“Know Your Farmer” Exhibit at Lopez Library!

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!


Buffum Brothers-0478

Work at it.

“Fences are the biggest challenge. You just get through building or fixing one, and you start over again.”

Buffum Brothers-0426

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_30 - Version 2

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.”


seed library 2014-2133

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.”

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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.”


Skyriver ranch 2014-07329

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.”

Irene Skyriver Portrait 2014-8930

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!”


New Kids at Sunnyfield Farm

No kidding. Yes kidding!
Posted on March 24, 2016 at sunnyfieldonlopez.com

Thanks to over 100 contributors we made our crowd fundraising goal of $15,000, and then some. No kidding! Huge gratitude for this awesome phenomena. We are very excited to be moving forward with finishing the aging room and getting the equipment we need to grow the dairy.


And so the season begins. The does are kidding and so far we have 17 new baby goats born beautiful and healthy, jumping around and getting into mischief within days of birth. Ada, our daughter turning 1 year end of March, squeals with delight at the sight of them. The mamas are getting out to green pasture and come back to the barn often to visit their kids.


Now getting into the routine again of milking twice a day, and though most the milk goes directly to the kids (for a couple months), we are getting enough milk to start making batches of fresh goat cheese, aka chèvre, in the cheese vat and will begin selling at the “Little Spring Market” we hold here at the farm every other Saturday thru April. Next market is April 2nd 10-2. So come on by and revel with us in the joys of Spring!


Photographs by Heather Gladstone


Eating Local Food

Last night the Lopez Locavores hosted their 39th Evening Meal at School serving a delicious winter meal to over 150 happy diners!  The locally-sourced organic menu included bean and squash chili with Lopez beef (veg. option available); roasted beets, apples, and onions with apple cider dressing; Lopez winter salad; summer berry cake, and herbal tea.  These meals, now in their 8th year, are always a wonderful opportunity to socialize while eating a tasty and healthy meal that you did not have to prepare.

Where else can you get local greens (other than kale) this time of year?  Thank you Christine Langley of Lopez Harvest for growing the amazing salad greens!

 The Locavores give a big thank you to all the volunteers who make these events possible!  Don’t miss the next Locavore Evening Meal at School on March 24th.

Everyone welcomed!  Donation only.

Sunnyfield Farm Barnraiser!


Lopez Island’s only goat dairy, Sunnyfield Farm, needs an aging room to bring more farmstead cheese varieties to your table.  Please join other Lopezian’s donating to help Sunnyfield Farm grow!

Check out their sweet video and see all the Barnraiser campaign details at:





Lopez Island’s Mr. Clean

Written by Tim Fry of Project468

It was a beautiful summer day in July 2009. Claver Bundac, CEO and Founder of California-based biotech firm, Biomedix, decided to take his boat for a short cruise from his moorage in La Conner, WA. After an afternoon enjoying the water, Claver realized he was dangerously low on gas. He was unfamiliar with the area, and the closest thing he had to a map was a laminated placemat with a rough depiction of the Salish Sea. Luckily, the placemat included fuel dock locations, the closest of which was the Islander Dock in Lopez Island’s Fisherman Bay. Running on fumes, Claver made it to the dock. He had never been to Lopez, but like many before him, upon arrival he was immediately hooked by the beauty and friendliness of the island. Within a few months, Claver purchased a home on Whiskey Hill.

Claver’s love-at-first-sight story is a common tale on Lopez. What’s not so common is what Claver has done since fate and an empty gas tank steered him to this little island. Last week, Claver – along with the Lopez Community Land Trust (LCLT) – officially opened the world’s first food safety lab run by farmers. The new FoodMetrics – Lopez Lab, housed at the offices of the Lopez Community Land Trust, is a facility where trained Lopez food producers can establish an on-going food safety verification system for their products in order to stand up to the increasingly stringent regulations from the USDA and FDA.


“This has never been done before,” said Claver as he gave interested Lopezians a tour of the new lab on Friday, January 15th. Typically, food safety testing labs like FoodMetrics are set up and run within big food production companies – an expensive proposition that only large organizations can tend to afford. BioMedix has set up 480 of these labs around the world for customers like Starbucks, seafood production plants in Alaska, and even the Department of Defense – for testing the military’s MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Equipment and inventory for these labs run at least $20,000, not to mention the time it takes for trained people to manage the labs. BioMedix was willing to donate all of the necessary equipment and the time to set up the FoodMetrics – Lopez Lab, as long as the LCLT had a place to put it. When Claver made the offer, LCLT Executive Director Sandy Bishop cleared out her office. And that was that.

Soon after becoming a part-time Lopez resident, Claver became familiar with the growing – yet economically challenging – farming movement on the island. He was also aware of the impact that the 2010 Food Modernization Act (FMA) would have on food producers with limited resources. The FMA was going to require a lot more stringent and regular verification of food production, storage and distribution methods – protecting consumers against harmful allergens and bacteria such as salmonella and listeria, which causes the death of three pregnant women every day. Until now, if farmers wanted to verify the safety of their food, they’d have to send samples off-island, usually to labs in Seattle – a costly, inefficient and often ineffective way of doing so. “I wouldn’t dream of sending Lopez food samples to Seattle to be tested,” said Claver, as he described all the ways food can be contaminated after it leaves its clean, safe place of origin – the same things that can happen to food that’s imported to Lopez from off-island.

