Know Your Farmer

chevreMost Sundays after Quaker Meeting, I go shopping. That means walking a few yards from the house where we gather at Sunnyfield Farm to the self-serve refrigerator at the farm’s licensed goat dairy. There I pick up a tub of chèvre. A couple of weeks ago I also found jars of feta in the fridge and chose one of those as well. To “check out,” I note my purchases in a spiral-bound notebook that sits on a nearby table and deposit cash or a check in the payment box there.

Andre and Elizabeth Entermann of Sunnyfield are among the Lopez Island farmers I know and rely on for my household’s food. Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know more about twenty-eight local farms (like Sunnyfield) that are participating in BOUNTY – Lopez Island Farmers, Food, and Community.

bounty-poster-fall-2015v3This weekend, more of my fellow Lopezians will be able to get to know their farmers through the Know Your Farmer photography exhibit at Lopez Center. It opens with a reception on Friday, October 23rd, 5-7 PM and will be on display until November 7th. The exhibit also will be featured the next night, October 24th, at the LCLT’s Annual Harvest Dinner.

Here’s a sneak preview of the exhibit that includes framed color photographs of each farm as well as a black-and-white portrait and profile of the farmers. Think of what follows as an appetizer, starting with an excerpt from the introduction to the exhibit and then images and profiles from two of the farms.

Know Your Farmer

Photography Exhibit

“Our dream is that the community will feed itself. The only question people will ask about their food is which of their neighbors’ farms it came from.”  

                                                         ~ Henning Sehmsdorf, S&S Homestead Farm

Artistic Project Manager, Sue Roundy, conceived of BOUNTY as a way to use photographic art to recognize the abundance of fresh, healthy food grown and raised on Lopez Island. In the project’s first year, Lopez Island photographers Robert Harrison, Steve Horn, and Summer Moon Scriver photographed the farmers, their land, and the food they produce.  Their stunning images premiered in October 2014 in a color slide show during the LCLT’s annual Harvest Dinner.

Phase II of BOUNTY is the “Know Your Farmer” exhibit. Sue, Steve, Summer Moon, and Robert chose from among hundreds of farm photographs for those that represent the diversity (and beauty) of farming on Lopez Island today. Lopez author Iris Graville wrote the profiles that accompany the farmers’ portraits; she developed those brief biographies from the farmers’ responses to the following questions:

  • What three words describe what inspires you in your work?
  • Why do you farm?
  • What are you most proud of in your work?
  • What has been your biggest challenge?
  • How would you complete this sentence – One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a farmer is…?

The project’s third phase, a book including the photographs and profiles as well as recipes, is scheduled for completion in 2016.

We encourage you to view this exhibit from two perspectives. First, stand back and take in the expanse of the photographs. “There’s a lot of agriculture, both large- and small-scale, happening on Lopez that so many people don’t know about,” says Ken Akopiantz of Horse Drawn Farm.

Then, look again. Look at the photographs of the individual farms and the accompanying portraits and profiles. Todd Goldsmith and Diane Dear of T&D Farms suggest that BOUNTY offers “…a little insight into why we farmers chose to do what we do, and why we chose Lopez.”


T & D Farms – Todd Goldsmith and Diane Dear

plants, animals, love


“Farming is equal parts science and magic that allows us to express our love of nature, good food, community, and hard work.”

“It’ll be great—we’ll always have a project!” That’s what Diane Dear and Todd Goldsmith thought when they bought a 40-acre parcel that was once part of the 300-acre Ellis Ranch. Since then, they’ve had plenty of projects. At the time of their purchase, a well was the only improvement on the parcel that was in a San Juan Preservation Trust easement to preserve farmland and wetlands.

