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Horse-powered radicchio

Horse-powered radicchio

The grand prize winner of our summer 2016 photo contest is Hayshaker Farm in Walla Walla, Washington. Farmer Chandler Briggs sent us several photos of their amazingly beautiful radicchio grown from Franchi seeds. We wanted to know more, much more, about how this farm in southeastern Washington was able to produce such perfect radicchio.

The basics about the growers: Chandler Briggs and Leila Schneider grow a wide variety of vegetables with the help of their two Percheron horses, Dusty and Jackson. 2016 marks Chandler's tenth year farming and fifth year using draft horses. Leila, who grew up in France, works part time as a pastry chef. They sell their produce at farmers markets and to numerous restaurants in the Walla Walla area.

Now, about that radicchio: Chandler says they handle it much like lettuce. They start the seeds in the greenhouse in 128-cell trays, then transplant the young plants outside. They space them 12-14 inches apart in rows that are 36 inches apart. (They grow everything in single rows to accommodate their horse-powered cultivation.) They use only organic methods.

"We spread rich compost, plant cover crops, spray beneficial compost teas and grow flowers for beneficial insects. We use limited fossil fuels by powering our farm mostly by horse and human power."

Chandler says they are still experimenting with the best timing for radicchio, so this year they did four separate plantings, including a large planting that will be ready to harvest in fall and winter.

"They take far longer to mature compared to lettuce, and we have quite a few that bolt, but the ones that form a head are incredible and delicious," he said. "Our favorite way to eat it is in a caeser salad, but the treviso types are well known for doing well on the grill."

Below are some photos of their radicchio; the first shows a mixture of round types; the second an almost-ready-to-harvest Palla Rossa; the third is Treviso 'Svelta'; and the fourth, Chioggia. You can learn more about Hayshaker Farm farm and see their handsome horses at their website.