SkyRoot Farm is a 20 acre, certified organic, farm on the east side of South Whidbey Island. We follow an ecosystems approach to farming and carry regenerative agriculture ideals through all that we do. Our fields consist of a constantly changing patchwork of diversified vegetables. We use no pesticides or herbicides on our crops, and when weeds are present we pull them the old fashioned way. These weeds, as well as vegetable residue and even waste from our chicken and goat pens, end up in piles in our composting facility. We turn these piles regularly to aid in the bacterial digestion of the waste, and end up with a great organic compost. When our compost is ready we spread it back on our field beds and the cycle begins again.
This year we are expanding the No-Till section of our farm! No-till farming is a growing trend in small organic farms across the country, and is an obvious choice for our ecosystems approach! By not tilling you reduce disturbance to soil organisms; these organisms can aid in breaking down dead plant matter, keep pest populations down, and some even provide nutrients directly to plant roots. Tilling causes in-soil fertility to wash away more easily with rain; exposes stored carbon to the atmosphere where it can be released as carbon dioxide; and dredges up rocks and weed seeds that make our job as farmers so much more difficult! By not tilling we’ve seen great benefits so far, and can’t wait to see the changes to come!
Stopping by at the farm on any given Wednesday (to pick up your CSA box or Virtual Farmstand order!), you’ll see Max and Franny hard at work keeping this system running!
Meet your farmers:
Eli Wheat (2020 Farm Advisor)
When I began my Ph.D. our graduate program adviser, Dr. Toby Bradshaw, asked us all what we’d like to do when we finished. In a mix of foolhardy resolve and sheepishness, I exclaimed that I would like to become a farmer. Now I have a Ph.D and I am a farmer, and I remain very excited about applying the systems thinking that I have learned as an ecologist to our small-scale diversified farm. My hope is that we can work toward a goal of developing a farm that is ecologically, economically and personally sustainable, including setting an example for farms everywhere by increasing the organic content of our soil to grow better vegetables and combat climate change!
I love to eat. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner (second breakfast, tea-time, and dessert), food has always motivated me more than just about anything else. Despite this deep passion for food, it wasn’t until taking classes at UW that I started learning about the deep problems within our global food production system. Learning about these issues pushed me to learn more about health, plants, and food production; and eventually landed me in one of Eli’s agriculture classes. After that, I was hooked. I had found a job where I could help the planet and its people, do work I genuinely enjoyed doing, and satiate my endless appetite. Everybody eats, and everybody deserves to eat good food.
Though I grew up in the Seattle suburbs, I got my first taste of farming early on while spending summers at my aunt and uncle’s farm in North Dakota–helping in their large garden, showing dairy cattle, and gaining an understanding of what it means to run a farm. This instilled a love of getting dirty and growing things and led me to convince my parents to plant an ever expanding garden (complete with a flock of backyard chickens and a herding dog)! Eventually, my interest in health and sustainability and passion for the outdoors and cooking up tasty food conspired, leading me to pursue a career in farming, first via the UW Student Farm and then here at SkyRoot!
One of my early memories is of pulling out a line of weedy plants growing in a suspiciously straight line right where I had sown Shasta daisy seeds. Interestingly, no Shasta daisies ever bloomed there. In middle school, our weekly visits to an organic farm led to my first realization that I could turn playing in the dirt into an actual career. While attending UW, my habit of hanging around the Botany Greenhouse and interests in ecology and sustainability found a single outlet in the student farm. After college, I began my farming education with two internships and then started a small farm in southwest Washington. I appreciate all that I learned during my nomadic farm years, but am glad to settle in and see multiple seasons here on Whidbey.