With the help of Lopez architects Nancy and Joe Greene, Todd and Diane developed a plan for a working farm to sustainably raise eggs, vegetables, fruit, hay, and plant starts. They began with 2 irrigation ponds, utility trenches, power and water lines, and limited clearing of forest. They also plowed and developed a 2-acre fenced area for row crops, raised beds, and a small fruit orchard. The first building to go up was a tractor shed, then a chicken coop and barn, and finally, the house. Diane and Todd have learned, as they say, “to enjoy the chaos,” knowing that the list of things that need to be done in a day may change in a second depending on the weather, pest damage, animal needs, or equipment repairs. “We can’t imagine any more fulfilling way to spend our time.”

Christine Lopez havest 2014-3064

Lopez Harvest – Christine Langley

beauty, flavor, community

Christine Lopez havest 2014-3092

“In farming, as in life, challenges and lessons are two sides of the same coin.”

For Christine Langley, farming has been her life, her living, and her livelihood for over half of the years she’s been alive. She loves to be outside and get dirty, both of which she does to raise organic salad greens, herbs and other produce. Farming isn’t a static picture for Christine—it’s a process, with challenges and rewards that are the foundation of her daily life and commitment to sustainable land stewardship.

“We don’t have much rich farmland for row crops on Lopez,” she says, “so most of us are in a constant dance to balance income-producing crops with inputs to improve the soil and, therefore, the harvest.” Some days Christine revels in the “chaotic places” on the farm where her plantings of lupines, crimson clover and many other “non-crop” plants naturalize with local weeds to create environments where pollinators and other beneficial insects thrive. Other days, she celebrates planting into soil that started out rather thin, but after years of cultivation with compost and cover crops, is much improved. “Gratifying too,” she says, “are the times a customer expresses enthusiastic appreciation for the fruits of my labor.”

~   ~   ~

For readers who live nearby, I hope you’ll be able to see the exhibit. Contributions to BOUNTY will support the project’s efforts to help tell the Lopez food story and are greatly appreciated.

Afterthought #40 – Five Years of Good Tastes

This month’s Afterthought* finds me once again singing the praises of Barn Owl Bakery—a wood fired bakery on Lopez Island, WA.

HEader-NEW_SIMPLEI first tasted Barn Owl’s delicious artisan loaves in 2011 when Sage and Nathan, the bakery’s owners, moved to Lopez Island from Berkeley, CA. I wrote about how their immediate success at the weekly Farmers’ Market led to a Kickstarter campaign and the building of a certified, wood fired oven and bakery. Earlier this year, Barn Owl Bakery bumped up production to sell bread at Blossom Grocery on Lopez and the Food Co-Op on neighboring Orcas Island.

The opening of this year’s Farmers’ Market is a milestone for Barn Owl Bakery—it’s now been five years since Sage first brought a few dozen loaves of bread on a Saturday morning and sold out within a couple of hours. It’s hard to believe perfect bread could be even better, but Sage and Nathan keep raising the bar with new ingredients and styles of their wild leavened breads and treats.

breadsMy current favorites are the big, crusty loaves of Country Miche and the Lopez Sandwich loaf, made with Lopez-grown and -milled Fortuna wheat. But then, it’s hard to resist the rosemary batard, the rustic rolls, the multigrain wholegrain, the cinnamon rolls, the rhubarb scones, the lemon chevre (from Sunnyfield Farm) rugelach, the flatbread (Olive oil, Sunnyfield chevre, pesto, kale)…

Congratulations, and thanks, to Sage and Nathan! I can’t wait to see (and taste) what the next five years bring for Barn Owl Bakery.

N & S

* “Afterthoughts” are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, maybe even bumper stickers.

