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:
Asian stir fry mix
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.