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Slanted Sun Farm: Focus on peppers and potential

May 3rd, 2017 | Category: Community

by Mary Vermillion

Anna Morris and Jared Danilson of Slanted Sun Farm are growing vegetables and helping to build community from two acres of land at the base of the foothills near Everson. In just their third season, the couple is making their mark with uncommon, value-added products and a commitment to county farmers markets that connect rural communities.

Anna Morris and Jared Danilson of Slanted Sun Farm grow 40 different types of vegetables on land they lease from Cloud Mountain Farm Center’s Incubator Farm Program. PHOTO BY MARY VERMILLLION

Anna Morris and Jared Danilson of Slanted Sun Farm grow 40 different types of vegetables on land they lease from Cloud Mountain Farm Center’s Incubator Farm Program. PHOTO BY MARY VERMILLLION

Morris’ path to farming began in a classroom at Western Washington University. She graduated in 2010 with a degree in community health education. Soon after, she took the advice of her professor Billie Lindsey, who suggested: “Be a farmer. That’s community health.” After some travel and farming for others, Morris enrolled in the Organic Farm School on Whidbey Island. There she learned how to run a farm.

She and Danilson met eight years ago in Bellingham. A software engineer and website developer, he is joining Morris in the fields full-time this season. They run Slanted Sun as a two-person team; although Danilson’s parents Jan and Gary have been known to show up at the farm, hoes in hand, ready to weed.

The couple grows 40 different types of vegetables on land they lease from Cloud Mountain Farm Center’s Incubator Farm Program, which encourages new farm businesses with leased land, shared equipment and facilities, and access to mentors and resources. For example, Danilson has joined Cheryl Thornton of Cloud Mountain for meetings with restaurant owners. Thanks to the Puget Sound Food Hub, Slanted Sun vegetables have made it to Seattle restaurants, including chard to the iconic Canlis. Home cooks buy Slanted Sun produce at grocery stores and farmers markets. To ensure access to locally grown produce, the couple is especially committed to small markets that serve communities, including Twin Sisters Farmers Market, which sets up June through October in Nugents Corner and Kendall, as well as Lynden.

Slanted Sun is highly diversified, growing four or more certified organic crops per 150-foot row. “We think trying new things gives us a bit of security because we can find gaps (in local crops) and fill them quickly,” Morris said. “Ultimately, we’ll specialize, but (now) it’s good to have the willingness to experiment. We’ll take that experience and be able to move onto a larger scale with confidence.”

Morris credits Cloud Mountain’s incubator program for the freedom to try uncommon crops such as Basque or Espelette chili peppers, which Slanted Sun sells whole and processed as Piment d’Soleil. The long, scarlet pepper is native to the Basque region of France and Spain, where it has a cult-like following. Processed as a coarse powder – traditionally called Piment d’Espelette – it is used as a finishing spice with a slightly sweet, smoky kick that adds flavor without overwhelming heat. Danilson’s brother, who is a chef, recommended they plant the pepper and process the culinary spice.

PHOTO BY MARY VERMILLION

PHOTO BY MARY VERMILLION

Last September, from plants grown from seed in a greenhouse, they dried 300 pounds of pepper in a commercial food dehydrator at the Cloud Mountain Farm Center’s processing center. They sold more than 20 pounds of Basque chili powder at farmers markets and 150 pounds of fresh peppers. Their Piment d’Soleil sells at $15 for 1 ounce or $60 for 8 ounces.

The greenhouse is full, including basque pepper starts. PHOTO BY MARY VERMILLLION

The greenhouse is full, including basque pepper starts. PHOTO BY MARY VERMILLLION

Now they’re considering other value-added crops. Local breweries may soon sell Slanted Sun popcorn spiced with their Piment d’Soleil. They’re growing pepperoncini for pickling. And they’ll sell ristras (strings of dried chili peppers) this fall. In the future, they would like to buy land and expand with more crops and animals.

 

For more information

Buy Slanted Sun produce at the Lynden, Edison and Twin Sisters Farmers Markets this summer. They’ll return to the Bellingham Farmers Market in the fall. Connect with Slanted Sun Farm on Facebook or Instagram. Their website – slantedsunfarm.com – will launch soon. Email info@slantedsunfarm to inquire about produce and products, including Piment d’Soleil. They currently have limited quantities of the culinary spice but will be restocked in September, following this season’s harvest and processing.

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