Standing Stone Brewing Company

Melza Quinn

Starting Up Our Rooftop and Farm Gardens + Tips for Yours

In Southern Oregon, spring keeps farmers and gardeners busy sowing seeds and transplanting starts. This year, we’ve joined the action. Our efforts launched last summer when we started a rooftop garden, and we began leasing farmland last fall to grow produce for our restaurant menu. We’re excited to get going on our farm and rooftop garden, with a full season ahead of us.

Melza Quinn, Standing Stone server and chicken caretaker (photo below), is also a gardener with a super green thumb. She’s been planting seeds for vegetables, herbs and flowers, including artichokes, basil, cauliflower, pink corn, kale, tarragon, tomatoes, hollyhocks, poppies, morning glories and sweet peas.

If you visit our restaurant and brewery, you’ll see some of our seedlings in the front window, getting their start in compostable cups. We’ve got many more inside under our skylights and grow lights.

When they’re ready for transplanting, we’ll take them to our rooftop garden and farm. We’ll leave a few inside the brewpub, too, to beautify the space while educating and captivating our guests.

On our farm, we’ll test them in different areas to find the best growing conditions. Over the winter, our farm team constructed some raised beds using a sheet mulching method. They laid down corrugated cardboard to squash out star thistle, then added a layer of mulch from spent grain and a layer of farm-fresh compost. This is a quick, easy, low-cost and successful way to start a garden in any area where you have grass or poor soil. Try it at home!

We chose heirloom varieties from Seed Savers Exchange, which specializes in heirloom varietals and gathers seed from a network of individuals who save seeds from home gardens and small farms. When buying seed, look for local growers and family farmers, too, like the Rogue Valley’s Siskiyou Seeds. If you have several friends who want to share a bulk seed order, the Family Farmers Seed Cooperative is a great option. They’re a co-op of small farmers in the western US who produce open-pollinated, organic varietals, including lots of heirlooms and select varietals adapted with traditional breeding. Their seed is available in bulk online.

We can’t wait until our efforts bear fruit – or veggies, herbs and flowers, to be exact! Growing food is a fascinating process that rewards us with fresh food, slashes food miles and eco-impact (especially if organic methods are used) and gives us exercise, fresh air and sunshine. What a delicious deal!

We hope you’ll join the fun and fulfillment by growing some of your own food. If you need guidance, contact your local Extension program or seed companies for information about when to plant specific crops in your area (from seed or transplanting starts), and optimal growing conditions for them. The Rodale Institute is a great source of information on organic gardening, too. If you need inspiration, stop by Standing Stone to say hello to our seedlings. Happy planting!

( photo credits: Top left – Rachel Koning, others – George Rubaloff

Standing Stone Farm Project Launches!

Melza, Alex Brandon and Rachel at our farm (photo: M. Schweisguth)

There’s an extra special buzz around here lately since we moved onto our new farmland on October 1st, launching the Standing Stone Farm Project. To prepare this new home for our chickens and cows, our farm team is spending lots of time there, especially Co-owner Alex, Server/Sustainability Coordinator Brandon Schilling, Server/Chicken Caretaker Melza Quinn and our fence and irrigation team. We’re excited about this latest step in our journey to produce our own food and shrink our environmental footprint.

We’ve long made it a priority to purchase sustainable and locally produced ingredients to maximize quality, reduce environmental impacts and support our local economy. Our menu features produce from diverse family farms, beer made with Alpha Beta hops, Rogue Creamery Cheese, regional wines and Noble Coffee, among other regional delights. We’ve also undertaken significant measures to reduce waste through landfill diversion while slashing energy use and installing solar panels.

In 2009, we began using beef from Valley View Beef in Ashland, OR and started musing about raising our own food. Since Valley View raises grass-fed beef on expansive, chemical-free pasture using rotational grazing, we asked owner Dave Westerberg if we could start a chicken flock there. He heartily agreed, and we got hens that produce all the eggs we need. We started our own composting operation there, too.

Seeking to produce more of our ingredients, we developed a plan for our own farm and began looking for land. Our plan included adding chickens for poultry, purchasing our own cattle and composting kitchen waste. As luck would have it, the City of Ashland put out a Request for Proposals for City-owned pasture a mile from our restaurant, so we applied.

After the City approved our proposal (hooray!), we started preparing by raising breeder chickens for poultry and purchasing cattle from a neighboring farm. Melza, who plays a central role in caretaking our egg layers, took the lead in researching and selecting heritage chicken breeds  for full-flavored poultry. We purchased chicks this summer, which are now growing hens that will reproduce to create our poultry flock. They’re Delaware, New Hampshire, Wyandotte, and Australorp breeds, coloring the pasture white, red, orange and black feathers. We also bought three Anatolian Shepherd sheepdogs, named IPA, Stone and Ruby, whom we’re training to herd our cows.

On October 1st, we began preparing the site for our chickens and cattle, starting with fence building. We’re looking forward to seeing our livestock make themselves at home in their spacious digs. Like Valley View, we’re using a rotational grazing system wherein cows and chickens cycle through different sections of pasture to prevent over-compaction and over-grazing, and help the land rejuvenate.

We’re working on additional farm activities to localize more of our food (bees…honey..mmmmm), further our environmental goals and welcome our community to learn and enjoy. For starters, we’re holding our Third Annual Pumpkins and Pints there on October 23, and invite all to attend. In additional to the usual pumpkin carving, food and drinks, Brandon and Melza will share our vision and plans for the farm, and you’ll be able to get up close and personal with our chickens and cattle, who will be moved onto our farm by then. We hope to see you there!

Birds of a Feather: Melza and our Chickens

At Standing Stone, we love showcasing our coworkers with hidden talents (and not-so-hidden ones, too). This week we want readers to know about server, bartender, photographer and resident chicken expert extraordinaire, Melza Quinn, and share an update on the expansion of our chicken flock.

Melza has been with Standing Stone Brewing Co. since the summer of 2009, when she began serving and hosting. She had just moved to Ashland after a cross country road trip from Florida. She says she was searching for a community where people know their farms and have a passion for food, and she found it here. Lucky for us!

Melza has a passion for working and living locally, which is why she is such an important piece of our Standing Stone puzzle. A weekly patron of the Tuesday Farmer’s Market, Melza knows many of our local farmers by name and makes a priority to visit and learn as much as she can about Southern Oregon and our available year-round bounty. She recently visited Thompson Creek Organics in the Applegate valley and came back raving about how beautiful the orchards were and how accommodating owner, Blaire Smith, was with his tour of the orchards and cellar.

Melza’s latest passion at Standing Stone is chickens. Currently, our flock  has 45 egg-laying chickens, providing all of our restaurant’s eggs and ensuring they are all free-range and hormone and antibiotic free. Melza is researching the best breeds for egg production,optimal housing methods and how to start producing our own chickens for meat so that all the chicken we serve will remain the freshest and most healthful option for our guests. The future of our chicken operation will be the fruits of her labor!

You can also get a glimpse of Melza’s photographic and artistic talents, and our chickens and cows, in our front window, where the brewing tanks live. She recently put up a window display to showcase up-close-and-personal pics of our cows and chickens, and is working up another one to catch your eye and show off our local farming friends.