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Farmers' Market Update column

Farmers challenged daily
By: Billie Jean Salle - Special to News Messenger
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I am always surprised by each farmer’s life stories. It is interesting to see how each farmer “landed into” or chose this difficult lifestyle. But they all have in common passion and fight. A farmer never really owns his “dirt,” it is more like the “dirt owns the farmer!” We are dictated by the elements, not the calendar or a time clock. We are challenged daily and yet we continue to work (or try to work) in harmony with Mother Nature, all because of the miracle in a tiny seed. It is so rewarding to nurture a small plant and, if we did a good job, the rewards are bountiful. That is what makes us proud. Martha’s Garden Located in Newcastle, Martha’s Gardens is a family farm specializing in ornamental flowers, potted, fresh cut and dried. Martha’s Gardens is owned by Tom and Cindy Fossum and is named after Tom’s mother who loved gardening and the farm. The farm has been in Tom’s family for 47 years and was once a pear and plum orchard before Tom’s father, Marion, turned it into pasture for raising beef cattle. Farming was once Tom’s early ambition. Circumstances changed so he went into the engineering profession working for a number of cities and counties in California for the past 25 years. Cindy was raised mainly in Iowa and Texas. Cindy’s father, James, was a career military man. During her early years, she spent a lot of time at her grandparents’ farm in southeastern Iowa where her mother, Ruth, grew up. Cindy’s happiest memories are of the time spent there. Cindy has always been passionate for horticulture and, after moving to California in the early 1980s, began taking ornamental horticulture courses at Sierra College and working for local nurseries. She suspended her studies to work for the Post Office as a rural letter carrier. She eventually retired from the Auburn Post Office in 2007 and then received her associate’s degree in 2008 from Sierra College. Martha’s Gardens is six and a half acres of rich soil in the bottom of a small valley along Brennans Road in Newcastle. After Tom’s parents died, the property fell into disrepair so, in 2009, Tom and Cindy moved from their home in Loomis to the farm to bring the property back to life. Today, the property has a series of display gardens surrounding production gardens for the ornamental flowers and fresh vegetables they grow and sell. The production gardens provide growing space for flowers such as yarrow, lambs ear, lavender, cosmos, status, butterfly bush, echinacea, ornamental sun flowers, gladiolas, zinnias and roses. Vegetables include sweet corn, popcorn, tomatoes, squash, bush beans, herbs, melons, pumpkins, okra, garlic and cucumbers. The Fossums have also planted a small orchard with fruit and nut trees and they plan to have a Christmas tree area. The display gardens have a number of diverse themes, including a succulent garden, Japanese garden, fragrant garden, California native plant garden, rose garden, hydrangea garden, herb garden and woodland garden. There are several more planned such as a Biblical Garden and Topiary Garden. A prayer path offering a contemplative experience using multimedia devices will soon be available. Martha’s Gardens is a certified producer and has a nursery license to sell nursery stock. The Fossums have truly found their passion and calling and enjoy sharing their farm with visitors. The farm is at 2925 Brennans Road. Call the Fossums at (530) 305-5062 for more information or visit them at the Downtown Lincoln Farmers’ Market from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays. The market is at F Street between 5th and 6th streets. Billie Jean Salle is Sierra Fresh Certified Farmers’ Market manager.