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Howling Moon Farm started out small —

Snow and fog blanket the Little Applegate area where Jacie Gray shovels fertilizer for her greenhouse vegetables. Gray grows a variety of greens and sells them to local stores to supplement her income.

Applegate grower markets greens mixture known as `mesclun' to local food stores —

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— RUCH-- Jacie Gray wants you to eat your lettuce. —

— And your chard, and mustard, and kale, too. —

— Gray grows all those and more in a greenhouse in the Little Applegate Valley. She sells the spicy greens mix, known as mesclun,'' to folks who want something more than iceberg lettuce in their salad bowl. —

— Mesclun (from the Old French verb mescler, to mix) typically includes tiny young leaves from a number of greens species. Gray began growing the lettuce mix 18 months ago and selling it to food stores in nearby Ruch. —

— It was something I'd always wanted to try, she said. A greenhouse came up for rent, and it was a perfect opportunity for a novice. —

— A year later Gray's no longer a novice. She bought the greenhouse, moved it to her home in the Little Applegate Valley, and named her operation Howling Moon Farm. —

— I have five dogs, she said, explaining the name. I wanted something that sounded a little bit mysterious. People remember the name and I really like that. —

— Gray still sells mesclun in Ruch, and she recently began delivering greens to Ashland Community Food Store. —

— Few crops take more time and work than mesclun. Growers must hand pluck the tiny leaves, wash them, dry them, and combine the greens to make an even mix. Large-scale farms sell mesclun in bulk. Gray bags the yield from her 30-by-72-foot greenhouse and sells it by the bag. —

— Prices range from around $4.59 for an 8-ounce bag at Ashland Community Food Store to $7.50 a pound at Ruch Natural Foods. —

— Some people see the price and they're shocked, said Karen Hardman, who owns Ruch Natural Foods. They've probably never picked a pound of it. It takes me an hour to pick a pound. —

— She's got kale and mustard and spinach and parsley and chard and sorrel and dandelion, said Hardman. People like the special touches -- herbs like dill and sorrel -- that she puts in. —

— Her mix has been doing well for us, said Barry Haynes, produce manager at Ashland Community Food Store. We could buy from much larger operations in California and sell it for less, but we choose to support local agriculture whenever we can. We like to keep the money here. —

— Gray, 46, kept her own vegetable garden for about 10 years before she started growing on a commercial scale. She said nursing salad greens through the cold, dark months of winter with only the sun for heat and light requires a whole new level of attention to detail. —

On cold days she's had to cover the plants inside the greenhouse with protective fabric to prevent them from freezing. On warm days, she's had to rush home to open the greenhouse to prevent them from baking in 90-degree heat. —

— During the slow winter months, Gray handles all the greenhouse chores herself. The picking takes hours. —

— I feel way over 50 when I'm picking, she said with a laugh. —

— Right now the greenhouse produces only enough to supplement Gray's income. Production will increase dramatically in a few months, when the days get longer and she can garden outdoors, too. —

— She hopes to make her salad days more profitable as she learns how to make it more productive. —

— Most people who do this know more about growing than I do, she said. I'm not too anal about this. It'll come.

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