ILWACO, Wash. - The Saturday Market at the Port of Ilwaco is flourishing with more than local arts, crafts and flowers, it's flush with organic greens. Green Angel Greens LLC., is offering locally produced, certified organic salad greens, and the only place you can get them is at the Saturday Market.
Larkin Stentz, the owner of Green Angel Greens, is in his second year of selling organic greens to area gastronomes. "As a business, it's still in its infancy and I'm really blessed that people believe in the product and put up the capital."
Stentz is no neophyte when it comes to green things, he has operated Green Angel Gardening in Ocean Park, a successful landscaping business since 1994, but two years ago decided to try his hand, and the local soil, at producing chemical-free produce.
"I'm building the soil quality while I'm farming," says Stentz as he runs his hands over a bed of endive. He says that with high quality soil, his greens are "going to look better, taste better and it's better for the planet. And I'm all for that." Stentz adds that another benefit of healthy soil is that it creates produce with a higher level of vitamins and nutrients.
Pam Hickey, Saturday Market at the Port of Ilwaco manager, said that organic produce is a big hit with patrons. "There is a definite market for it on the peninsula, we found that out last year." Hickey says that an added bonus is that, "All of the produce is picked the day before or the day of the market, so it is very fresh."
Hickey says many of shoppers at the Saturday Market are only interested in produce that is certified as organic. "Many from outside only want it and many here only want it, for many different reasons." Hickey says that the Saturday Market is "really expanding" and is excited about a vendor from Naselle who will soon be offering organic tomatoes.
Stentz's product is a blend of leafy greens sold in biodegradable, four or eight ounce bags, and his operation is certified organic by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, who use the new Federal Standards for Organic Agriculture. He cites his prices are competitive with organic produce coming from other states, and says that much less fossil fuel was used transporting his produce to market.
Flourishing in orderly, four by 14 foot beds, in Stentz's large, climate controlled Long Beach greenhouse, is a riot of multi-colored greens. Purple Orach, Red Giant Purple Mustard, Speckled Trouts Back and Bronze Arrow, just to name a few, reach for the sky and although they are in various states of maturity, they all look healthy and strong.
Gardeners are always at odds with pests, but the organic farmer must understand the web of life and use natural means to protect his or her bounty. "You have to find alternative solutions to problems that are in balance with nature.
"As far as fertilizer," says Stentz, "We use Bio-Oregon products exclusively because it's certified by the state of Washington as being organic." Bio-Oregon, the Warrenton-based company, recycles fish by-product into 100 percent organic fertilizer. "Not only are people buying produce grown locally," says Stentz, "but they are also buying produce that is fertilized from a local product."
Things are definitely green on Stentz's side of the fence. He just turned a small profit for the first time last month and the summer is looking very bright indeed. But he is the first to say it's not about the money.
"For me, I get a great deal of delight from giving back to the earth. I get a delight from seeing things grow in a healthy way," says Stentz as he spritzes water onto a row of eatable flowers. "The earth has given me so much. I enjoy doing what I can in a healthy way."
The Saturday Market at the Port of Ilwaco is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Saturday through September.
Sponsored by the Port of Ilwaco and Shorebank, the market features crafts, artwork, produce, plants and flowers.
Shoppers can browse while enjoying the strains of live music from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hickey says that on opening weekend, there were 43 vendors, so there is something for everyone.