Farm to Fork at the Fort

Guest Post by: Chef Dana MacAuley and Evonne Hughes.

Continuing on with The Fort George tradition of creating something great by bringing together people within the community, Owner Jack Harris and Chef Dana MacAuley went on the air on Astoria’s local radio station KMUN last year to promote local food.  After hearing the show, farmer Larry Nelson contacted The Fort with a goal in mind: to start growing potatoes for the pub.  This began an exciting new venture of truly providing customers with a unique experience that goes beyond just taste.

After 15 years of farming, Larry Nelson and his wife Nancy created the L.A.N.A.’s Conscious Farm name, beginning its first growing season this year.  Located in the Lewis and Clark area, Larry and Nancy have always used strict organic practices and they will be officially certified after four years of soil testing.

Spud Dynamics

This 2012 planting season contains one of the indigenous foods of the Nakota tribe, an heirloom russet, of which 1000 pounds of seed potatoes were planted, followed by 10 pounds of Burbauks and Blazers.  Plans for an aggressive growing season were slightly halted after 2 frosts and a small flood took out most of the early March seeds.  However, the remaining seed potatoes were planted in mid-April and were just harvested this past Monday.  Everyone was filled with great excitement and anticipation as they watched the success of their first harvest being pulled from the earth.  What was nothing but a mere open, grassy plain in early spring had now been cultivated into almost an acre of rich, growing fields.  Grain to mulch the 200-foot-long rows was also provided by The Fort George.

(Click to enlarge).

Getting Dirty

This year L.A.N.A.’s Conscious Farm will use a technique known as cover cropping, wherein hot mustard and vetch will be grown in the off-season to then be tilled into the soil prior to planting, adding a great deal of nutrients to the soil.  In addition to this, spent grain from The Fort George Brewery’s operations will be used to mulch the 200-foot-long rows. The farm will also be using wild-caught salmon carcasses from Josephson’s Smokehouse located here in Astoria.  These will be combined into the compost, which will be spread 3″ thick over the soil before being tilled for the season.  Composting can induce soil temperatures to rise upwards of 175 degrees, thus killing off weeds and unwanted plants.

There is a magical and symbiotic relationship between the microscopic organisms created by these processes, the soil, and the plants being cultivated. All of the soil additions, besides create habitable environments for the organisms, which break down bound-up nutrients into the soil, and thus create more nutrients available for plant absorption, leaving us with large, solid, delicious and nutrient-rich potatoes. And it leaves the soil rich, ripe, and ready for next year’s crop!

Fun Potato Facts:  The first recorded spud planting in Astoria was in 1811: 12 seed potatoes from New York, which produced 190 potatoes after the growing season.    The potato can aid in digestion, high blood pressure, inflammation, brain function, heart disease, skin care and treatment of cuts and burns, as well as many other ailments.

Starting this Saturday, L.A.N.A.’s Conscious Farm potatoes will begin being served at The Fort George.  Try the delicious farm-fresh fries and many other fresh, house-made creations.

You can also find L.A.N.A.’s Conscious Farm produce at the Thursday Farmer’s Market in downtown Astoria.


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