The BOUNTY “Know Your Farmer” Photo Exhibit is returning to the Lopez Library from July 15 – August 26. View 14 stunning photographs by Steve Horn, Summer Moon Scriver, and Robert S. Harrison with farmer profiles from Iris Graville. The goal of this exhibit is to inspire you to get to know your local farmers and the abundance of healthy food they produce. Local farming is good for our health, environment, and economy and preserves the cherished rural beauty of Lopez Island.
BOUNTY is a community endeavor celebrating our local food producers through the art of photography and the written word. This Library exhibit features photographs and profiles for some of the BOUNTY project’s 28 farms. The entire exhibit will be on display again at Lopez Center on October 21 until November 5, 2016.
The following eight BOUNTY farm photographs and farmer profiles have not been exhibited at the Library because these photographs were sold during the first “Know Your Farmer” exhibit in October of 2015 at the Lopez Center. ENJOY!
Work at it.
“Fences are the biggest challenge. You just get through building or fixing one, and you start over again.”
Buffum Brothers Farm – Gary Buffum and M.R. Buffum
Brothers Gary and M.R. Buffum grew up on the farm they still work today. M.R. remembers buying his first Holstein bull calf when he was fifteen years old. Now, he and Gary work 1100 acres for grain, hay, pigs, and 130 calf/mother pairs (mostly Angus). When they’re not taking care of their animals (or repairing fences), they’re running another division of their farm—Lopez Sand & Gravel and Excavating. For decades, Gary and M.R. have worked in the islands clearing roads, building bulkheads, excavating ponds, logging, and delivering sand and gravel as well as wood chips, manure, and topsoil. Their advice for other farmers: “Don’t spend money you don’t have.”
tradition, nutrition, regeneration
“All across America, industrial agriculture is sterilizing our topsoil, devitalizing our food, and warming the planet. We grow GMO-free, nutrient-dense food to nourish our family and our customers who crave real food.”
Chickadee Produce – Charles and Clarissa Mish
Charles Mish grew up in Michigan around aunts and uncles who farmed, raising vegetables, chickens, and pigs as well as operating a cheese factory. Seeing their direct connection with nature made an impression on him: “It’s what I wanted to recapture when Clarissa and I started growing our own food.” The couple views their biodynamic farm as a way to help with climate change and regenerate the earth. “If only 2% more of the world’s arable land returned to organic farming,” Charles says, “we could actually begin to reverse global warming by sequestering carbon dioxide in the living soil.”
Charles’s approach is labor-intensive as he strives for the right balance of manure, compost, and sea crop trace minerals to enrich the soil, while also combating quack grass and slugs. The payoff? “Food that doesn’t taste like cardboard.”
Chickadee Produce includes fruit (Spartan, Jonagold, Melrose, Red Gravenstein, and Brown Russett apples; Asian and Bosc pears; and Mirabelle plums) and potatoes. Charles says people tell him they can taste the quality with his Yukon Gold, German Butterball, Yellow Finn, and Nicola potatoes. His favorites are the French Fingerlings. “Sliced, cooked in olive oil, and seasoned with a sprig of rosemary—” Charles says, “delicious.”
soggy sheep, frolicking lambs
“The patterns in farming, whether it be the seasonality of activities or the processes, give one a satisfying sense of time and place.”
Flint Beach Ohana – Sally and Tom Reeve
Neither Tom nor Sally Reeve grew up on a farm or ever imagined raising sheep—until they “inherited” some when they bought their land near Iceberg Point. They started with the North Country Cheviots that were on the property, but soon discovered this breed has a tendency to roam. “They’d get around the fence and clamber on the beach,” Tom says. The farm name honors both Lopez history and Tom’s growing up in Hawaii; the beach beyond the pasture is Flint Beach, named by the land’s homesteaders, and Ohana means “family” in Hawaiian.
Sheep farmers Oakley Goodner and Dave and Becky Heinlein steered the couple to books about managing ewes and lambs. Sally would read in the barn late at night with a flashlight and a cat on her lap, learning how to care for sheep in, as she says, “a non-chemical, non-production mode.” Along the way, Sally realized that caring for her flock and juggling numerous other commitments (such as serving as an EMT with the Lopez Fire Department) was more than she could handle alone. With the assistance of Dave Rucker, Sally experimented with a variety of breeds and now offers pasture-raised, USDA-inspected Romney lamb, with the “essence of salt spray from the Straits.”
life, work, gratitude
“Farming provides us a connection with our past. It’s beautiful, fascinating, physical work, always new and challenging.”
Helen’s Farm – Blake and Julie Johnston
Blake and Julie Johnston have overcome one of the most difficult challenges facing aspiring Lopez farmers—finding land. After honing their skills at S&S Homestead Farm, they dreamed of starting Helen’s Farm, named after two Helens—Julie’s grandmother (who was a farmer) and Blake’s great-grandmother. For a few years, they leased a half-dozen small parcels scattered across the island to raise organic vegetables, broiler chickens, pigs, and grass-fed cattle. Now they’ve consolidated their farming efforts, leasing 50 acres from Rita O’Boyle in the center of the island. On this land that had, for many years, been harvested for hay, Blake and Julie are trying “to help our little corner of the world function in a thoughtful and healthy way.” They strive to strike a balance between developing an efficient and productive farm without depleting resources that they know are in short supply. Farming is teaching them to take things slowly—allowing themselves “to develop, grow, and change” in ways they hadn’t expected.
beauty, abundance, cycles
“It’s gratifying to raise food that’s healthy and that sustains people and the land.”
