NOTE - Willowood Farm/Prairie Bottom WILL NOT be at the Coupeville Farmer's Market today! Wilbur, Julieanna and Henry are off to the state History Day competition and between that and flooded out fields we decided to only do one market this weekend. Willowood Farm (with Prairie Bottom's produce as well) WILL be at the Bayview Farmer's Market today. So please come see us there...10 a.m to 2 p.m. behind Bayview Farm and Garden.
As I sit here this morning drinking that first precious cup of coffee and contemplating the (hopefully) dry market day coming up I'm thinking about my friend Vicky and her farm, Little Brown Farm.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Little Brown Farm and her amazing goat cheese (and other goat milk products), come see Vicky today at the Bayview Farmer's Market and let her tell you all about it. Or stop in at bayleaf Stores in Coupeville or Oak Harbor, they carry Vicky's cheese.
First about Vicky. I first me Vicky I think maybe 5 years ago? We served together and a committee to develop the Whidbey Island Grown brand. (Which is starting to take off, btw). I remember listening to Vicky talk about her dreams of having a goat dairy outside of Freeland. Her lamenting about this or that monstrous delay/huge new expensive as she and her husband Tom struggled to build a dairy and facilities and meet codes and requirements on multiple levels. I remember sampling her cheese. And I remember thinking there was probably hardly a chance in hell this goat cheese thing would ever get off the ground.
Why? Well...I grew up (sorta) in dairy. My neighbors, the Sherman-Bishop farm at the time) had about a 300 cow dairy herd. (They sold their herd a few years back which, ironically, left Whidbey Island with no licensed dairies until Little Brown Farm opened for business). So I grew up feeding calves, mucking stalls, starting when I was about 10 and I was in our local Coupeville 4-H dairy club - The Milky Way - all through high school.
So I learned first-hand....Is there any more demanding, regulated, never ending field in agriculture than dairy? Well...I challenge you to come up with one and that's coming from me - a farmer! The dairy industry has layers up layers of regs to comply with. They have animals that have to be maintained...every...single...day... no excuses for farmer being sick, otherwise busy or simply lazy. (In veggies, yes, I can consider taking a day or two off on occasion and generally speaking, the veggies won't die!). And well Vicky and her husband, they came from non-ag backgrounds (Vicky was a CFO of a big company and Tom is in computer-whiz sorta work, still doing it, as a matter of fact to help pay the bills while they grow the farm). I admit, I doubted they could cut it and while I hate to poo-poo the interest and excitement over small scale farming these days, there are a lot of "enthusiastic beginners" who really have no idea what they are getting themselves into as far as time, work and money. (To be honest, I don't know if I would have done if I would have truly realized what it would mean! Oh well...I'm stuck now! LOL!).
But as I got to know Vicky and Tom over the years since I have continually been impressed by their knowledge, their passion, Vicky's amazing ability to create incredible cheeses, yogurts and other exciting goat milk products and their drive to work the insane hours and love doing it. And just to make sure you realize how talented Vicky is at cheesemaking, her cheese is ON THE MENU at Walrus and Carpenter in Ballard. The #3 "best new restaurants in American" as listed by Bon Appetit magazine in 2011. This is a big deal people and we are incredibly lucky to have such a talented cheese maker on Whidbey Island.
So Vicky and Tom have caught the farming bug and it isn't letting them go. And as I like to say, "You don't become a farmer to make a million dollars. You become a farmer because you CAN'T NOT FARM." Unfortunately, hopefully you see the sad catch in all that. What it means is that unless you a multi-national farming corporation receiving millions in dollars in subsidies, farming to the actual farmer means a whole heck of a lot of debt, a lot of work and a lot of hoping and praying it will pay off someday. (If there is any more eternal optimist then a farmer, well...I don't know!). But the reality is, we as a nation have pretty much since about the 1950s followed an ag policy that means small, local family farms will struggle to make ends meet. Back when my great-grandfather first came to Whidbey Island in the late 1800s it was a given that "if you had land you had a living." That's not the case anymore. It started back in the 1950s when the ag policy became "get big and get out." And while the picture in ag is starting to change with the growth in local and naturally grown food, as we realize the economic, environmental, and health costs of those "get big or get out" policies....well it's going to take more than a few years to combat 60 plus years of ag policy getting us to where we are today.
Now here's the part of this blog where I ask you to help Vicky and Tom. Because Vicky and Tom have a project in mind - and while I have faith that the huge financial investment they have put into establishing their facilities and herd, the knowledge and passion and hard-work they are maintaining are going to eventually pay off for them....Vicky and Tom have put all the money into the farm they can currently manage. Yet, they have so so so many more great projects in mind that would mean more cheese products, more access to the farm and more likelihood that their farm will grow and thrive.
Here is Vicky and Tom's project...http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/littlebrownfarm/cheese-cave-and-classes-and-farm-store-at-the-litt
A cheese cave aging room - which would allow Vicky to make great aged goat cheeses, ones with a hard "rind" so to speak. Which means more cheeses for us to love love love! And a farm store where they could sell their projects but more importantly, where Vicky could share her cheese-making skills in classes for the community and host educational tours for schools, senior citizens and other interested groups.
This is a "Kickstarter" project. What that means is "crowd-source funding" or, get a bunch of people to just put up a little money. Which results in lots of people supporting a great project they believe in. But the catch is....they've got a deadline. And if the project isn't totally funded well then, nobody's money gets taken. For instance, I've pledged $200 to help Vicky's project. Because I believe in Little Brown Farm and what they are doing. But...if they don't reach the project goal of $21,500 by May 22 well all that money will stay with me. Right now, Vicky has reached a little over one-third her goal and she's got a few more weeks left. I think they are enough people in our food community that will put up even just $5 or $10 to help this project fund. And that's why I'm writing this...to ask you do so. I wouldn't do it (because really, I hate asking people for money!) if I didn't feel so strongly about Little Brown Farm. About their potential to be a really successful, vital farm on Whidbey, and their ability to incubate and encourage other possible island farmers (Vicky is the "go to" lady on the island when it comes to goat and sheep health!).
So please, go visit Vicky at Bayview Farmer's Market today. Check out her fabulous cheeses. She how happy she is to be doing this crazy demanding job and if you are inspired by her as I am, click on her kickstarter project and pledge just $5. It can make all the difference!
And now...I better finish up this cup of coffee and head out and pack up the van. And, if you are dying to know, here is what we are bringing to market today (an shorter list than I had hoped for unfortunately, because some of our crops were too flooded to pick yesterday!). But nonetheless, here is what we got....
* Baby Pac Choi - new crop!
* Raab - tender new thinnings, super good!
* French Breakfast Radishes
* Leeks - about the last of the overwintered ones, enjoy while you can!
* Bobbie's amazing Sweet and Spicy stir-fry bunches
* Garlic Greens
* Collard bunches
* Peanut Fingerling potatoes (almost the last of the 2011 crop....)
* Rockwell Beans
* Peregion Beans
And from Prairie Bottom Farm we have (most of their crops were flooded out!)...
* Limelight beans
We also will have grains from Georgina, emmer from Ebey Road Farm and Mikey from Whidbey Green Goods is bringing some spinach, carrots, cauliflower, basil and meat products from Skagit Valley growers.
Hope to see you at market!