfish and seafood are all available. Adding savor are an array of locally-made sauces and salsas.

Nathanael helps customers choose just the right tubers
at the farmers' market in Olympia.
   Cut flowers lend color to the scene (fabulous tulips are in right now). If you garden, you'll find — in addition to Lynch Creek's great dahlia tubers — bedding plants, vegetable starts, perennials, and shrubs and fruit trees.  Creative vendors offer soaps and lotions, jewelry, wooden items and arts and crafts of all sorts.

    Live music and international foods, with a covered area for enjoying them, add to the ambience. It's the kind of friendly space where conversations spring up among folks waiting to be served at the various booths. And speaking of conversations, you'll find more than fine dahlia tubers in the Lynch Creek Farm stall.  Ryan, Evé and Nathanael can offer advice about choosing and growing dahlias so your tubers will thrive in your garden.

   Buying online? Send the farm your questions. Andy and the staff are happy to help their customers  grow the loveliest dahlias possible. But get on with it! It's time to plant!



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lynch Creek Dahlias HQ Goes Green

Evé and Nathanael show off the old ballasts
Lynch Creek has replaced with energy-efficient ones.
The days are brighter at Lynch Creek Farm's headquarters, where the crew is busy shipping out spring orders of dahlia tubers in anticipation of flower-y gardens across the country this summer.

But the lengthening of spring days isn't all that's brightening the workplace at Dahlia Tuber Central. Even before the dahlia plants emerge from the fields at the Farm, Lynch Creek's gone green: a lighting refit in conjunction with the local public utility, Mason County PUD 3.  New high-performance, energy-efficient lighting is in place in storage, workspace and office areas of the Farm's facility at the Port of Shelton.

The better lighting, notes Lynch Creek owner Andy Hunter, is better and more energy-efficient in the storage area where the Farm's dahlia tubers spend the winter, and in the work area where the delicate operation of separating new tubers from the summer's root mass is performed.

Evé Munguia, who prepares the individual tubers for storage and ultimately for market, says good lighting is essential for ensuring that every tuber has an eye, and helps assure better quality control in winter storage so the tubers emerge in the best possible condition in the spring.

Evé notes that good lighting is essential to
effective dividing of dahlia tubers.
Benefiting from the refit are work, shipping and storage areas for the Farm's other business, holiday wreaths, greens and centerpieces. New lighting is also in place in the administrative area where orders are received and processed. As Lynch Creek Farm's power use becomes more efficient, the Farm's customers benefit from that efficiency with savings as well.

Electric lighting, according to PUD 3 of Mason County, accounts for almost 40 percent of the energy consumed in U.S. commercial buildings each year. Changing to T8 fluorescent lighting can reduce energy consumption by up to 50 percent, and the utility provided cost-effective incentives for making the change.

The utility says that T8 lighting is better and safer. As a family-style operation, a safe workplace is important to Lynch Creek Farm — just as important as great wreaths and beautiful, beautiful dahlias.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Don't Waste those Weeds - Eat Them!

Dandelion leaves are at their best just
before the plant blooms.
   Well, maybe not all of them.  But lots of the weeds that invade your dahlia garden might just as well invade your salad bowl or your soup pot.

   Consider the dandelion, that bane of every lawn and garden across the country. In the spring, in a well-fertilized flower bed, dandelions produce bright green, deeply toothed leaves that add a zesty tang to green salads. (You can use the petals, too; just don't include the sepals, which are a bit tough and bitter for most palates.)

Garden cress is a fast-growing,
fast-seeding invader with a lovely
peppery flavor.
   After the dandelions have bloomed for a while, their leaves toughen and exude a white sap when cut. At that point, they're more bitter, but they still add lots of nutrients and flavor to soups. We like to use them, along with green-onion tops or chives, sage, rosemary, and thyme, to stuffing for poultry, or simply fill the cavity in a roasting chicken with them.  And of course, dandelion blossoms make a simply splendid wine.

   One note of warning: don't use dandelions from your lawn in cookery unless your lawn-tending practices are strictly organic. Systemic pesticides, even if the dandelions survive, aren't good for your own insides. But the dandelions that invade the beds you've prepared for your dahlia tubers — those are the ones to devour!

Garden cress makes a perfect garnish
for any cream soup, hot or cold.
   Another spring garden invader is garden cress, a round mound of bright green compound leaves with a central flower stem that goes from blossom to ripe seed faster than it seems possible. In a well-fertilized garden, such as you've likely prepared for growing beautiful dahlias, these produce beautiful, thriving rosettes of leaves with a spicy zing like that of watercress or pricey arugula. They make another fine addition to salads and a great garnish for soups or casseroles.

