Winter isn’t always the best time to visit a farm, especially if you’re hoping to see the verdant abundance that populates our romantic notions of the good life. Instead of robust fields full of the promise of crops to come, you’re more likely to see the remnants of a fall harvest, with hardy brassicas picked thin and the remaining plant material decomposing back into the soil.
But there are also many reasons why winter is an ideal time to visit a farm. Without the adorning foliage and technicolor fruits and flowers, one can view the operation in its most stripped down form, much like viewing the blueprints of a building. Plus, winter is also when farmers have the time and capacity to plan, dream, and show the odd visitor around their fields and home. Such was the case when the NFM showed up at Skinny Kitty Farm in late January.
We asked some of our farmers to recount their love and how it connects with the farmers markets and the community we all create. There is so much love at the markets and growing on these farms that it's impossible to tell them all, but here are a select few to brighten your Valentine's Day.
Ruth and Lori of Tieton Creamery
Ruth and Lori were just starting to date around Valentine’s day , 21 years ago. They met the cheap way, at work! While they had desk jobs with 9 to 5 sentences, Ruth desperately wanted to farm. They both wanted to be around animals. They had a chance to practice with an urban farm in Bellevue on their cousin’s property where they farmed veggies and raised chickens, turkeys and a few goats for about five years, while working full time jobs. They searched most of King and surrounding counties for land they could afford to farm, never finding anything. Thanks to a meeting with Michael Pollan at Lark Restaurant, they were seated next to friends of the Mighty Tieton folks and things started to fall into place. They found land that had not been in use for over seven years, and it was ready for a pasture. In 2008, it was near impossible to find a bank to lend money, so they funded the building of the creamery and setting up all the pastures. It was all a labor of love for each other and for what they loved doing. Ruth does all the animal husbandry, Lori manages the milk. They did not want anything but a chemical free farm with a happy, healthy life for the animals and to do things in cheese making that respect the ancient ways of food preservation. So far, so good.
Brent and Kira of Olsen Farms
Brent and Kira met at the Capitol Hill farmers market where he was vending and she was a manager with the NFMA in 2010. After a few failed attempts by Brent to get Kira to grab a beer after the market, Kira finally snagged Brent to come out after a long summer market day at U-District. They continued to flirt, exchange notes, and Brent even gave Kira potato hand warmers for the colder days, all the while attempting to keep their fondness for each other on the down low. Despite Brent's dream to get married at the U-District market, with all their friends and customers throwing potatoes down the aisle, they eventually took their love outside the farmers markets and instead to the farm. They now work together on the farm and raise two girls, Nora and Lila, who often join at the market.
Chad and Brooklyn of Iggy's
Chad says, "Working the markets alongside Brooklyn has been a beautiful experience. Brooklyn and I met just a few months before we started slinging our fermented creations at the Seattle farmers markets. So, our relationship has grown around our weekend grind of slinging sauerkraut. For me, every customer is a new chance to hear how Brooklyn explains what she deeply loves; connecting people to herbs, plants, and probiotics. Even if she tells the same story twice, it's never the same. Before we met, I dreamed of learning more about plants, and how to heal myself through their gifts. The farmers market has provided that stage. Our customers are the instruments. And I am the audience. Thank you very very much."
George and Eiko of Skagit River Ranch
George and Eiko met when they both worked for a large fishing company, George as a captain of a fishing vessel in the Bering sea, Eiko as a marketing executive traveling overseas. They fell in love and got married. When their daughter, Nicole, was born, they wanted to stay home and watch their daughter grow, so they started farming their Skagit River Ranch. That was 20 years ago. Eiko says, “We just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, we still love farming together. Our Farmer’s Market customers have become our extended family. We have 2nd and 3rd generation market families at our booth! Life is good!”