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Children should have the option of farming as a career


In our CSA newsletter this week, we included an excerpt from an article in the Huffington Post.  The link to that complete article is here.

That article is a response to a August 10 article in the New York Times.  The link to the original article is here.

The individuals on the SkyRoot team had different responses to these articles, though we were all content to put a few inspirational paragraphs from Jenna Woginrich’s article in the newsletter.  Arwen felt compelled to go off and write a response to the articles, which she then forced her farm partners to read.  Their response was to encourage me to put it on the website, so here goes — another contribution to the raging controversy ignited by that first article…

I love being a farmer.  This is the 6th season that I have chosen to grow food as my full-time job.  Half of those seasons were spent in internships on other people’s farms, and this is the third season that I have been the owner of a farm business.  There is nothing that I would rather be doing, no other combination of vocation and avocation that that I can think of that could combine the diversity of tasks that go into a week on the farm, the challenges of managing systems on a variety of scales, my love of putting seeds into dirt and being surrounded by growing things, and my entrepreneurial tendencies the way managing a farm does.  Farming isn’t easy for a lot of reasons, one of which is that I also am not making a living doing it, though I’m confident that this will be the best year yet.

My initial reaction to both of the articles I read in the argument of whether or not we should discourage children from becoming farmers was negative.  Sure, both articles made good points, and certainly the rebuttal to the original article tugged at my heartstrings.  But the ideas the authors left out and our points of disagreement stood out more to me.  As I re-read the articles this evening in preparation for writing an energetic yet reasoned criticism of both articles, I found myself asking the question of whether it’s actually useful for me to prolong this disagreement among essentially like-minded people.  I’m confident that I’m a “good” farmer by the definition of both authors, and I’m confident that I support the farming work that both of them are doing.  So I should be banding with them as the author of the NYT piece suggests in order to fight for a better food system.

So instead of the point-by-point criticism I was itching to write, I’ll content myself with pointing out that farmers are unlikely to effectively band together as long as we continually create strict definitions of “good” farming and “bad” farming as both of these authors do.  That farm isn’t small enough.  Those farmers are too old.  You’re not a “real” farmer if you come to it later in life on land you’ve bought with money from an earlier career.  Obviously there are farms employing practices that clearly damage the environment and exploit powerless workers, and we need to fight to stop them.  But there are a lot of different ways for people to try to farm using practices that improve soils, eliminate pollution, enhance habitat for native birds and bugs and plants, provide fair (and fun!) working conditions, and are otherwise sustainable or restorative.  Common goals, demonstrated effort, and hopefully a dash of idealism should be all that are required to be in the “good farm” club.  And once we’re there together to work for a better future for farmers and eaters, maybe we can also remember that putting our work on a pedestal from which we look down at the deprived people who have to work in offices (many of whom will never want to be farmers and actually like their current jobs) is unlikely to win us additional support from the wider world.

Glorious Summer


Behold the greenness of June.  It’s hard to keep up with the vegetables and the weeds and mowing the grass once the days are long and the temperatures mild.  Look at how the garlic has grown, filling the straw-mulched space at the front of the field with green.  Behind them, this year’s potato crop has leaped out of the ground.


The quilt of red and green in this picture is a block of lettuce beds — lettuce is one of the most beautiful crops to grow.

Get more lettuce and potatoes in your life by signing up for one of our fall CSA shares!  The first delivery is at the end of August.  Get more information and sign up here.

Early March


The farm train really begins to pick up speed in March — the greenhouse fills up with plants, we get antsy about the soil drying out so we can till, the first farmers market suddenly seems much too soon… We rejoice in warmer days and longer days and the flowering plum trees.

In this picture, the beds closest to the camera are this year’s garlic, though you’ll have to take my word for it that there are lots of vigorous green spears poking through the mulch.  Two farmers are weeding the strawberry beds.  And the first seeds of the season are sown under row cover!  The word this morning is that the peas are already sprouting!

Newsletter Wk 4

This week on the farm we went on a field trip to Sequim to see Noahs’ Farm. Noah is a good friend of ours who has recently bought a 70 acre farm and already has two draft horses and two (soon to be trained) Oxen.  We were inspired by the vision that he and his farm partners have for the future of the land and re-inspired for our own relationship with this land and the work we are doing here on Whidbey Island.   After all- we are all working toward the same goal of re-localizing our food system and providing the opportunity for good people to be supported by good farmers who are caring thoughtfully for the precious thin layer of dirt on earth that ultimately feeds us all.

Noah is moving forward in engaging in relationship with animals to help him care for his soil.   We are also working with animals in relationship to our farm.    And last week we promised to begin the story of our most special chicken….

