Faces Behind the Food
Hailey couple follows a shooting star

text by Tony Evans photos by David N. Seelig

The Wood River Valley has long been known to attract overeducated ski bums, but a more recent transplant is the overeducated farmer. Dan Freeman and his wife, Carol Murphy, have far more academic credits than strictly necessary to run a one-acre farm.

Farmer Dan, as Freeman is known, studied philosophy at Harvard. His wife earned an economics degree from Colorado College. Together they operate Shooting Star Farm on Buttercup Road in Hailey. "We almost named the farm Degrees in the Dirt," Freeman said with a laugh.

"We were looking for something socially and environmentally responsible to do for a living," said Freeman, who also tunes skis, plays music and builds ginger birdhouses to make ends meet. "We make a living, a frugal living. But we made a lifestyle choice. We get to stay home with our kids and spend a lot of time outside in the summer."

Freeman and Murphy start their greens and tomatoes in greenhouses constructed with reclaimed lumber. By the peak of summer, they produce pea shoots, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, carrots, radishes and squash, all without application of chemical insecticides or herbicides. "Simply sun, soil, seed, water and hands," Murphy said.

The Idaho climate is a mixed blessing for the couple. Cold winter temperatures keep many species of fungi and plant-eating insects at bay, but it makes for a painfully short growing season. "The cold is the only thing you have to beat here," Freeman said. Shooting Star Farm sells almost all its produce at farmers' markets in Hailey and Ketchum, and to local restaurants.

The farm does not boast an organic certification, but Freeman isn't worried about losing customers. "We are beyond organic," he said. "Everything is super-fresh, picked the same day and grown for flavor and variety, not for shipping and durability." Shooting Star favorites include Cherokee Purple, Sun Gold and Black Prince Heirloom tomatoes, as well as Star Bore kale.

"If your market is local, you don't need anyone to tell you you're doing it the right way," Freeman said. "It's about trust."

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