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WOMAN TO WATCH: Head Gardener Nicole Freshley

You can only reach the Wallowa’s Minam River Lodge by horseback, plane, or an eight-mile hike. That doesn't stop head gardener Nicole Freshly from growing delicious seasonal produce to feed and nourish guests. Here are her thoughts on sustainable agriculture, art and working in the right gear.

How do Minam River Lodge guests interact with the garden?

A lot of guests will come down to the garden during the day and walk around and ask questions. Sometimes people have tips to give me and sometimes people don’t know what a carrot is! But either way, it’s really fun. 

How would you explain the food revolution happening right now?

The food revolution is about the quality of food, environmental health, community building, and the acknowledgment of the fulfillment that comes from working with the soil physically and producing one of your biggest needs for yourself. 

What would you tell people who want to garden, but don't know where to start?

Some people think that gardening is hard and that keeps them from doing it. Even growing things like kale and lettuce can last you all season and be grown in shade. If you have pots or a smaller garden that doesn’t get much sun, there’s probably something that you can grow.

Your photography is stunning. How does nature play into that?

I end up doing a lot of landscapes because I’m out in nature. I focus on interesting light. If a scene that is boring in real life has an interesting light, I love capturing that. 

What were some of the struggles you found with workwear as a petite woman?

I have emailed different companies over the years and said, ‘it’s great that you offer women’s workwear, but why do you stop at size 6 or size 4? I’m petite and guess what, I do manual labor and I want pants too.’ 

There aren’t that many companies that do workwear for women. A lot of them do silly things like make pockets or loops that are just for show, but not functional, or they’re in girly colors that are just offensive. Nobody wants that. Maybe not as many small women are in manual labor, but when no one’s making the equipment to do your job, it’s not encouraging. What I love about your pants is that they fit me, so I can put my radio, my clippers, my phone in the pockets and they’re not going to sag down. 


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