Knowing what was at stake for Lopez farmers, Claver started seeking out organizations on the island that might be interested in housing a food safety testing lab donated by BioMedix. For 5 years he came up empty. In February of 2015, another twist of fate put Claver in touch with Lopez resident, Dixie Budke, who introduced him to her neighbors, Sandy Bishop and Rhea Miller from the LCLT. They of course were very interested in what Claver had to offer.

“Here was this man offering this amazing gift to the island,” said Rhea. “How could we say no?”

Shortly after saying “yes,” plans were made, Sandy’s office was cleaned out, and Lopez became home to the world’s only farmer-run food safety lab. The “farmer-run” aspect was actually not part of Claver’s original vision. He was used to customers either hiring BioMedix to manage their labs, or hiring specialists to do so. After a few conversations with Lopez farmers, Claver realized that this model wouldn’t fly in this DIY community that tends to be somewhat wary of non-local oversight. So, instead of BioMedix running the lab long-term, Claver and his team are teaching local food producers on how to run experiments and maintain the facility. The lab can be used by any farmer or food processor on Lopez Island after completing 3 to 4 days of training. More than a dozen individuals have received their certification so far. Given the number of people who showed up for the lab’s official opening last week, I expect that number to grow quickly. The next training will be held in February.


How does Lopez-grown food stack up against other food that’s tested in the lab? In what’s been tested so far, Lopez food is astonishingly cleaner than off-island food. Ken Akopiantz tested plums grown on Horse Drawn Farm. They were totally clean. At the same time, fruit purchased in Seattle was tested. It was swarming with unsafe bacteria. Goat milk from Sunnyfield Farm has tested cleaner than other milk. Oysters from Jones Family Farms were “exceptionally clean – way below USDA limits for acceptable levels of bacteria,” explained Claver, as he related similar stories of the cleanliness of food grown on Lopez. “That’s the thing that really surprised me,” he said. Though surprising, these results are consistent with Claver’s belief that, the closer to its source, the cleaner food can be.

I was surprised by the simplicity of the FoodMetrics Lab. It sits within a room measuring no more than 100 square feet, containing 3 testing machines resembling microwave ovens and a small refrigerator. In one corner sits a computer where farmers can log-in to their private account to upload and analyze the results of their self-administered tests. The Web-based software creates Certificates of Analysis, which put testing data and results in the format required by safety auditors. Users of the lab can access their testing data and accounts from any Internet connection by logging in with a private password. Nobody but the food producer is able to see the results of their tests.


If it catches on, the long-term impact of such a farmer-run facility could be immense for small farmers around the world. It’s easy to see how this could revolutionize food production as we know it. Making accessible and lowering the costs of food testing gives independent farmers an advantage that until now has been reserved for large, corporate food producers. It also helps demonstrate the benefits of consuming food closer to its source – something locavores are certainly happy to see. The economic impact on Lopez could be significant. Rhea Miller thinks one outcome could be that finished agricultural products become a key source of income to Lopez. As she puts it, “it’s better to export things than to continue importing people.”

As for Claver Bundac, he had no idea that an emergency fuel stop would someday result in a cleaner, safer, and hopefully more successful food production on Lopez Island. If you’d like to hear more about “Mr. Clean,” I encourage you to stop by the LCLT to see the new FoodMetrics – Lopez Lab and sign up for upcoming certification trainings.



BOUNTY book update!

Work on the final phase of the BOUNTY project, the book, has begun!  Yesterday the BOUNTY team writer (Iris Graville), photographers (Steve Horn, Summer Moon Scriver & Robert Harrison), chef & recipe creator (Kim Bast), and food stylist (Rachel Graville) met to discuss the food photography for the recipe page of the book.  You can imagine scheduling photo shoots for 28 recipes will take some serious coordination and cooperation.  This group is excited and up to the challenge!

recipe meeting photo

Summer, Robert, Kim, Steve and Rachel.  Thanks for the photo Iris.

BOUNTY followers and fans are urged to help us publish the book with a generous donation on our donate page!   BOUNTY – Lopez Island Farmers, Food, and Community is a community funded project.

Farmers at the Library


The BOUNTY “Know Your Farmer” exhibit featuring 15 Lopez farms will be at the Lopez Library until January 29th.  Color photographs by Steve Horn, Summer Moon Scriver, and Robert S. Harrison provide a glimpse of what it takes to bring food from earth to table on Lopez Island.

Accompanying the photographs are farmer portraits and profiles written by Lopez author Iris Graville.  Iris wrote the brief biographies from the farmers responses to the following questions:

  • What three words describe what inspires you in your work?
  • Why do you farm?
  • What are you most proud of in your work?
  • What has been your biggest challenge?
  • Complete this sentence – One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a farmer is…?

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. This exhibit features half of the BOUNTY project farmers. The other half will be on display at the Library this summer beginning July 15 until August 26.

“There’s a lot of agriculture, both large- and small-scale, happening on Lopez that so many people don’t know about,” says Ken Akopiantz of Horse Drawn Farm. It’s the BOUNTY team’s hope that, collectively, these images help tell the Lopez food story and will encourage people to, as Ken says, “… participate in our Lopez food system, both as producers and consumers.”