A connection with the land

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Marty Simpson and Tara Prendergast at their Broken Ground Farm in Eglon on Wednesday, March 28, 2012. MEEGAN M. REID/KITSAP SUN

Farming comes naturally to this North Kitsap couple.

EGLON — From crisp salad mix, to hard-neck garlic, to eight varieties of potatoes, organic farmers Marty Simpson and Tara Prendergast are passionate about the food they grow.

And they’ve found that the customers at their farm stand and at area markets share their enthusiasm.

“They have an understanding of what fresh is compared to what is sold in the grocery,” said Prendergast.

As co-owners of Broken Ground Farm, the couple tends two patches of land in Eglon that total about five acres.

Using a farming method that focuses on enriching the soil, planting a wide variety of crops and rotating crops, the two coax an abundance of vegetables, herbs and flowers from a patchwork of tightly planted beds. They also grow much of their own seed and sell eggs produced by their flock of chickens.

“It’s amazing how much you can pack in,” said Simpson. “It’s a very intensive, mindful way of farming. You have to watch things closely.”

The two have been growing food in North Kitsap since 1997. Simpson started out as an archaeologist but found himself pulled toward farming. Both Simpson and Prendergast did agricultural apprenticeships in New Mexico before moving to Kitsap County to be near Prendergast’s family.

Their two children, Rowan, 13, and Willow, 10, are also involved in the farm. Rowan likes to drive the tractor and Willow sells bouquets of flowers.

The couple operates a farm stand on land next to the picturesque, white-frame Eglon Church. Visitors often help themselves, weighing and paying for their produce, while Simpson and Prendergast are busy in the adjacent field. From mid-April through the end of the year, the stand is open Wednesdays through Fridays, noon to dusk, and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to dusk.

The two also sell their bounty each week at the Poulsbo Farmers Market and the Indianola Saturday Market.

“I like the community at the markets,” said Prendergast. “There’s just this great camaraderie. And people give you great feedback.”

To add to their market wares, she is working on a line of products showcasing their produce, including salad dressing, New Mexico-style tomatillo salsa, and herbal salve and lip balm.

Broken Ground Farm has operated a CSA in the past but is trying something different this year. Typically, people subscribe to a CSA, which stands for community-supported agriculture, paying several hundred dollars in early spring. Each week of the growing season, subscribers get an identical bag of produce.

Prendergast said that model led to a lot of waste, plus it was hard for people to pay a large chunk of cash at one time. So, the farm is selling “Greens Cards” in $100 increments. For $100 in cash, customers get $110 in farm credit to use at Broken Ground’s farm stand or at their market stands. Customers get to choose what they want, when they want it, and the farm keeps track of their balance. The cards can be reloaded throughout the season.

Once a month, Prendergast shares her love of farming with students at Gordon Elementary’s Options program, where Willow is a student. For the past two years, the students have visited the farm to dig potatoes for the food bank. Prendergast also teaches them hands-on classes on topics such as soil and composting.

Simpson and Prendergast are also involved in the Hansville Farm Project, an effort to preserve as agricultural land a 144-acre former tree nursery owned by Olympic Property Group. Project organizers are working with nonprofit groups to purchase or lease the land. Ideas for the property include leasing acreage to small farmers, offering a P-Patch for community gardeners and offering gardening and farming classes.

Simpson and Prendergast, who are fast outgrowing their small tracts of land, see the project as essential to the survival of farms like theirs. Simpson said there is little farmable land in Kitsap County and what is available is too expensive for most small farmers.

“That (project) is our future,” said Prendergast.

— Terri Gleich

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