The Legend of Truffala” (part 1) as written by Sarah Gillett

When someone comes to the farm for the first time, they almost always point to the Long thin sandy colored hen with blue legs and a great tuft of feathers on her head and say, “What’s THAT?” That, my friends, is Truffula

Truffula arrived at our farm, a Seattle transplant among a flock of five. She was at the bottom of the social ladder (and social ladders matter in chicken circles) amongst her original flock and when she moved in with our larger flock of 11, she moved right to the bottom. She was nervous, flighty and always being chased away from the food. The other hens began to pull her feathers out and she developed a bald spot on her back. It was harder for her to see the world through her great shaggy mop of feathers and she was constantly peering and jerking and darting her head around in the effort to avoid these attacks. But Truffula was destined for greatness and she just wouldn’t take this hen pecked life laying down. Nope, not Truffula. She up and flew the coop. See, she is a slender bird and is more able to fly than the other heavier hens so when she discovered that she didn’t have to put up with this misery, she didn’t.

So where did she go? Well after wandering around the farm for a few weeks she found her way into the. . .turkey pen. Find out what happened then, next week….Stay Tuned!



Spring Reading Group

The farm is hosting a spring reading group for some south end folks – this past evening we reflected on what has brought us to farming.   Lots of things bring me here, but here is a poem that I wrote about why I farm – at least why I’m farming today!

Why I Farm…

Because onetime, backpacking with teens,
I saw one look forward, unknowningly at the curtain of green.
She found it fearful, unyielding, closed.
Today i watched a cormorant poop and dive.
Most birds poop before flying.
Are the mechanics of diving down perhaps like flying Up?
The cormorant returned to the surface
with a juvenile salmon flashing against the grey waterscape.

Its simple then – in this light.

I farm because I’m not a good fisherman
Because at the end of a long struggle
I confess I am lousy with math.
Now, dogged and desprite
I have a lot – riding – on vegetables.

I farm because in an age of too much, too soon, too fast
with an ethic of buy now. pay later
dirt, sunshine, fungus
Too much (dirt)
Too little (sun)
Too complex (fungus)

Beckons me – slow down, play, touch, smell… pay attention. Be present.
Right here. Breath deep – right now.

I farm because – it seems to me – it matters.
Otherwise I live the grand distraction
Of a career in which I know all the wrong things do.

That is it. It matters
I farm because it it is the only way I know
to be honest in confronting epic global change.
It is the best way I know how to alive and humble.




Hey, we have beez!!! Thousands of them! Can you see the Queen? 



But we still really love all the other animals we have. Especially these two, which are having a wonderful April day just haning out on top of the bathtub.

Breaking Ground

When the sun comes out the to-do list grows as quick as the grass, which is really exciting.  Beth and I just got into the lower fields for the first time today and it felt SO good. The potential becomes so much more real once the ground has been broken. To break ground we used our NEW Kabota tractor (!!!!) to run a chisel plow and a really nice set of discs that we found on the property. They work really well, but are pretty rusty and will need a little TLC, a few cans of WD-40 and some new bolts if we want them to keep working after this season. The quackgrass made it pretty difficult for the chisel Plow and the discs, but nothin a little repetition can’t fix. 🙂

We’ve also put in a ton of hours building our greenhouse and there are a ton of little lettuces that are really happy to be in the ground. Soon it will be full with the 8 types of Tomatoes we’ve started in the greenhouse!

work party!

Many thanks to the folks who came out to the farm for our welcome spring work party!   Welcome spring we did!   I guess that there were about 70 people who stopped by and lent a hand.   An unbelievable amount of work was accomplished.   Here is a short list:

  • 50′ of new blackberry removed.
  • a gazillion native shrubs and 5 cedar trees planted along the creek.
  • 6, 112′ beds were dug in preparation for potato planting.
  • 4 planting beds were double dug in classic deep bed style.
  • 1.5 tons (give or take a little) of rock were removed from the field and carted in the truck to a new home.
  • the truck tire went flat…the truck tire was repaired.
  • a new door was hung in the barn.
  • the barn was prepared for the spring scarlet runner bean crop.
  • we found a killer wheel hoe from ages past buried in the blackberry (and a stirrup hoe).
  • lunch was served to everyone (many thanks to Joanne’s family)

The whole day was finished off by a potluck supper and dance at the Clinton Community center.   It was really magnificent to see all of the people gathered to help us begin our farm and to feel such support from so many people.



The Farm

SkyRoot Farm is a 20 acre farm on South Whidbey Island. Right now we are watching our starts grow and are patiently waiting for the alder and maple trees to leaf out so that we know spring is on its way. We have periodic work parties and invite you to watch our website (and/or join our e-mail listserve) to know when we are having our workparties. You can read about the events of the recent work party below!  Thanks for reading.

Creek Restoration

Today we had a work party to do some creek restoration. We learned that although many hands don’t make light work, they do get ALOT done. We reclaimed this creek and will soon plant some native plants.


The creek runs through alot of the property, so if you missed out today, DON’T PANIC, I’m sure there will be more chances to help out