May 10th marks Seattle's biggest giving holiday, GiveBIG, which will give you the opportunity to support your favorite non-profits all around the city. With that, we wanted to show you how your support of us here at Neighborhood Farmers Markets supports Washington farmers as well.
Read more to see how farmers have benefited and re-grown after tough times thanks to the help from supporters like you and the Good Farmer Fund, our emergency relief fund for farmers in our market system.
We have stories from Little Wing Farm, Glendale Shepherd, and Tieton Farm + Creamery... All amazing farmers who have gone through hard times and have been kind enough to share their stories with us.
Little Wing Farm
In the summer of 2015, a devastating wildfire swept through the Chelan area taking homes and buildings. It crested right up to my back while saving our home. The fire burned the periphery of our long and narrow orchard causing damage to the trees and fruit. Later, deer came down causing further damage to the crop. No power for five days warmed our soft fruit and apples in the cold storage, no irrigation for two weeks, and we lost all our frozen and preserved food that Carmela purchases from other farmers market vendors.
One who works the land only imagines the Good Farmers Fund is for those who really need to get propped up from a catastrophe. After a few weeks of the shock wearing off, Carmela and I realized "wow" these funds are here to us to help weather through hard times. We applied and were granted funds to offset some of the loss.
In the summer of 2016, we had a very nice crop hanging and our first four farmers markets went very well, but that would all change in a short ten minute period when Mother Nature rolled a devastating hail storm upon us. A torrential rain washed out the hillsides from last season’s fire, a lightning strike only 40 feet away, and then the orchard floor covered in white ice. The feeling in your gut, the hours from pruning to thinning all shot down in just minutes. Now we have to offer our customers second and third grade fruit at a lower price. Two out of five pieces of fruit harvested went directly to the compost pile. The next two pieces of fruit sold at lower grades and only one of five near premium.
The Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Alliance recognized the hardship and suggested we apply again for grant money from the Good Farmer Fund. Once again we applied and were granted help. These funds were directly deposited into our farm account and used for necessary operating expenses.
This late June, we start our 13th season with Columbia City Farmers Market. With our trees in bloom and all the natural honeybees buzzing, we are once again optimistic for a bountiful season. We will always be grateful for the generosity of the donors of the Good Farmer Fund and to the organizers and volunteers. The support and peace of mind cannot be measured.
In late December 2015, right before Christmas, my husband Stan was in a terrible accident. A tree he had been in the process of felling rebounded against another tree and plummeted the wrong way, and onto him. He was rushed to Seattle’s Harborview Hospital via a medical helicopter, as our farm is located on Whidbey Island, which does not have a hospital that could have dealt with the severity of his injuries. Our son and I rushed to catch the next ferry (they actually waited for us to arrive before departing, which meant the world to us). As we made our way from the Mukilteo ferry terminal to I-5 and then south to the hospital, we were not entirely sure of just what we would face once we got there. We learned that the impact of the tree had broken his neck at the C7 - T1 vertebrae, crushing his spinal cord. He also has a skull fracture and a break at T11. Stan regained consciousness in the days that followed and, thankfully, showed no signs of brain damage or impairment. Obviously, he was quite confused upon waking and had to be told about the accident, but there was no change to his personality or his spirit. While he was ‘all there’ upstairs, the same could not be said for his body. It was entirely possible that Stan would lose the ability to move any part of his body from the neck down. He went into surgery and had pins and bolts placed to pull the vertebrae back into alignment. He had little to no feeling of his lower body or legs, and we were told to expect that he would never walk again. But as much as you can in such a situation, we celebrated the fact that he did have (though weakened) sensation in his arms and hands. I stayed with Stan in his hospital room through Christmas and into the New Year, learning about all the things that would be different or changed about his life as a result of the accident. There were many, many, many things.
In addition to the obvious emotional and physical stress and trauma of Stan’s injury, we were also about to head into our busiest time at the farm: lambing season. Trying to keep up with Stan’s progress and learn all I could about how to take care of him and aid his recovery was my priority. But we also had three new interns coming onto the farm, and a flock of 60 sheep soon to be giving birth, thus starting our milking season and the most productive period of time for me to make cheese. We brought Stan home on January 22, 2016. It was around that time that we received the first of many expenses related to the accident: the bill for the helicopter flight to Seattle, which came in at a whopping $25K. While this expense, and many of the bills that followed would be at least partially covered by insurance in the end, it was clear that certain costs were going to have to come out of pocket. Those costs on top of what is usually necessary to run our farm had me rather panicked. I had so many things on my mind and was still reeling from the whole experience, but I realized if we were to keep our family and the farm afloat, we were going to need help. I knew about the Good Farmer Fund and cobbled together an application not knowing how to even begin to explain what had happened to us, and what it could mean for our farm and livelihood if we were granted any funding. I cannot even start to tell you how grateful we were to receive the $10K grant from the fund, nor can I tell you just how amazed I was at how quickly it was sent to us. But I can tell you how it helped us.
