We have told so many people about the hoop house we’re building at our farm this spring and without fail, every single person asks us what we plan to grow in it.
It’s a fair question. That is the purpose of a hoop house after all. But let me back up— I guess I’m making a pretty large assumption about the level of knowledge you have about farming and farm structures so let me start at the beginning.
A hoop house is a metal structure made of, wait for it, hoops or rather metal arches. The arches are usually made of steel and nowadays come to a farm already arched in some sort of kit. The hoops are fastened to the ground in some fashion (sometimes with ground stakes, sometimes with earth anchors) and then it’s generally covered with a kind of plastic called poly.
Our greenhouse is, essentially, a hoop house structure. The main difference in my mind between a greenhouse and a hoop house is whether or not it has a heater in it and it’s primary purpose. A greenhouse has a heater and is typically used to start plants in the spring. A hoop house is for in ground production often to extend the season. If you’re a farmer, I know there are nuances beyond these facts. Don’t give me trouble. This is the basic information as I define it— which is really all we need to know here.
Anywho, we bought a hoop house structure from my friend Beth. It is 26 feet wide by 48 feet long with a 12-foot high arch. It is huge and beautiful and would, in fact, be an amazing place to grow spring greens and summer tomatoes and maybe even hemp, but that isn’t what we’re using it for. It’s not what Beth used it for either. We will cover it with a heavy fitted tarp (with a sky light!), add some doors, (all also purchases from our friend Beth) and use it as a very affordable shed.
But wait, I know what you’re thinking, “my dear friend Leek, didn’t you and your sweet Carrot just build a beautiful green shed two summers ago and start using it last year? Isn’t that working?”
Why yes, we did and why yes, it is.
“Don’t you like it?”
Why yes, we do.
“Isn’t it big enough?”
Why no, it’s not.
“Why didn’t you just build it a little bit bigger?”
Ah ha! Now you’re on to something! We did in fact build a beautiful pack shed in the summer of 2018. It was finished right before our trip to Hawaii and we spent much of last spring building a cooler inside of it to make it our dream packing and washing facility. It is certainly a dream come true with cement floors, nice drainage, windows with views of the rolling hills, a desk, a microwave, a coffee pot and a cooler that allows for expansion. The pack shed is 32 foot by 32 foot— adequate to be sure, but definitely not large by any stretch of the imagination.
We chose this particular size for a few reasons. This pack shed signifies the first major investment in our business. We secured a large 7-year loan to purchase the pack shed, our shiny Kubota tractor and a few other key pieces of equipment. We choose a seven year loan because that is how long we expect to be on this particular piece of land and we sized the pack shed to fit a loan we felt our business could reasonably afford and pay off during those same seven years because we know we won’t be able to take the shed with us when we go and definitely don’t want to be paying off debt on a structure we’re no longer using.
“But wait— did you just say you only plan to farm on your land for five more years?”
Sure did. That brings us to the most interesting and difficult part of our farming journey— we’ve always been building our business on leased land we plan to leave one day.
Don’t get me wrong. We love it here. My husband and I treasure our time farming in Western Rock County on the land where I grew up. It’s beautiful, it’s in a great central location for reaching many large urban markets, the soil is outstanding, and the views (and the big bold skies) are beautiful beyond words.
But it’s not our forever space. It’s missing a lot of the cultural and recreational things we find important to our daily well-being and is in the wrong direction of so many of our dearest friends and family. It’s been and will continue to be a space we cherish and adore, a space filled with a million memories and dreams come to life, but it’s very unlikely it’s where we will be forever.
In other words, we knew when we built the pack shed it wouldn’t be large enough. We built it in a way we hoped would be just big enough to sustain the packing and washing of our growing business for seven years and not one foot more. We knew we’d need some sort of semi-permanent structure for everything else— the crates, the amendments, the tools, tractor, irrigation, row cover, landscape fabric, and equipment that makes our farm run. We knew we wanted something not too difficult to build that we could take apart and take with us whenever we decide to leave. And so, alas, we bought a hoop house a friend was selling and are now spending sunny days putting it together. It won’t grow food. It will store stuff. It’s a small part of a huge story and we couldn’t be more excited about it.
Phew. That’s enough about that. Now, a recipe for getting through hard times deliciously with what’s (likely) already in your fridge and pantry— a can of chickpeas (or really any canned bean would do), half an onion, something green, some lemon, some salt, some pepper, some olive oil and a few pieces of toasted bread. Enjoy my friends! Stay safe, stay healthy, stay nourished.
P.S. I can’t talk about leaving this land without taking the time to thank my parents. We are forever indebted to these kind, compassionate, loving, supportive humans for believing in us and helping us get started here all the while knowing it was extremely likely we would not buy the farm one day. I love you both so much. You make everything possible.
CHICKPEA SALAD ON TOAST
My Carrot kindly requests I stop making so many things with chickpeas but I just can’t. If you share his sentiment please know that this recipe really changes the texture and vibe of the ordinary chickpea. If they still really aren’t your thing you can substitute pretty much any other bean as well! Additionally, you can substitute dried beans for canned. I’ve tried it both ways. When I used dried beans, I soaked 1/2 cup of dried chickpeas overnight and then cooked them in water for 30 minutes before mashing.
**Speaking of substitutions, I call for 1/4 cup of herbs or greens and truly you can use whatever you like here. My favorite is parsley or cilantro but I’ve done it with microgreens, fennel fronds, dill, chives, mint, spinach, arugula, literally anything I have on hand. I would not recommend substituting kale or a salad green. One photo has cilantro in it and micros on top. The second photo has fennel fronds and spinach in it (I’m running out of greens here people!!!) and topped with the measly amount of chives I have in my yard right now.
Serves 2-4 (makes enough chickpea salad for four pieces of toasted bread)
Takes 15 minutes
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (want to use dried, see my notes above ^)
1/2 small red onion or 1 small shallot, diced (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup herbs (or greens), minced**
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
12 twists black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 pieces of sourdough bread
Herbs or microgreens, optional
Flaky sea salt, optional
- In a medium bowl, mash chickpeas with a pastry blender or fork. Add onion, herbs, lemon, salt, and pepper. Mash further until most chickpeas are broken up and the mixture comes together. Add olive oil and stir to combine.
- Toast bread and then spread with melted butter (if using).
- Top piece of toast with about a quarter of the mashed chickpea mixture. Season with sea salt and add some additional herbs if you like. If you don’t finish the chickpea salad, you can store it in the fridge and serve it cold on toast tomorrow!