Historic Day on Lopez Island

2017 grads.jpg

The second Saturday of June comes close to being a Lopez Island holiday. That’s high school graduation day, and it’s a community event. This year was no exception, but the celebration was exceptional for at least five reasons. That’s the number of graduates in the Class of 2017, the smallest class in nearly fifty years.

Those five (and their families) organized the celebration, maintaining many of the ceremony’s traditions—and adding a few twists. smiles.jpgAs usual, the students wore black caps and gowns as they entered the gymnasium. More than one mortarboard listed to the side as the graduates strolled through an arbor, a local bagpiper setting the pace. And as always, the audience remained standing through the Star Spangled Banner, this year played by one of the honorees on an electric guitar, Jimi Hendrix-style.

While there might be disadvantages to such a small class size, a number of benefits were evident. Instead of just one student speaker, all five addressed the crowd. Each of their short speeches included gratitude for feeling part of this community, whether they’d lived here since infancy or arrived in the past year or two. As one newcomer said, “I felt this was home.” One of the teachers spoke about each student as well, identifying their individual strengths and growth, as well as their commitment to question and understand. Two of them want to become carpenters, two plan to study engineering, and one hopes to work as an EMT or paramedic.

I sat near the back of the audience, watching family members nod their heads and smile, just as I had done seventeen years earlier for my own kids. I could tell that a man sitting in the front row was listening intently, jotting notes, and reveling in the celebration along with everyone else. The student who had written him to ask if he’d give the graduation address said, “Please welcome Governor Jay Inslee,” and the audience rose to their feet and applauded as he bounded up the steps of the stage.

Governor Inslee is no stranger to island communities; he’s from Bainbridge Island, and his father spent much time in his final years on Lopez. The governor expressed his pleasure at being invited and then made a claim that is hard to dispute. “Pound for pound, this is the best class in history,” he said.

Evidently, the governor likes making history. He did so recently when he joined the governors of California and New York to form the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the Paris Accord. As of June 7, twelve states and Puerto Rico have joined the alliance, and ten more governors plus the District of Columbia have expressed support. This Washingtonian appreciates Governor Inslee’s leadership on climate change and many other issues. From the cheers and whistles from the crowd, many of my fellow Lopezians do, too.

But he received the most thunderous applause for his follow-up to the historic nature of the small graduating class. He stood a little straighter at the podium and looked out to the crowd. “I’m the first governor in history,” he boomed, “to speak at a graduation wearing a shirt I picked out at the Take-It-Or-Leave-It, thirty-five minutes before the ceremony!” The crowd’s reaction made it clear everyone understood that the Washington governor had gone to our local recycling center at “the dump” to find the blue-and-white-checked shirt he wore under his navy blue suit jacket.

gov at tioli
courtesy Lopez Solid Waste Program

He showed further knowledge of the island when he spoke about waving to all cars, a practice that’s earned Lopez the title of “The Friendly Isle.” He urged the Class of 2017 to use that Friendly Isle awareness to go out to “create a Friendly World.”

The tone grew more serious, though, as the governor reminded us all, “This class faces a threat no other generation has.” He then offered a mini-lesson in what some call climate change’s equally evil twin—ocean acidification. The release of carbon dioxide from industrial and agricultural activities has changed seawater chemistry throughout the world. Inslee’s message included the sobering fact that over the past 200 years, the Salish Sea that surrounds our island has become 30% more acidic. According to the Smithsonian, that’s faster than any known change in ocean chemistry in the last 50 million years.

It will take more than wearing recycled clothes to restore the ocean’s chemical balance (though every effort helps). I suspect that these five graduates will be among those of their generation working to make the sea—and the world—more friendly. THAT will also make history.

grads w gov (1)
Photo courtesy Lopez Island School District

BOUNTY “Know Your Farmer” Exhibit at Lopez Library

Many thanks to Sue Roundy, the BOUNTY team, and Lopez Island Library for another viewing of some of the images and profiles from the “Know Your Farmer” exhibit.  This reblog from the BOUNTY post should whet your appetite for both the exhibit and the forthcoming book, BOUNTY – Lopez Island Farmers, Food, and Community. Scheduled for release in October,  the book will include recipes, too, by Lopez Island chef Kim Bast.

