Get to Know Robyn Jasko

Tomiko Peirano

Tomiko Peirano › Tomiko has amassed decades of experience in the food industry, from her family's restaurant in Oregon's ...

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A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting (albeit, virtually) Robyn Jasko. Not only is Robyn the creator of GrowIndie.com, she is also the author of the brand-spankin’ new Homesweet Homegrown: How to Grow, Make and Store Food, No Matter Where You Live, which just came out on Microcosm. Robyn was kind enough to send me a copy of her book and take some time to answer a few questions I had about her book and her upcoming tour.

Tomiko Peirano: You have a new book coming out, Homesweet Homegrown, was it an easy transition for you to go from writing your blog to creating a book?

Robyn Jasko: It was a natural evolution for me. I’ve always wanted to write a book, and when this opportunity came up, I jumped on it! My site GrowIndie.com is broken up into easy sections, called Grow, Eat, Make, Talk, etc., and we mirrored that style in Homesweet Homegrown. Unlike a blog, I love that you can take Homesweet Homegrown right into your garden to use our planning charts, or use the recipe section as a cookbook when you are in the kitchen.

TP: What was the most fun/easiest part of the book to write? The hardest? and why…

RJ: The book was so much fun to write. We have an entire recipe section, by vegetable, that has a ton of ideas to make the most out of your garden harvest. I even have a freeform section called Mixed Veg, which are versatile chili, curry, soups and stir-fry recipes that use up a bunch of vegetables. The pickling and canning sections were really fun too, and I love the idea of more people storing their food instead of relying on the supermarket. The charts and guides were the most intense sections because I tried to pack a ton of info into the Start, Plan and Plant sections, in an easy to read format.

TP: What is the one thing you want a reader to walk away with after reading Homesweet Homegrown?

RJ: I want people to walk away motivated to start something, even if it’s just one container tomato outside your house or a window basil plant in your apartment—-and we are going to show you how. Gardening is as complicated or as simple as you want to make it, and I tried to distill everything down so anyone anywhere has the tools they need to grow or store their own food.

TP: I love the illustrations in the book (by Jennifer Biggs) and the simplicity of the instructions – it seems like a great family project starter. Did you intentionally make it kid-friendly?

RJ: Jen’s illustrations are super fun, and each of the projects in the Make section of the book, like newspaper pots and diy seed tape, would be really great to do with kids. We tried to make it as simple as possible for new gardeners to learn the basics, while also including interplanting and companion charts that seasoned gardeners will refer to as well. The canning and storing sections are also great references for anyone to learn the basics of “putting up” food. My goal was to put all of the information I usually look up each year into a handy guide so gardeners and homesteaders had everything they needed in one book.

TP: What and who are some of your favorite resources for seeds, information, tools and general gardening inspiration?

RJ: So many places! For seeds, I love Happy Cat, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Renee’s Garden Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, and Seed Saver’s Exchange to name a few. For potatoes, I love Moose Tubers, and for seed garlic I love Garlicana, a small garlic farm in Southwestern Oregon that has some of the most beautiful varieties from all over the world. As for tools, I rely on my trusty spade fork to do everything from double digging to turning cover crops. For canning supplies, I’m loving Tattler reusable lids because they are BPA free, and can be reused for decades! In the back of my book, I’ve included a full Resource section that goes over more of my tried and true favorites for gardening, canning and storing.

TP: You’ve launched a kickstarter page to help fund your book tour this summer, what are some of the goodies you’re gifting to contributors?

RJ: Yes, we are selling a whole bunch of stuff—only available through kickstarter–to help fund our tour, including signed copies of our book, organic/non-gmo seed packets, bumper stickers, temporary tattoos and more. Our seed sets are really unique because we’ve hand selected our favorite no-fail varieties that are easy for anyone to grow. So, for $35, you get a signed copy of our book, and one of four garden seed kits (Herb Garden, Container Garden, Heirloom Garden, and Kaleidoscope Garden). For $65, you get a signed copy of our book, and 20 seed packs—which equals a whole garden’s worth of seeds! All kits come in a reusable tin to store your seeds, and each collection is perfect for spring gifts or Mother’s Day presents.

TP: And the response so far has been positive?

RJ: Our kickstarter reached our goal on April 5th after just 8 days, and it’s still going! People are excited about growing their own, and we keep getting some amazing emails from kickstarters all over the country inviting us to visit them on the tour, check out their farm, and visit their community gardens. We are humbled and overwhelmed at the response, and thrilled that so many people will be using our seeds and our book to start gardens all over the world this summer. Wow!

TP: This must be so exciting for you and Jen! Obviously real food is important to a lot of people, what are some other indications of that that you’ve seen?

RJ: We are really excited! I’m thrilled to see the local food, homesteading and gardening movement growing—and there are indications everywhere. All of the local CSAs in my area have a waiting list, local food is showing up on chef menus and we even had to expand our community garden this year because more families wanted to grow food. How great is that?

TP: Are you making it ALL the way around the country and will you be planting anything on your route a la Johnny Appleseed?

RJ: That’s the plan! Jen and I hope to Amtrak it to as many cities as possible this summer to do book signings and events at urban garden centers, bookstores, farmer’s markets and indie shops across the country. I’m sure we’ll end up planting a tomato plant or two as we spread the word about how easy it is to grow your own food, anywhere.

TP: Any other big projects we should know about?

RJ: We just kicked off our second year at the community garden I helped start in our town, which is super exciting. We actually had to expand the garden from last year because there was such a demand, and we already have a waiting list for next year! It’s great to see so many people getting back to the garden—it’s especially fun to watch kids in the garden, digging and planting, and then eagerly picking a beet or carrot with a huge grin on their faces. You don’t get that experience from the supermarket!

Pick up a copy of the wonderful Homesweet Homegrown or visit Robyn’s kickstarter page and help her spread the love for real food!

What are your plans for your garden or greenspace this year?

Photo Credit: Jen Lindsay