With the award-winning Chewelah Farmers Market about to set up shop for the first time this year, there’s no doubt that community members are curious about the offerings that can be had in the Chewelah City Park every Friday.
One of the people key to ensuring the Farmers Market continues to bring the farms of Stevens County to your dinner table is Meadow Johnson. In her second year as the on-site manager for the Farmers Market – Johnson has plenty of background in the fresh produce arena.
Meadow and Nils Johnson own Sweet Meadows Ranch off Red Marble Road – a 90-acre farm that is producing roughly an acre of vegetable and fruit crops. They also raise their own beef, pork and eggs.
In operation since 2010, Sweet Meadows Ranch is a bit unlike your normal farm in that it’s completely off-grid. The source of power for the farm comes from a generator – although they hope to one day be completely solar-powered – and the water is pumped from a well and into a cistern.
“It’s definitely a challenge (to be off-grid) making sure everything is watered,” Meadow said. “As a mom and a grower, it’s a lot more challenging because you can’t just throw a load of laundry in the washer and go work on a farm.”
Meadow is originally from Springdale and has lived in Stevens County all her life. With the farm, she and her husband want to start having lessons for people to show how they’re living off grid and how they’re farming completely organic produce.
“Nils and I always wanted to go off grid with our farm,” Johnson said. “Both of us were raised off-grid and it’s part of our mission to teach people how to live without power.”
While they use a tractor, they’ve moved into a new realm of farming: the four-legged type. Sweet Meadow Ranch is now using horse-farming.
“It’s a lot more time-consuming,” Johnson said. “You have to be patient. Something that takes 15 minutes in a tractor now takes two hours.”
It can take quite some time to harness a horse for farming. The couple also does some horse-logging as well. They have five horses in all, including two Norwegian Fjords and three saddle horses. They’ve had the Fjords since April of last yearand have been slowly acquiring horse farming equipment.
Helping out on the farm is Johnson’s two oldest sons – Tommy and Gary John – who have been an invaluable resource for the business.
Sweet Meadows Ranch has also moved started offering CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) where customers can get a box of fresh vegetables each week.
So be sure to swing by Meadows’ booth at the Farmers Market this Friday – and don’t be shy to ask about the horses!
For more information, visit sweetmeadowsranch.com.
By Brandon Hansen / The Independent Staff