Photo credit: banner image courtesy of Radial Roots Farm
BY CAROL BANKS WEBER
Radicle Roots farmer James Berntson grows an astounding rainbow of organic produce on his nutrient-dense real estate in Snohomish, between the Pilchuck River and the Centennial trail.
Berntson’s small farm makes the most of just under an acre of backyard space, using a minimal tillage system, permanent beds, unheated greenhouse, two, impermanent caterpillar tunnels, and a host of nifty, time-saving contraptions, like a paper pot transplanter and the Quick Cut Greens Harvester.
He smartly, efficiently operates his working farm for maximum yield. In the bargain, he soon became the go-to guy for farm-to-table microgreens and assorted other veggie goodness.
In 2017, Berntson settled onto permanent soil back home in Snohomish, after leasing a farm in Central Oregon for three years. The quality volume coming out of Radicle Roots quickly took on a life of its own: pea and sunflower shoots, Miner’s lettuce, carrots, Hakeuri turnips, heirloom and cherry tomatoes.
This summer, he’ll introduce “a small crop of ginger and turmeric, a real specialty item,” to the Snohomish Farmers Market, his main source of income — accounting for over 60-70 percent of sales.
He also sells to a lot of local restaurants and Farmstand Local Foods, “a small distributor working only with Western Washington farmers, prioritizing small-scale sustainable producers over larger farms.”
Farmstand does great work, providing food to childcare centers, thanks to the city of Seattle’s soda tax. “A lot of the sales I have through their platform go to YMCA and early childcare centers throughout Seattle, which is very rewarding, knowing our fresh produce is also feeding urban kids from all different backgrounds.”
Berntson found his calling interning on a school farm for a Bellingham food bank, while studying environmental science at Western Washington University.
“It was cool to see how excited customers would get about fresh produce, when they were only getting cans and some really old stuff.”
His commitment to food justice and low-carbon agriculture has continued to leave lasting impressions, as his small organic business grows into a force for meaningful change.
People want to know their farmer and reconnect with how their food is grown. That level of connection and visibility is a huge advantage for small sustainable farms and also one of the most rewarding aspects of farming for me.
As fruitful as he’s been, Berntson would be the first to say Radicle Roots is still a work in progress.
“This is only our second year on this property, so we’re still really in the growth phase and kind of developing our infrastructure”, he explains.
On his wish list: another greenhouse, a farm stand, more pick-up locations, and pop-up markets. “I like this size, honestly. We’re really efficient in maximizing each bed space, rotating it almost three times each season. What you see now wasn’t here a couple months ago, and before that, either,” he says.
“I’d like to grow my community presence, strengthen our farmer’s market. I really want to supply people with produce beyond May-September.”
Radicle Roots Farm | 1220 Orchard Ave., Snohomish
360-348-7444 | radiclerootsfarm.com