The rain is flying sideways signalling the arrival of fall in the Pacific Northwest, and as I amble through the farmers’ market, I pick up the sweet scents of cinnamon and nutmeg, and notice some plump Honey-crisp apples. A basket overflowing with bright orange carrots catches my eye, so I wander over to Hopewell Farms and strike up a conversation with Jan Osborn, a family friend of the owners, Pete and Dorene Dykstra.
Jan mentions that Dorene ran to the other side of the market to grab some soup for lunch, so as we wait, she tells me a little bit about the farm. They have been a 100% organic mainstay at the farmers’ market for about eight years now, starting with a collaboration with some of the original market stall owners.
When Dorene returns, she continues the story. Dorene and Pete both grew up in Everson, a block apart. They went to different schools, but met through a mutual friend of her little brothers’ and the rest is history. The farm was passed down from Pete’s father, and it was originally a dairy farm. When the price of milk went south, the Dykstras got creative and expanded production to produce as well.
You may know Hopewell Farms for their carrots — the first vegetables they started growing when they expanded and while they grow a variety of fine produce, they are still best-known for carrots.
Dorene explains that when the Co-op runs out, ardent fans come down to the farmers’ market, sometimes frantically, hoping they are still in stock at the stall.
A friend of the DDB Team describes the carrots as the crunchiest and sweetest in town—“They come in my CSA bin, and I love them!”
Dorene gives me some carrots to try, and I take a moment to savor the crisp, fresh, flavors. I have to agree they are some of the best I have ever tasted.
Looking around the stall, the diversity in produce is noteworthy. They sell sweet potatoes, gherkins, ground cherries, and romanesco, produce that you don’t see everywhere at the market. She explains that generally farmers around here shy away from growing sweet potatoes, so the Hopewell farmers must have some tricks; the ones at the stand are fat and healthy — and another popular item.
They have multiple varieties of more traditional veggies as well. The most eye-catching is the trio of cauliflower decorating the stand. Displayed are the more classic white-ish yellow variety, a bright orange variety, called Cheddar Cauliflower, and a bold purple variety (technically named Graffiti Cauliflower, though she prefers her personal label, The Queen’s Robe).
The gorgeous veggies end up at all around town—in dishes at Chow Thyme, Pizza’za and Mount Bakery, or fresh from the Co-op or Terra. They also sell the milk from their Holstein and Holstein-Jersey mix breed cows to Organic Valley.
When asked how they like to prepare the goodies from their farm, Dorene explains, “I roast everything in the oven. Any of the veggies are delicious roasted. Even when we go camping, I bring a cookie sheet and I roast the veggies on the barbeque!” She also loves tasting their produce in prepared foods from other vendors at the market. She’s a fan of Gusto Woodfire Pizza—“They use our carrots!”
Dorene and Jan love working at the farmers’ market for the people. They were entertained by some kids that stopped by earlier for the waterfall cascading off the roof over the stall, and were having a laugh about Dorene’s good-natured teasing of the customers. “I love to tell them stories.” She also appreciates the trading that goes on at the market. “I am trading with other vendors all the time. I love to trade. It’s fun!”
I spend some more time hearing stories about the farm, Dorene’s semi-retired role that involves watching her grandchildren, and head on my way. This fun-loving family and their impressive produce are definitely on my list to keep an eye out for when I’m out to lunch or grabbing groceries, especially if I am shopping for carrots.