Horse Drawn Farm – Ken Akopiantz and Kathryn Thomas
Nothing goes to waste at Horse Drawn’s 80-acre farm along Port Stanley Road. For example, the pigs that Kathryn Thomas and Ken Akopiantz raise eat the “cull” vegetables (organic and delicious, just not pretty), and their bedding and manure turns into fertilizer. The chickens eat all the family’s household food waste. Ken and Kathryn apply these and other sustainable practices to raise vegetables, herbs, flowers, cattle, Coopworth and North Country Cheviot sheep, and Berkshire/Hampshire pigs on their animal-powered (horses and oxen) farm. Horse Drawn products are available at a self-serve farm stand, open day and night, all year long. These long-time farmers can’t imagine doing any other kind of work, and they view all the cycles, all the aspects of farming, as part of a big circle. They have some disappointments every year—plants that don’t work, geese over-running the fields, stillbirths with the animals, pests. “But we just keep going,” they say. “We’re rewarded by seeing people discover fresh food and knowing that ninety percent of what we raise is consumed locally.”
resilience, self-reliance, sharing
“The basic idea is—you plant the seeds, let some go to seed, then return some of these next generation seeds for others to borrow.”
Lopez Community Land Trust Seed Library – Ken Akopiantz, Seed Librarian
Everyone knows about borrowing books from a library, but on Lopez Island, gardeners and farmers can borrow—and return—seeds at the Lopez Community Land Trust (LCLT) Seed Library. The LCLT developed this community seed project to preserve and develop open-pollinated seeds suited to the island’s unique maritime climate. The Seed Library, located next to the LCLT office at the Common Ground neighborhood, is a temperature- and humidity-controlled vault that provides a safe and organized place to store seeds.
Seed Librarian (and farmer) Ken Akopiantz developed a Seed Exchange Catalog that lists everything from beans to turnips, with many varieties named in honor of local residents. Among the seeds you’ll find in the catalog are island heirloom beans such as the Bond Bean, from Joe Bond of Orcas Island, and the Kring Bean, from Francis Kring of Lopez. Steven’s Kabocha squash, grown and bred by Lopezian Steven Wrubleski, “is destined to become an heirloom,” and Fortuna Wheat, introduced on Lopez in 2008, is regularly used by Barn Owl Bakery to create its “Lopez Loaf.”
spirituality, joy, fulfillment
“One of the most important lessons we’ve learned as farmers is to listen to the land, the plants, and the animals.”
S&S Homestead Farm – Elizabeth Simpson and Henning Sehmsdorf
Henning Sehmsdorf and Elizabeth Simpson’s goal for their 50-acre, biodynamic farm is to feed themselves, their animals, and their soil from farm-grown resources. They also strive to produce wood products from their small forest as well as their own electricity and water. The farm shares its yield through a whole-diet CSA and sales at the Lopez Farmers Market.
Both Elizabeth and Henning are veteran teachers, and they put those skills to work at the farm’s S&S Center for Sustainable Agriculture. For Lopez High School students, an elective class allows them to experience the entire “seed-to-plate” cycle at the farm. The students prepare soil; plant crops; and care for the farm’s cows, sheep, pigs and chickens. The Center also involves apprentices and interns in all aspects of the whole farm organism. Their workshops, farm tours, and classes cover a wide variety of topics including farm economics; machine maintenance; vegetable production and seed saving; animal husbandry; pasture management; grain production; and bread-baking, fermentation, and cheese- and butter-making. “Our hope through these efforts,” they say, “is that our farm and programs will continue beyond our working lifetime.”
scent, touch, taste
“As the swallows miraculously arrive each spring, so have I learned to trust my instincts in my garden dance. I’m drawn like a compass needle into my garden and greenhouse, pulled, as the moon pulls the tides, to seed those first tomatoes, peppers, and peas.”
Skyriver Ranch – Irene Skyriver
From the time of her first garden over forty years ago, stories from Irene Skyriver’s grandparents and parents have motivated her. They weathered the Great Depression working hard, but eating well, on a farm in Monroe, WA. “My grandfather’s spirit whispers to take up the hoe,” she says.
Now, as Irene stewards Lopez land purchased in 1968, she views growing food as a sacred obligation that also “feeds” her in many ways. Pruning, weeding, shoveling, milking goats, and harvesting serve as her yoga class, meditation, aerobics, medicine chest, teacher, and sanctuary. Irene feels “blessed by all of this, plus, year-round organic food in my larders and enough income from plant starts and produce sales at the Southend General Store to cover each year’s start-up costs.” Irene explains that she’s not “scientific” in her gardening approach of saving seeds and letting plants volunteer. “I make no claims in favor of my methods,” she says, “but they work for me!”