When I stopped by to visit Hannah Rose Weber, owner of The Land Loom at Tilian Farm Development Center, she had just put her lettuce into a washing machine – to dry it! She was hard at work filling bags for her CSA, which is better known as “The Salad Club,” and popular with customers looking for a weekly supply of delicious mixed greens, grown with organic practices. A bag might include a mix of lettuce, mustard, pac choi – even arugula or mizuna – and many customers follow the The Land Loom Newsletter, in which Hannah explains the harvest and details the joys and struggles of starting a farm.
Hannah has only lived in Ann Arbor for a couple of years, but she has already made a splash by establishing the only salad CSA in town. She got into the local farm business by working for Sunseed Farm – which used to grow at Tilian – and still works there a few days a week. But The Land Loom is now her main focus, a part-time plan that turned full-time as her business expanded, and now she sells to both individuals and restaurants, as well as at Argus Farm Stop.
While The Land Loom is a new farm, Hannah has been gaining farming experience for years. Much of what she learned came from a 9-month, intensive organic farming training at Michigan State University, where she also first heard about Tilian. Before that, she interned at the CSA where her parents had been members for twenty years, and took on volunteer farming experiences during her travels in Hawaii and Portugal. After her program she managed The Student Organic Farm at MSU, and with The Land Loom she is finally taking the plunge to farm on her own.
But like many young farmers, Hannah didn't take a straight path to farming. In college, she studied photography and creative nonfiction. But she finds that running her own business allows her to put her creative side to good use, and she still uses those skills in creating branding for The Land Loom. She enjoys sending out the weekly newsletter, plus photos, for anyone who would like to know more about what they're eating. It's all about keeping her customers informed, interested, and more connected to the farming process!
Along with a variety of salad greens, Hannah sometimes grows radishes, herbs, flowers, and even cucumbers for the Brinery. But she likes the “scale” of salad, as she is able to hand-manage her crops, working at a more detailed level and paying attention to the preferences of each variety. As she notes in her Newsletter, for example, she has learned that lettuce tastes better when harvested at dawn, and that the mustard plant only keeps getting spicier as it grows. Because she keeps her land organized, growing and quickly harvesting a neat succession of lettuce rows, she can experiment to see what farming practices work best. Farming is a constant learning process, but this can lead to happy surprises, as when she let her radishes over-grow and form radish pods, a crop more often seen in Indian cuisine. Argus Farm Stop was happy to feature this unusual pod, which had a subtle and gratifying spicy flavor. Such tasty experiments are definitely a benefit of individualized, local farms.
Overall, Hannah is grateful for her half-acre at Tilian, where she can farm with less financial risk, and be part of what she calls “a great community.” With Tilian's hoop houses, she is even able to farm during the winter months! While Tilian is an “awesome” arrangement at the moment, she would someday like to put down roots with land of her own, in order to expand her operation, possibly incorporating a farm-to-table restaurant of her own. For now, she is part of a farming community that lets her work toward her dreams. She also noted that she is “so appreciative” of what Argus Farm Stop does for the community. “It's awesome for beginning farmers who are just starting to sell,” she said, explaining that the Farm Stop allows farmers to make more connections in town. It's just one part of a supportive local food network that helps make Ann Arbor such a great place to farm.
Find Hannah's Salad Mix at Argus Farm Stop! Plus, if you're interested in joining her Salad Club, or reading her Newsletter, contact her by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or find her on Facebook.
-- Post by Rose Miller