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.



Locavores make soup for Lopez Fresh!

The Lopez Locavores love to feed our community fresh, organic, local food!   Today they were at it again cooking soup with ingredients from local farms and gardens for the Lopez Island Family Resource Center food bank.


Yummy winter soup for the new freezer at Lopez Fresh donated by the Locavores.

Bruce Botts graciously hosted todays cooking party at Vita’s commercial kitchen. Locavore members Christine Langley, Marney Reynolds, Nancy Wallace, Michele Heller and Sue Roundy made two soups: Vegetarian Squash Apple Bean and Squash Apple Bean with Ham.  Donating the organic soup ingredients were Bounty farmers Ken Akopiantz of Horse Drawn Farm and Christine of Lopez Harvest, and Lacavore members Marney, Michele and Sue.  The only non-Lopez ingredients were salt, pepper and olive oil!


Marney and Christine are always happy to cook for our community!

“Know Your Farmer” Photo Exhibit closing Friday!


The exhibit opening October 23 was a smashing success!  Bounty farmers and friends gathered at Lopez Center to view 28 beautiful photos by Steve, Summer and Robert and read farmer profiles by Iris.  If you missed the opening you have two days to view all 28 photos and farmer profiles together.  One half of the exhibit will be shown at the Lopez Library from December 18 to January 29 and the other half from July 15 to August 26. We are on the lookout for other venues large enough for the entire exhibit!

 “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.”


You can take one of these stunning photographs home with a $300 donation to the BOUNTY Book project!  The book will be released next October.


David Williams chose the Helen’s Farm photograph for his donation.


The opening celebration featured locally sourced appetizers and Lopez cider – of course!

Lopez Saturday Market holdouts!



Three BOUNTY farmers are still showing up on Saturday from 10 – 2 at the market!  For the last two Saturdays Adam from S&S Homestead, Julie from Helen’s Farm, and Andre from Sunnyfield Farm have been there.  Next weekend may be their last so don’t miss this opportunity to buy fresh, organic vegetables, meat, and goat cheese all in one place!


Compost CSA on Lopez!

“Together we are building an incredible sustainable local food system. And it all starts with building fertile soil.”   David Bill and Faith Van de Putte, Midnight’s Farm


2015 is the International Year of Soil!  To celebrate David and Faith of Midnight’s Farm wanted to further invest in their compost operation with the purchase of a small trommel screen so they could offer finely screened compost to their customers.  Last week they announced they had been awarded a $10,000 challenge grant towards this trommel from the Human Links Foundation. The grant was dependent on their raising an additional $10,000.  Inspired by the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model they asked for “investors” to buy their compost forward, offering different options to suit different needs.  In just 48 hours the matching funds were raised!

David and Faith want to THANK all those who joined their Compost CSA and the Human Links Foundation, the Soil Conservation District for their initial grant, Tim O Neil of Engineered Compost Systems, Tami Thompson from Terre Source, Nathan Hodges, and Peggy Bill.




The Biggest Science Experiment in the San Juans

By Tim Fry published December 4, 2014 on

These days, the mention of science and farming in the same breath immediately brings to mind the hotly debated issue of GMOs (against which, by the way, San Juan County recently scored a victory). But that’s not necessarily what comes to mind for Nick and Sara Jones of Jones Family Farms. Step inside one of the buildings on Jones’ Sweetwater shellfish farm on Shoal Bay, and you’ll understand why. Alongside the tubs holding millions of baby oysters and clams is an array of objects you’d associate more with a mad scientist than you would a shellfish farmer: beakers, pipettes, microscopes, tubes with fluorescent lights running through them, and – my favorite – human-sized bags full of green liquid. It’s a scene right out of a science fiction movie. But this isn’t somebody’s little science experiment. This is home of the largest supplier of clam and oyster seed to independent shellfish farms in the region, and producer of some of the highest quality shellfish for Seattle, one of the most discriminating restaurant markets in the world.


Nick Jones graciously offered to spend time with Sue Roundy (of the Bounty Project) and me earlier this week – to give us a sense of what it has taken to earn their enviable position within the rapidly growing farm-to-table movement. For starters, it takes a lot of hard work and determination – especially when temperatures hover around 30 degrees, threatening to freeze the hoses that bring food and water to the dozens of tanks housing their precious shellfish. It also takes a healthy dose of optimism. As Nick gave us a tour of the facility, he said his favorite thing about farming is that, “there’s always something to look forward to.” And finally – and this I think is the key to Jones’ success – it requires constant experimentation and improvisation. I’ve visited Sweetwater a half dozen times over the past few years, and every time I come back, Nick and his team have completely rearranged the facility. Every few weeks it seems they’re moving the buildings around or re-plumbing the entire operation – no small feat when you consider the miles of PVC pipe that draw water from the nearby lagoon, bring it to the right temperature, circulate it through dozens of oyster tanks, and return it to the sea. Sweetwater is the definition of work-in-progress.


Even more impressive are the experiments aimed at scaling a shellfish farm operation despite significant challenges such as location and the high cost of supplies. Because tiny oysters eat algae, and lots of it, Jones had to find a way to grow his own. A small bottle of algae costs about $35, making it prohibitively expensive to buy the amount required to feed the tens of millions of oyster larvae growing on Jones’ farm. Enter science – and the marine biologists Jones has hired to make sure they get this experiment right. In the middle of the shellfish farm sits an old shipping container, the walls of which are lined with bags of seven different species of algae – to accommodate the diets of oysters at different stages of development. They must be doing something right, because the Sweetwater team is in the process of tripling the size of their algae production – transitioning from the algae room (pictured above) to what the guys are calling “the algae dome.”


Power is another big challenge. Algae needs light to grow. Fluorescent lights require a lot of electricity, not to mention throw off a lot of light that Sweetwater’s neighbors probably wouldn’t appreciate. Which is why Nick is experimenting with ways to transfer light efficiently inside dark vats of algae using polarized tubes – a method he’s borrowed from another farming industry (one that until very recently hadn’t been legal in Washington State).


It’s innovations like these that are allowing Jones to produce head to head with any shellfish producer in the world. And it’s what’s driven the steady growth of all of the Jones Family Farms, now one of the biggest employers on the island and one of the region’s leaders in sustainable farming – something for which Lopez is becoming more and more known. According to Nick, shellfish farming, given the ability to tap into an infinitely reproductive system, is going to drive the future growth of Jones Family Farms. This provides a glimpse into Jones’ philosophy, which is based on the belief that the world does not have to be a zero sum game – there are ways to benefit from natural resources without necessarily constantly diminishing our supply. There are those who disagree with Nick on this, but it’s hard to argue with him given what he’s accomplished with Sweetwater.

There’s a lot more to learn about Jones Family Farms. They have a whole other side of their business focused on producing grass-fed meats on Lopez, which will probably be the focus of another Project 468 blog post. They also own a sausage making company, Link Lab Artisan Meats, in Seattle – acquired in April. You can find their products around Lopez and the San Juans – at the South End General Store and farmers’ markets. If you’ve eaten at a Seattle restaurant recently, food from Jones Family Farms has probably been on the menu. And back on Lopez, during the warmer months, you can stop by Sweetwater to buy fresh fish, crabs, clams and, of course, oysters. Find the shellfish farm in the Mixby app.

So, where will Nick and Sara Jones turn next for experimentation? Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if you started seeing more of the Jones’ farms growing grain. I think Nick has his sights set on a distillery.