Bon appétit!

The BOUNTY “Know Your Farmer” Photo Exhibit is returning to the Lopez Library from July 15 – August 26. View 14 stunning photographs by Steve Horn, Summer Moon Scriver, and Robert S. Harrison with farmer profiles from Iris Graville. The goal of this exhibit is to inspire you to get to know your local farmers and […]

via “Know Your Farmer” Exhibit at Lopez Library! — Bounty

The Perfect Pairing

callings-jacket-218x320H@W Cover LG (2)

A sip of wine and a bite of food—when matched in a complementary way—dance in my mouth, the liquid and the morsel swaying in rhythm. Each is enhanced by the other, and the two together create a new pleasure—the perfect pairing. I discovered a similar delight last week when I dipped into Dave Isay’s new book Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work. In my view, Callings pairs perfectly with Hands at Work, the book I collaborated on with photographer Summer Moon Scriver in 2009.

daveisayDave Isay is the creator and president of StoryCorps, the nation’s largest oral history project. Founded in 2003 with the idea that everyone has an important story to tell, StoryCorps’ approach is elegantly simple.branding_icon-b191d052a6030c56b3157fbe4cda3a9db033f161

Two people sit in a soundproof recording booth in Chicago, San Francisco, or Atlanta, or in mobile storybooths that travel the country, and for 40 minutes they ask the questions they’ve always wanted to ask each other. So far the organization has recorded 60,000 stories, all archived at the Library of Congress. Many of them also end up in the Storycorps podcast.

33Callings is the fifth book from the organization. For this one, Isay narrowed the focus to stories that celebrate the passion, determination, and courage it takes to pursue work that’s about more than just making a living. He heard in these stories the same sense of being called to work that I saw in a 2004 exhibit of Summer Moon Scriver’s black-and-white photographs of people’s hands. I was particularly drawn to the images of strong, weathered, and muscled hands engaged in the work of knitting, kneading dough, digging potatoes, and spinning wool. 2They suggested to me that these people were not only willing to labor with their hands, they were nourished by those acts. As a writer, I immediately wanted to give voice to their stories.

18Summer and I had no difficulty finding a cross-section of people who rely on their hands for their work in our small, rural community in northwest Washington, though we did venture beyond our home for a few profiles. Most people were humble when asked to participate, doubting that their work, their stories, and their hands could be of any interest or importance. Yet as we talked with and photographed them at work, their fervor for painting, weaving, fishing, cooking, quilting, sculpting, boat-building, puppeteering, and even car repair was palpable and exhilarating.

As in Callings, some of the people we interviewed came to their work early in life and had a sense of finding their right place; others were on second or third careers, having found their current work later. Some were nudged into their work by someone else or were caught up in an element of romance and mystery.

Both books include stories of people stumbling into their work, responding to a strong pull to do something other than what they’d planned. For many, this clarity came in an instant as in one of my favorite pieces in Callings. An ink (as in tattoo ink) removal specialist named Dawn described it this way:

I went to school for laser tattoo removal, and the moment that I put the laser in my hands, I had one of those aha moments that you hear about but you wonder if they’ll ever happen to you. I just knew this was going to be my career. It felt so right.

 Dawn’s feeling of rightness takes on deep poignancy in her Storycorps conversation with one of her clients who, like Dawn, had been in an abusive relationship. Dawn tells that she removes those women’s tattoos free of charge.

Even though none of the people in Hands at Work used the term “calling,” many of them expressed a sense of guidance for their work coming from something outside of themselves. Here’s how vibraphonist Hawk Arps described it:

When I make music, it’s not about me. It’s something grander, a beauty out there to be witnessed through the senses. That’s why I play music – to open people to that beauty.



Every one of the thirty-five people I interviewed for Hands at Work expressed thanks for being watched and listened to as they went about the work that feeds their souls. Their gratitude was a surprise; I had underestimated how rare it is for people to really listen as we talk about our work. The power of being listened to, particularly about work, is equally evident in Callings.

I learned the lesson about listening again this past year as I interviewed twenty-eight farmers for the BOUNTY project. When the stories, photographs, and recipes from those farms and farmers come out in a book this fall, I think they’ll also pair perfectly with Callings.

Christine Lopez havest 2014-3064



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.