When you visit Mountainside Herbal Nursery’s booth at our Forest Grove Farmers Market it’s like stepping into a secret garden. Handmade shelves crammed full of unique varieties of vegetable starts, herbs and berries make it look like a farm popped up in the middle of Main Street on Wednesday evenings.
But for owner Krista Olsen Rahf, farming isn’t a secret. It has been a family enterprise for decades.
Since the 1900s, Olsen Rahf’s family has been farming hazelnuts on the Chehalem Mountains between Hillsboro and Newport and she grew up helping her parents sell produce at farmers markets.
In 1999, Olsen Rahf started her own business, Mountainside Herbal Nursery, which grows and sells a wide variety of edible plant starts. She joined the Forest Grove Farmers Market eight years ago, and her booth has become a favorite stop for shoppers planting their gardens in May and June.
With the help of her family, Olsen Rahf sells at six different farmers markets each week throughout the spring. Her husband, Peter, tends to their 200 acres of hazelnuts and helps with a few of the markets. Her mother, Judy Olsen, selects and purchases seeds and manages the initial plantings. And now the next generation, her two young daughters, have their own farming project. They grow and sell cat grass, which the eldest started ten years ago at the age of five.
For Olsen Rahf, raising plants is less about a love for gardening, and more about a love for food.
“I chose this career because I enjoy food,” Olsen Rahf laughed, “I like the flavors, I like the textures, and I like the flavors I can create when I cook with foods that I grow.”
Olsen Rahf loves selling at local farmers markets because it’s an opportunity to teach people how to grow their own food and demystify some of the secrets about gardening. “People often become disconnected with their food,” she lamented, “and they don’t know how much work it takes to produce the food they eat.”
Olsen Rahf believes families benefit from growing edible plants, even if it’s as small as a tomato plant on a balcony. “It connects kids with food,” she continued, “and it’s a good way for kids to experience flavors and try new foods they wouldn’t experience otherwise.
“To me, eating local food is very important, and how much more local can you get than your own backyard?” she said.
Find Mountainside Herbal Nursery and their edible plant starts at our Forest Grove Farmers Market through the end of June. The market runs from 4 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday on Main Street through the end of October.