In addition to medical bills and deductibles that insurance didn’t cover, we also had to create a home that Stan could actually enjoy and manage in a wheelchair. Our bedroom had always been up one flight of stairs, and our bathrooms up or down one flight. This was not going to work. Just to get inside the house we had a set of stairs up to our porch. Our first priorities were building a ramp to gain access to our house, along with acquiring an adjustable bed and a lift that I could help Stan use to transfer from the bed to his chair and vice versa. Additionally, we needed to build a whole new bathroom on the main floor of the house and buy other equipment that would enable Stan’s mobility. A wonderful group of friends and neighbors helped us with many aspects of labor in terms of the ramp and bathroom construction, but we still needed to cover the cost of materials on top of our normal farm costs. The Good Farmer Fund’s generosity helped us cover those costs and helped me feel like we weren’t going to drown, that maybe we could keep our heads above water, in the aftermath of the accident and the many additional financial burdens it created. The months that followed weren’t easy: the lambs came hot and heavy and we had our largest milk yields since our farm’s beginning., which necessitated my spending even more time in the cheesemaking facilities, but with the added pressure of having a husband recently back from the hospital with needs that only I could manage. A difficult dilemma, as we would not have a product to sell if I weren’t taking the time to make sure it was done right…but simultaneously a husband who couldn’t get properly situated without my assistance. We muddled through, and more easily due to the improvements we were able to make as a result of the grant.
Over a year later, our house is now a place that Stan can maneuver with relative ease from his chair. He has gained many skills that lend to his independence (not a small thing for such a man as he is). He can get out of bed on his own, make his own coffee, cook his own bacon, go out and see the lambs or pigs on his own, and most importantly get involved in different ongoing projects on the farm, whether an extension to the lamb barn or getting to collect our breakfast’s eggs from our chickens.
Without the Good Farmer Fund, the weight of all that was coming at us, emotionally and financially, would have been perhaps unbearable. But we have come out the other side. Of course we still are learning and adjusting, but we couldn’t be where we are now without that help. I can only hope that other farmers in similar straits can also experience the generosity, lack of bureaucracy and total care and concern that we felt at our most sensitive and dire of time as a result of this fund. So many of us (farmers) are trying our best on budgets that do not have a lot of ‘give’ in regards to anything large, cataclysmic or otherwise life-changing. And to have any amount of safety net, or larger community looking out for us, means the world. Thank you so much for what you have allowed us to achieve and overcome. We hope to always be part of a community that looks out for their own in such a fashion.
Tieton Farm and Creamery
Running a farm, especially one with animals, is hard. Yes, there are beautiful, wonderful, satisfying, and to us fulfilling aspects of working a farm, taking care of the animals and making cheese from their superb milk or we would not be doing all of this. The nostalgic visions of what a farm is like are not only of the past, or just illusions, they really are wonderfully there and we feel fortunate to be able to enjoy them. But as all farmer and many of their customers know, it all comes with never ending, day after day challenges and bone weary hard, hard work! It takes more than just the joy of farming to get through all of that work. It takes communities that support that effort as you all do by valuing, purchasing, enjoying, and sharing farmer produced products. It is this weekly contact with our customers at market that helps us continue through the difficult times.
Beyond the day to day grind of farming, like any other business or family, disasters can occur that may threaten the very existence of the enterprise. For us at Tieton Farm & Creamery, it has been two barn disasters in three years. When the large, fabric tension building that we called a barn was mostly destroyed by a fire three years ago, the shock and then struggle to survive through kidding and lambing season pressed hard on our emotional, physical, and financial reserves. We were encouraged to apply to the Good Farmer Fund and with generous support from the fund, we were able to continue on and get through that season. We saved our money for three years and rebuilt the structure this past November. After enjoying the use of all that space for two months, we suffered another loss due to the epic snow and ice accumulations of this past winter. The barn came crashing down with all the goats, Ruth, and lots of equipment inside. We were so grateful and fortunate that Ruth and the animals were unhurt and the equipment was not damaged. But the barn was a total loss and again, just in time for kidding and lambing season. Once again the insurance company wiggled out of paying, and once again, our community supported us. They showed up with snow shovels and tools to build emergency kidding pens. Our dear sweet community also put together a fund, “Goat Fund Me” that will allow us to build a sturdy pole barn this summer. A big donor was , of course, the Good Farmer Fund. We went from not being sure we could continue to knowing that we will be in a better, stronger position than ever before, thanks to the support we received.
Our gratitude is beyond description. You have all made such a difference in allowing us to continue on. Life looks brighter here at Tieton Farm & Creamery. Donated funds allowed us to put up temporary shelter so kidding and lambing could continue safely for the animals. There are many healthy, happy, bouncy baby animals at the farm. The grass is growing tall and green. The animals grazing upon it provides a pastoral setting for us to enjoy as we continue our work making the best chemical free, farmstead, artisan cheese we can produce. We go through our days knowing that our efforts are affirmed by a large community of appreciative customers. All of us farmers need you. Thank you!!