BUHL — Lexy O’Malley’s arm was elbow-deep in mucky brown water as she kept the orange bucket’s contents well mixed.
Holes in the bottom of the bucket dribbled the slurry onto a bed of freshly planted arugula. The worm castings needed to be kept stirred in water so the fertilizer could be spread evenly onto the plot inside the greenhouse. This would allow plants to get a complex diet without the use of chemicals.
“Our farm runs on biology,” said Onsen Farm owner James Reed. “That’s not what you see on corn fields and barley fields and bean fields. They run more on chemistry.”
On Tuesday, Reed and the staff of Onsen Farm in Buhl continued planting for a winter harvest; they’d started seeding carrots in July. The geothermal farm partners with other local farms to offer a community supported agriculture — or CSA — program from November to May.
“We try our best to get locally adapted seeds,” said Danny O’Malley, who manages the farm along with his wife, Lexy.
Onsen Farm received a three-year grant to organize a cooperative of growers and provide a year-round supply of locally grown food in the Magic and Wood River valleys.
“The point is to revive a local food system,” Reed said.
Reed prefers the term “farm share” to CSA. What do members get? Each of 13 boxes contains an assortment of vegetables, fruits, legumes and herbs. And some —such as Meyer lemons — are less common in grocery stores and can thrive in this climate only in greenhouses.
Here are some of the foods grown at Onsen Farm and its partnering farms Agrarian Harvest, M and M Heath Farm, Kings Crown Organic Farm, River Road Farm and Springs of Life Farm:
This includes several different leafy greens from the mustard family, such as bok choy and kale. The seeds are grown together and the plants are available the entire winter season — but at different maturity levels.
Reed and his staff begin by harvesting the young plants.
“Because they’re fork-sized, we can take the young ones and put them in the salad mix,” Reed said. “The larger leaves aren’t something that people would like to eat raw.”
The mature plants will be included in the box as an Asian stir fry mix, which should be tossed last into a stir fry so it’s not overcooked.
Reed grows the Asian mix because he believes in eating a variety of vegetables to get their real benefits.
Beets and beet greens will be offered from November to May, Reed said. At times, farm share members may find the young plants in their salad mixes; at others, beet greens will be sent separately for cooking. The beets will also be sent as adult plants.
“We really do love those plants you can use both ways,” Reed said.
He’s also a fan of Jonny Bowden’s book “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth,” which touts beets’ cancer-fighting abilities.
Mike Heath of M and M Heath Farm in Buhl grows a variety of organic beans such as white, black, pinto and flageolet.
“We’ll send out dry beans with a recipe,” Reed said.
His wife, Leslee, will also include recipes for other crops sent in the boxes – sometimes explaining what they are, she said. Onsen Farm relies on other farms to compliment what it can offer in the CSA member boxes.
“Putting it all together, we can have something of value,” Reed said.
The beans are available all winter.
River Road Farm grows a selection of citrus fruits in its greenhouses just down the road from Onsen Farm. The Meyer lemons have thin peels and are much sweeter than most lemons you buy in the store, Leslee Reed explained.
“If you like sour, you can just eat it,” James Reed said.
But they’re also more costly, worth about $1.50 each. These will be sent out several times throughout the winter, with three to six in a box.
At other times, members may see grapefruits or tangerines.
What are microgreens? They’re similar to sprouts, Reed said, but are grown in a soil base until they are 2 to 3 inches high.
Onsen Farm grows sunflower, radish and pea microgreens in about 11-15 days. These are nutritionally dense and are most commonly used in a salad blend or as a garnish. They’ll be available all winter.
Onsen Farm specializes in leafy greens because they can grow in Reed’s geothermal-heated greenhouses during times when daylight is limited. Reed’s team will try to send out a salad mix with every box — and it has a shelf life of two to three weeks.
The “Superhero Mix” contains spinach and microgreens, and a spicy blend mix that leans heavily on the Asian stir fry plants. There is also a basic mix. During the spring, Reed will use a mix that includes watercress and dandelion growing wild on his property.
Reed isn’t quite sure why he got into sorrel — a sour, leafy herb that can be added to a salad. The plant is a perennial, though, so it keeps coming back.
“It’s just kind of fun to have,” he said. “Our customers will chop it up and mix it in their salads to their own taste.”
This, along with a variety of other herbs, will be sent out several times throughout the winter.
TWIN FALLS — Alaa Basatneh was a 19-year-old freshman at Northeastern Illinois University in March 2011 when she heard about several students in Syria being imprisoned and tortured — one was skinned — by the Syrian regime, for painting anti-regime sentiments on a school wall.
From 6,000 miles away, using the only tool she had — her laptop — she joined the Syrian revolution against its dictator, Bashar al-Assad.
On Thursday, Basatneh told her story to attendees of the College of Southern Idaho’s Social Science and Humanities Symposium: Refuge in America.
She explained how her world changed overnight; she went from worrying about what outfit she was going to wear the next day to risking her life by assisting the revolution in her home country.
