Category: Producer Posts

Chemists hit the farm–meet Pickle Creek Herbs!

Get to know Jocelyn + Tim of Pickle Creek Herbs.


Tell us a little about the make-up of your farm or business. Are you a family operation? Are you beginning farmers? Has the farm been in your family for 100 years? Share whatever is unique or interesting here.


Tim and I were Chicagoland chemists until one September weekend when we volunteered at Angelic Organics, a big CSA farm northwest of Chicago. We walked onto that farm as chemists, and we walked off that farm as future gardeners. Half a year later we quit our chemistry jobs to return to the “family farm”—the 100 acres that Jocelyn’s family homesteaded back in the day—to start growing vegetables and herbs.


What does your farm or business specialize in? What is your primary business model?

We specialize in organic herbs, garlic, berries, peppers, and tomatoes. We sell herb, tomato, and pepper transplants in the spring, dried herbs throughout the year, and garlic in the fall. We also make herb-infused olive oils and vinegars, jams, soaps, salves, and lip balms that we sell all year round.


Can you tell us a few things that make your signature product(s) special?

To make Pickle Creek products, we use herbs, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and berries we grow in our garden, and we also use recipes we created ourselves (a perk of being onetime chemists). Joce’s favorite hobby is experimenting in the kitchen, and when we come out with a new olive oil or vinegar, you know she’s been up all hours, carried away by her latest creation. You can’t get anything quite like Pickle Creek anywhere else in the world.


What is the most important thing for consumers to know about your products?

We hope to enhance the lives of others by making Iowa-grown herbs as accessible and as easy and as fun to use as possible—so if you ever want to know something more about us or our products or how to grow an herb or use one of our infused olive oils, please get in touch!


Do you have a funny/interesting/surprising story about your business?

You might notice that in the spring we list a lot of herb, pepper, and tomato transplants. Here’s why: When we quit chemistry to start gardening, we had very little growing experience. So while we were taking a giant leap in life, we were also reading and planning and being overcautious about every little thing we did. One night in April, not long after we had moved our tomato and pepper transplants to our unheated greenhouse, the temperature was forecasted to drop to 40 degrees. Anxious that 40 was getting too close to freezing, we lugged space heaters out to the greenhouse, swaddled our little plants in bed sheets, and then took turns watching our greenhouse from the kitchen window.


Eventually my dad, who’s always been a big help to us, went out to the greenhouse for a closer look. When he came back, the report was grim.


“I can’t see much, but we may have lost them all,” he said, shaking his head.


Tim and I took flashlights out to the greenhouse to see what we could see, but it was hard to tell how the plants were doing, since they were wrapped in sheets. “Well,” we said. “We’ll just have to pray and wait for morning.”

Long story short, the plants came through the night happy and healthy. Our gardening books were right after all: It takes a good 32 degrees to freeze a tomato or pepper plant. Later that spring, visitors to our farm kept telling us how “beautiful” and “healthy” and “vibrant” our seedlings looked. We smiled and said thanks and didn’t let on how much care we’d put into those plants.

These 12 years later, we look back on that night and laugh, and we also pause to recognize the really great thing that came out of that first spring in the garden: We were so terrified at not being good gardeners that we overcompensated. The result was lots of extra beautiful seedlings to take to market. They sold in a snap. And that’s how we got into selling transplants, which we’re still doing to this day.

Check out Pickle Creek’s full selection by clicking here!

A post from Small Potatoes

The spring air is thick with anxiety.  We are suspicious and uncomfortable b/c of the unseasonable weather.   The robins are back, we’ve seen bumble bees, wasps, cabbage looper moths, June bugs; the daffodils and tulips have come and gone.  Things are moving too fast and we feel behind.  We’ve not done taxes or usual early spring projects, like repairs, vehicle maintenance, etc., because we are alreay in the fields weeding, watering, and planting.  I harvested 2 pounds of asparagus yesterday and several green onions…unheard of in March.   I feel like labor came early, the baby is about to arrive, yet we’re not ready.  The mid-wife isn’t here and we haven’t a crib, a car seat, or any diapers.

Rick was very trepidatious 2 weeks back; I had to talk him into, no exhort him, into planting spinach and lettuce.  Now that it’s been 80 degrees or close for 2 weeks he has come to terms with the early spring and planted peas and more lettuce last night.  He worked until dark, something we usually don’t start doing until at least mid-May.

He worked until dark, something we usually don’t start doing until at least mid-May.

Our new employee starts today, a full month early.  To assess his skills we are going to clean the chicken coop, the most unsavory tast at the farm in my opinion.  This will test his committment and ablility to work as part of a team.  He will work under my direction as we begin cleaning the packing shed, thus testing is abililty to follow insructions, multi-task, and attention to detail.  We will have him dig a 6 foot deep hole to check his endurance and strength.  We’ll train him on the use of the Japanese hoe and set him loose in the rhubarb.  This task will show us if he is a fast learner and can master the most used tool at the farm.  Finally, I’m making venison loin over kale for lunch to test his openness to a variety of foods.

Oh how I miss Brian.   After working here for 3 years he knew what to do and how to do it.  He needed little instruction and no supervision. Now we must retrain somone on everything: weeding, washing, harvesting, packaging…the list seems endless.  Moroever, we must create a new relationship.   With Brian and we had our inside jokes, we knew his idiosyncracies and he ours, he knew the protocals (shoes off at the door, tools back to the barn, check the chicken water on hot days, etc.).  Brian being here made a very complex and arduous job bearble and even enjoyable on a daily basis.  The thought of starting at zero with a new employee makes me weary.   But so it is.  As Buddha said: “Everything you cherish you shall lose.”

There is a woodpecker outside my window, a pheasant is calling along the fence line, and I can see a row of lettuce emerging.  Life goes on, and I most go clean the chicken coop.

Seeking in my hut
For unlocked midnight treasures
A cricket burglar