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April 1, 2023

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Ridgefield CSA Full Plate Farm one of few to offer cold-weather vegetables

By , Columbian staff writer
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Danny Percich of Full Plate Farm, left, harvests beets with Mason Hodnefield. The farm is one of only a small number locally offering cold-season CSA shares.
Danny Percich of Full Plate Farm, left, harvests beets with Mason Hodnefield. The farm is one of only a small number locally offering cold-season CSA shares. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

RIDGEFIELD — As he kneeled in the mud, Danny Percich plucked a beet out of the earth, snapped off its leaves and placed it in a bin.

Grabbing another beet, he explained that frost and cold weather turn the vegetable’s starches into sugars, making it all that much sweeter. He sliced open a beet to show off its exquisite purple pigmentation.

Percich’s Full Plate Farm is the only one in Clark County selling a winter Community Supported Agriculture subscription exclusively, although other farms with summer CSAs have added cold-season offerings so customers can eat locally all year long.

Running a CSA in the winter is not like running one in the summer, Percich said.

There’s more extreme weather, more mud and more rot and loss. It takes longer to wash the vegetables because of caked-on dirt. It takes longer to walk through the field because of the soggy ground.

Full Plate Farm

Full Plate Farm’s winter CSA is sold out but keeps a waitlist at Subscriptions run from November through April, with a box every other week. A full share is $985 for 12 boxes with produce for two to four people. A half-share is $555 for 12 boxes to feed one or two.

“Everything’s less efficient,” Percich said.

When pulling beets out of the ground, for instance, Percich and his team break off the leaves because some of them are damaged and it’s not worth going through them all to figure out which leaves are OK.

Then there’s the unpredictable weather that means Percich’s crops may need to withstand very low temperatures or snow in addition to the usual buckets of rain.

So Percich plans accordingly. He plants vegetables that are generally capable of handling such extremes and that can be stored. The ideal, however, is getting produce to customers when it’s as fresh as possible.

“We want to be pulling fresh vegetables out of the earth,” Percich said.

The farm grows carrots, parsnips, beets, kale, winter squash, chicories, onions, leeks, collard greens, radicchio and cabbages, among other vegetables.

Percich didn’t plan on becoming a farmer. But after helping some friends with their garden and then working at a farm during college, it turned into his passion.

The work took Percich across the country before he returned to his roots in Portland, where he managed Skyline Farm for Meriwether’s Restaurant. Then he and his wife moved to Ridgefield, where they started their own hillside farm on 3 acres.

What began as a part-time endeavor for Percich has turned into a full-time one. The farm started about 11 years ago with just a handful of customers. Now its CSA offers 140 half-shares and 60 full shares.

Customers pick up their shares either in Ridgefield or at drop sites in Vancouver every other week from early November into April for a total of 12 boxes. A full subscription costs $985 and supplies a produce box that will feed two to four people, while a half-share costs $555 and feeds one or two people. Each share box comes with 10 to 12 different types of vegetables.

Full Plate Farm also has several high tunnels for growing tender greens and trellised heirloom tomatoes that it sells to Vancouver’s New Seasons in the summer.

Despite the challenges of farming through the winter, Percich sees the beauty in his cold-weather crops.

As winter turns into spring, tender flower shoots regrow from the kale and collards into broccolini-like greens.

“They’re really tender and sweet,” Percich said, harkening back to the cold-weather-induced conversion of starches to sugar. “You wouldn’t ever get that anywhere else besides that little window of time from March to April.”