   Later in the season, the crew at Lynch Creek Farm will find another invader in the fields: lambs-quarter. That succulent herb also has its culinary uses; we'll be back with photos and a recipe when it starts to appear.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Evé is man-of-all-trades at Lynch Creek Farm

Evé recently worked on energy-efficient
re-lighting at Lynch Creek Farm's facility.
There's not much that Evé Munguia hasn't done around Lynch Creek Farm.

One of the Farm staff whose work encompasses both Lynch Creek Wreaths and Lynch Creek Dahlias, Everardo (Evé) Munguia may find himself shifting from overseeing crews digging dahlias in the field one day to organizing shipping arrangements for the impending wreath season the next.

This spring, he's working for the first time at the Olympia Farmers' Market, selling tubers and advising less experienced dahlia growers on how to get the best results in their flower gardens. "That's the last piece toward being able to consider myself an all-year employee," he said. "It's the only thing I'd never done before."

Evé was born and raised in Shelton, where he graduated from Shelton High School. He attended South Puget Sound Community College for a year and the University of Fairbanks in Alaska for a year. He worked for a time for Denali National Park Aeromark Concessions, and did internships with park rangers. "I love Alaska," he says, "but money got hard up there, and my family was here. So I came back to Shelton."

Evé had worked seasonally for Lynch Creek, and on his return, he got the opportunity to join the Lynch Creek Farm staff year-round. Early in the spring, he's involved in stock control with the dahlias, pulling inventory to fill dahlia-tuber orders and shipping the tubers, sounding the alarm if inventory on any variety gets too low to maintain growing stock, choosing what's still plentiful for dahlia overstock sales.

Dividing dahlia tubers demands careful
attention and all of Evé's expertise.
In the late spring and summer, he works intensively at the planting, weeding and cultivating of the dahlia plants, as well as working on plans for the autumn's wreath season with Andy, Nathanael and Patty. In late summer, he'll be working with the cut flowers for market and wedding sales, and in the fall, he'll be digging dahlias, dividing and storing tubers, and finishing up the dahlia season just in time for the tumult of the Christmas wreaths and evergreens to take over.

"The best thing about working here," he said recently, "is how close we are with everybody. It's a friendly environment. Andy does a great job of keeping everybody happy, and making a good working environment for the employees. I love being part of something that has potential and is growing."

Outside of work hours, Evé coaches youth soccer teams for Shelton's city league. He started working out with 15-year-old boys, initially as a translator, but jumping into coaching when the team coaches needed an extra  hand. "I coached that first team until they were 19. Now I'm coaching a U-11 girls' team. I'll probably keep that team until they graduate."

He has learned, Evé says, that the challenge of coaching is learning leadership. Starting out with boys who weren't that much younger than himself, he said, meant that they tended to see him as a teammate. To exert leadership, he had to try hard to gain their respect. "The main thing I realized I had to do was know what I was doing, have an organized practice, keep teaching them something different, showing them how they can do things better and exceed themselves with different drills and discipline."

Once his teams began succeeding, he said, they wanted to go on winning and wanted to do better. The parents could see their progress, and that helped too, he added with a smile.

The same leadership principles, he said, apply to the workplace. "It's important to me to excel at knowing what we're doing, knowing the products, knowing the processes," he said. "People tend to follow people who know what's going on."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Lynch Creek Dahlias Go to the Market

An Olympia Farmers Market customer
chooses dahlia tubers.
Spring is a busy time at Lynch Creek Farm.  Not only is the staff busy filling and shipping dahlia tubers nationwide, but April marks the opening of the Olympia Farmers Market.  Lynch Creek is in its third decade as a mainstay of the market. In April and May, the farm's colorful booth at the market features ranks of dahlia tubers, beautifully displayed.

The Olympia Farmers Market is located at the north end of Capital Way between Percival Landing and Swantown. All kinds of wonderful fresh produce, meats, seafood, garden starts, baked goods, sauces, honey, shrubs, fruit trees and perennials, dairy products, and handcrafted items like soaps, wooden ware, woven towels, jewelry and paper are available Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Andy checks the stocks of dahlia tubers at
the farmers' market as planting season arrives.
When Lynch Creek Farm owner Andy Hunter and his brothers were just youngsters, their dad kept them out of trouble by planting a huge garden. Soon they were marketing their fresh veggies and flowers at the Olympia market, and Lynch Creek has been a presence at the market ever since.

Fresh-picked dahlias from Lynch Creek
 add brilliant color to the market.
Lynch Creek Farm's booth at the market will have fine dahlia tubers for sale through the end of May. The staff will offer not only healthy dahlia tubers but advice on choosing varieties, soil preparation and planting, and dahlia maintenance.

The farm gang will be back at the market with stunning displays of fresh-picked dahlia bouquets and other farm-fresh flowers from late July until the first frost.

And when the dahlia season's over, they'll be back at the market with their magnificent holiday wreaths and swags until the end of the market season at Christmas.