Eating Real*

*Warning to non-meat eaters:  this post includes stories and images about beef, chicken, and lamb.  Dark chocolate and salt appear, too.
A school bus-yellow forklift hummed through the crowd at last Saturday’s Eat Real Fest at Jack London Square in Oakland, CA. People veered to the left or right, like an opening stage curtain.
“Stand back, folks,” called two guys, one on each side of half of the carcass of a butchered cow swinging from an S-hook on the forklift’s overhead bar. Bystanders’ mouths dropped open as they reached for their phones, snapped photos, and followed the procession to a butchering demonstration at one of the Festival’s stages.  Sweat trickled down my back in the afternoon heat as I joined the throng.
As the carcass coursed through the foodie crowd, comments such as “Wow, beautiful!” outnumbered the few, “Eww, gross!” reactions. Four teams of award-winning butchers  awaited the arrival of the half of beef at the festival’s makeshift butcher shop.  Fifty or so festival-goers perched on hay bales as Eat Real Festival founder Anya Fernald gave some background on this event, now in its sixth year.
Eat Real, a three-day festival of “food-centric fun and epicurious education,” brings together seventy-plus Bay area food-makers to focus on food craft, street food, artisan beers, local wines, and food choices that feature sustainable, local ingredients. There’s no admission fee for the almost 200,000 people who attend the festival, and vendors charge no more than $8 for the foods they serve (many items cost $5 or less, and free samples were abundant). The festival was founded by a group of people with a social change agenda to promote delicious, convenient, affordable, and sustainable food.  In addition, 100% of the festival’s profits go to the Food Craft Institute (FCI), a non-profit educational institution, also started by Anya. FCI combines classroom and hands-on teaching of traditional food-making techniques that date back centuries, alongside contemporary entrepreneurship, to create viable food-related businesses.
I first learned about the festival from my daughter, who works for Anya at her other food venture, Belcampo, a farm-to-fork organic meat production company (read about our visit to the farm in my August 25 post, “Vacation Time”).  Belcampo provided the grass-fed beef for the Eat Real butchery demonstration, and more than one of the butchers praised the meat’s quality and its high level of marbling (those bits of fat that add so much to the flavor).  
I’m an enthusiastic omnivore, and I’ve learned a lot in recent years about the downside of the U.S. food industry as well as efforts to improve it, so I was delighted to attend this celebration of good food. 
But, the festival isn’t all about meat  (though there was plenty of that, including lamb gyros and grilled chicken). 

The first stop on my tour among the food trucks and tents was at Sweet Bar Bakery. Who could pass up S’mores on home-made graham crackers with dark chocolate ganache, surrounded by marshmallow crème (carmelized before my eyes with a mini-blow torch)?
And there were fresh vegetable juices by the Beet Generation Juice Co.,
organic pickles,
and wood-fired Margherita pizza.

Cooking demonstrations broke up the eating, and I picked up some tips about making soup from scratch (good stock and fresh veggies are key) and Indian curries.
Chef Preeti Mistry of Juhu Beach Club advised roasting spices that may have been languishing on the spice rack to bring out their flavors; she also whipped up a mouth-tingling curry of chicken thighs, kale, onion, and jasmine rice (more free samples).

I couldn’t resist bringing home a few treats such as a unique finishing salt created by Omnivore Salt

(visit the company’s website for a charming food story about owner Angelo Carro and the recipe he learned from his grandmother during his boyhood in Sicily). I bought a small pack of the salt and was happy, though skeptical, when the vender (photo) told me the company recently shipped some packages to Lopez Island. Sure enough, earlier this week when I went to Blossom Grocery, Omnivore Salt was on the shelf. 

Blossom co-owner, Brian Kvistad, confirmed the story I’d heard at Eat Real that the company persevered through shipping challenges to get their product to our community’s small natural foods store.

Wondering what happened at the butchering demonstration? In the afternoon sun, the butchers wielded knives and hand saws (“cross-fit with half a beef,” Anya said), pausing occasionally to wipe sweat from their foreheads and to slide knife blades on the sharpening rods they all wore in the belts around their waists.  Anya’s questions about the characteristics of the various cuts led the butchers to explain flavors and cooking techniques, the kind of consumer education they all provide in their respective butcher shops.  And for the Eat Real crowd,  a few lessons in how using the whole animal adds to the viability of organic meat production.

Over the course of an hour, that half beef became roasts, steaks, ribs, bone marrow, and flank steak.  