Born in Damascus, Basatneh emigrated with her family to the United States when she was an infant.
Driven by her passion for human rights, Basatneh became a link between activists on the ground in Syria and help on the outside. Using social media — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype and Snapchat — she communicated strategic information to isolated protesters, enabling them to organize into larger groups.
“This is the window to the entire world,” she told her audience as she held up her smart phone.
Basatneh’s efforts to stop Syria’s horrific human crisis is chronicled in the documentary, “#ChicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes on a Dictator,” shown at the symposium.
Basatneh described how the Syrian regime targeted schools and hospitals, and had driven journalists out of the country while maintaining that “nothing is happening here.” She knew spreading information about the government’s deadly attacks on its own people would be key to toppling the Assad regime.
When she heard that Syria had no insulin left for its diabetic population, she reached out to local doctors. Basatneh flew to the Middle East with four suitcases of insulin shots.
“I had no choice but to go to Syria,” she said.
She and her father landed in Turkey, then walked to the Syrian border and across a mine field to deliver the insulin to underground clinics run by activists. While there, she watched the Syrian military drop “barrel bombs” loaded with TNT onto the city.
“I didn’t know what to do. I ran to the balcony and saw people fleeing like in a Hollywood movie,” Basatneh said. “I can’t get rid of the image.”
On her second trip to Syria, the cities were “practically ghost towns, and only getting worse,” she said.
Basatneh receives death threats, but continues to help the “citizen journalists” in Syria get the news out. Activists on the ground upload videos of regime violence and clashes with protesters to YouTube, then she downloads the videos and post them to social media, spreading evidence of the chaos.
Several of her Syrian friends have been killed for their efforts.
“Americans need to understand what’s going on,” she said. “Syrians are desperate for help.”
WASHINGTON — The Interior Department said Thursday it is withdrawing protections for 10 million acres of federal lands used by the threatened sage grouse to open it up for energy development.
The plan would allow mining and other development in areas where it now is prohibited in six Western states: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
The Bureau of Land Management, an Interior agency, said a recent analysis showed that mining or grazing would not pose a significant threat to the sage grouse, a ground-dwelling, chicken-like bird that roams across vast areas of the West.
The proposal would affect less than one-tenth of 1 percent of sage grouse-occupied range across 11 states from California to the Dakotas, officials said.
The change comes as the Trump administration moves to reconsider an Obama-era plan to protect the sage grouse, a quirky bird with long, pointed tail feathers and known for the male’s elaborate courtship display in which air sacs in the neck are inflated to make a popping sound.
Millions of sage grouse once roamed the West but development, livestock grazing and an invasive grass that encourages wildfires has reduced the bird’s population to fewer than 500,000.
A proposal by the Obama administration to protect 10 million acres from development “to prevent 10,000 (acres) from potential mineral development was a complete overreach,” said acting BLM Director Mike Nedd.
He and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pledged to work closely with states to protect the health of the sage brush-dominated lands. Interior said Thursday it is seeking comment on plans to revise sage-grouse conservation plans across the bird’s range.
“We can be successful in conserving greater sage grouse habitat without stifling economic development and job growth,” Nedd said, adding that officials intend to “protect important habitat while also being a good neighbor to states and local communities.”
Environmental groups said Interior was jeopardizing the bird’s habitat — and its survival.
“The Interior Department is traversing down a dangerous path that could put this vital habitat at risk,” said Nada Culver, a policy expert at The Wilderness Society.
Because of the importance of its sagebrush habitat, the sage grouse helps determines the health of an entire ecosystem, including the golden eagle, elk, pronghorn and mule deer, Culver said. A 2015 plan imposed by the Obama administration has reduced the threat of extinction by protecting the most important habitat while ensuring other activities continue on public lands, she said.
The 2015 plan was hashed out under President Barack Obama as a way to keep the bird off the endangered species list following a decades-long population decline caused by disease and pressure on habitat from energy development, grazing and wildfires.
Zinke order a review of the Obama plan this summer, saying he wanted to give Western states greater flexibility to allow mining, logging and other economic development where it now is prohibited. Zinke insisted that the federal government and the states can work together to protect the sage grouse and its habitat while not slowing economic growth and job creation.
Mining companies, ranchers and governors in some Western states — especially Utah, Idaho and Nevada — said the 2015 plan would impede oil and gas drilling and other economic activity. Republican governors in those states urged that conservation efforts focus on bird populations in a state rather than on habitat management, which frequently results in land-use restrictions.
On the other side, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Republican Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming have said they oppose any changes to the habitat-management model.
John Swartout, a senior adviser to Hickenlooper, said changes to the conservation plan — developed over years with local and state involvement — could lead to a future Endangered Species Act listing for the sage grouse.
“We didn’t work this hard to throw it all away and get a listing” on the Endangered Species Act, Swartout told The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, Colo.
Comments on the plan will be accepted through late November.