If you frequent the Flagstaff Community Market on Sundays, you have seen the beautiful vegetables and flowers from Whipstone Farm. Owners Cory and Shanti Rade’s passion for growing local produce in a sustainable manner shows in everything they sell.
“The beauty of the harvest feeds your soul like nothing else,” Shanti writes in the weekly Whipstone email newsletter.
You can feel the joy when they show you their latest harvest or when Cory finishes roasting a batch of chiles. They work hard to develop lasting relationships with their customers by providing them with healthy, natural produce.
Cory, who owned Roof Dancers in Flagstaff, moved to Paulden in 1994 with a dream of starting a farm. While continuing his work as a chimney sweep, he planted a small garden. His early success allowed him to sell produce to his chimney sweep customers. Every year he doubled the size of his garden, often learning by trial and error. When the Prescott Farmer’s Market started in 1996 he was invited to the first market where he sold all his produce in just 45 minutes. That was when Cory decided to turn his garden into a farm. He already owned the property where Whipstone Farm is currently located, but the land was completely undeveloped. Over the next 20 years he built a barn, a greenhouse, and several large hoop houses. He also expanded his small garden to 15 acres. During that time Shanti started growing flowers to sell at the market.
When I visited Whipstone Farm I was overwhelmed seeing 40 rows of peppers, each row more than 200 feet long, and the immense fields of flowers, tomatoes and other vegetables. They own two tractors for the heavy work but most of the weeding, planting and harvesting is done by hand. Picking beans, black eyed peas and many other crops requires being stooped over for hours. All this work leads to one of the challenges of a small farm; keeping good employees. I have always been impressed with the attitude and cheerfulness of their dozen or so employees even though they say maintaining their staff is one of their biggest challenges. This year they were short staffed during the crucial summer months, which meant it was impossible to harvest some vegetables on time.
As part of the “Slow Flower” movement Shanti believes in growing flowers locally and naturally. She only uses techniques that would be approved for organic flower gardening, like having her chickens remove the grasshoppers from the flowerbeds. Importing flowers from places like Ecuador and Columbia has many negative impacts on the environment including the use of petroleum for synthetic fertilizers and the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides. You will find beautiful bouquets of Whipstone flowers at the market in Flagstaff. Shanti reflects. . . “It does feel a bit dreamy to spend early mornings picking my way through such an abundant patch of blooms.”
Whipstone‘s farm stand is a unique view into the local farm movement. It’s open seven days a week during daylight hours. Actually, the door is always open because there is no door. It runs on the honor system. The shelves are stocked with the bounty of the farm. Patrons pick their item, weigh them on the provided scale and drop their payment in the slot.
You get a great feel for Whipstone Farms when you visit their booth at the Flagstaff Community Market but if you really want to understand the soul of the farm sign up for their weekly newsletter at www.whipstone.com. (Go to the bottom of any of their pages to sign up.) Shanti gives a current picture of the farm and shares her personal feelings about the experience. She describes the beauty of the harvest and how much joy it brings or the heartbreak of losing a crop to hail or insects. It reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver’s book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," taking place in real time right here in Northern Arizona. The newsletter always has amazing pictures of the farm, fresh vegetables, and flowers. There is also a list of current vegetables and flowers available at the markets as well as recipes giving customers creative ways to use their produce.