Doesn’t get much more real than that.

Knowing the Farms That Feed Us

When Summer Moon Scriver and I collaborated on the book Hands at Work, we talked with and photographed a number of farmers. One of them, Henning Sehmsdorf, offered this vision:
Our dream is the community will feed itself. The only question people will ask about their food is which of their neighbors’ farms it came from. We believe we’re the future.

Photo courtesy
Hands at Work – Portraits & Profiles
of People Who Work with Their Hands

Two Lopez Island organizations—Lopez Community Land Trust (LCLT)and Lopez Locavores —have embarked on a three-year project to help Henning’s dream (and that of many of his neighbors) become a reality. BOUNTY – Lopez Island Farms, Food, and Community will tell the Lopez food story through photographs and profiles of twenty-seven Lopez Island farms(including S & S Homestead Farm, home to Henning and his wife, Elizabeth Simpson).
Sue Roundy, a past member of the board of the LCLT and current secretary of the Lopez Locavores, conceived of the project. “It’s time to celebrate our farmers and thank them for their hard work and delicious food,” Sue says. As Artistic Project Manager for Bounty, Sue has put together a team of photographers, interviewers, advisors, a graphic designer, and a writer for this effort.   In the project’s first year, photographers Steve Horn, Robert Harrison, and Summer Moon Scriver will develop a color slide show of the farmers, their land, and the food they produce.  The show will premier October 25, 2014 to celebrate the LCLT’s 25th anniversary at the organization’s Harvest Dinner.  The slide show also will be presented at the San Juan County Agricultural Summit in March 2015.
In Fall 2015, framed black-and-white portraits of farmers will be exhibited, first at Lopez Center in conjunction with the LCLT Harvest Dinner, then at Lopez Library and the Lopez Post Office. I’m honored to be involved in the project’s third phase, publication of a book including the photographs, stories and recipes. Bounty – Lopez Island Farmers, Food, and Community is scheduled for release in 2016.
The photographers and interviewers are documenting the process of telling the Lopez food story at the BOUNTY website.  Notes and images from farms such as Sunnyfield Farm Goat Dairy,
Julie, from Helen’s Farm, at the
Lopez Farmers’ Market
Sweet Grass Farm Beef, and Helen’s Farm  are filled with the same kind of passion that Summer and I found when we talked to people for Hands at Work. I look forward to discovering what themes will emerge from those whose hands are in the soil, those who witness cycles of birth and death of their animals, and those for whom their work is a way of life in which it really matters if it rains or not. 

BOUNTY is just the next phase in the LCLT’s history of supporting local agriculture  through its Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) program. It also joins the international movement to promote local, sustainable, seasonal foods and eating, ideas brought to public awareness by authors such as Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), and Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon (The 100-Mile Diet). Most recently, Vicki Robin chronicles the experience of local eating even closer to home with her latest book, Blessing the Hands That Feed Us. She committed to a month of eating only food grown within ten miles of her home on nearby Whidbey Island, WA and then wrote about it. During a visit last month to Lopez, Vicki talked about how she was “…surprised, peeved, moved, deprived, curious and empowered…” by her month of hyper-local eating and how she fell in love with the hands and lands that fed her. 

As so often happens, one person’s experience inspires others, and now the LCLT and the Lopez Locavores are organizing the “Lopez Bounty Food Experiment.” Beginning this September, participants will choose a month, or part of a month, to dedicate themselves to eating locally and blogging about it.  They’ll share what they miss most, what they’re most grateful for, and what new local foods they discover.  Interested? Contact the LCLT at
Whether you participate in the Lopez Bounty Food Experiment or not, you can be part of the community-funded effort to celebrate local farms and farmers. Contributions to BOUNTY will support the creation of the slide show, photography exhibit, and book that all will help tell the Lopez food story. I hope you’ll join us.

What questions do youask about the food you eat? What do you know about the farms that feed you?