Photo taken at Golden Glen Creamery / Jensen & Son Dairy in Bow, WA

Monday, October 31, 2011

Side Dish: Running Away, a poem

There are so many beautiful roads to run away to in Skagit and the North Cascades. I hope to never stop finding them.
"Yah, running away, driving fast in one direction and never stopping until the cops run you down, the car runs out of gas, and you are too tired to think about anything ever again. Running away, hard and fast and long. Finally, what mattered and worried and feared no longer has the same hold. And, you can finally find a toe hold into some rest. Not peace, but rest for a moment. And, that little moment lets a ray of hope land. Not conscious hope, but the glimmer of freedom from what distorted the conscious mind and stirred out of balance the thoughts and emotions. A little window at the edge of the universe. No matter about the dragons and demons at the edge of known existence, at least they are out there....and just maybe they will eat all our inequities for lunch so we can be free and beautiful and perfect, and so we can return to a perfect place of existence."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

TEDxDirigo - Roger Doiron - A Subversive Plot: How to Grow a Revolution in Your Own Backyard

The video of this TED talk is about 18 minutes in length. Give a listen with your morning coffee.

For those who aren't familiar with TED you MUST check out their About page. You can follow them on Twitter @TedTalks and on Facebook at The project is doing good things in the world.

A few of my notes from Roger's talk follow:

90% of vegetable varieties went extinct in the 20th century. (source?)
 31 minutes. The average amount of time the American family spends preparing, eating, and cleaning up after meals, per day. (per day? dreadful)
 Gardens grow important economic savings for families. (amen!)

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Going to Gothberg Farms

Will be at Gothberg Farms in Bow in a few minutes. Decent afternoon in this part of the valley, overcast but not raining and I see shadows on the ground so I have hopes that the afternoon. I'm looking forward to visiting Rhonda Gothberg's farm, seeing her goats, getting some cheese, and hearing about how her life led to a dairy at 50 years young. Rhonda sounds like a fun and inspiring person.

Stay tuned, I'm still editing the video of my visit with Anne at Blue Heron Farm and Kai at Hedlin's Family Farm. Those will be posted shortly, too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

a morsel of wisdom from Dwight Eisenhower

about farming and government ...
Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Coming Soon: Rhonda Gothberg + Gothberg Farms = CHEESE, BABY, CHEESE

Thrilled to say that it looks like I'll (we'll) get to meet Rhonda Gothberg of Gothberg Farms in Bow very soon! Hopefully we can coordinate in the next week or two! I'll have video and photographs to share of my time with her and I absolutely will hope to leave her farm with a collection of to-die-for cheeses which I will brag about for days and days.

As a primer, get on Rhonda's website and read about the farm and goats. You can follow her on Facebook and on Twitter as @gothbergfarms.

Btw, you can also follow me on Twitter as @urbantweeter
And be sure to follow this blog (upper right-hand corner) if you like what you see

And with that, I leave you with a poem by one of my favorite authors of all time ...

by Shel Silverstein  
I wrote such a beautiful book for you
'Bout rainbows and sunshine
And dreams that come true.
But the goat went and ate it
(You never knew that he would),
So I wrote you another one
Fast as I could.
Of course it could never be
Nearly as great
As that beautiful book
That silly goat ate.
So if you don't like
This new book I just wrote
Blame the goat.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Video & pics from the Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms 2011

Do you know how far cows can smell? I had no idea!!!!!! I learned the answer at Golden Glen Creamery / Jensen & Son Dairy in Bow, WA. Watch this short video and you'll know too, you can tell all your friends and sound super smart at trivia. 

Couldn't leave Golden Glen Creamery without getting some chocolate milk, eggs, and variety of cheeses (plus an assortment of other stuff). Got apples, strawberries, honey, raspberry jam, and grilled corn from Sakuma Farms. Got some pie apples and a couple bottles of wine from Eagle Haven Winery, and some yummy felted soap from Country Time Alpacas ... and the FUZZZZZZZZIEST little teddy bear with the softness of baby alpacas. 

Always a good time! 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Video of my visit with Steve Sakuma of Sakuma Bros Farms and Market in Burlington, WA

It was a windy July morning in the valley when I was fortunate to have the booted, bundled up, and jacket-clad company of Steve Sakuma, a 3rd generation farmer at his family farm Sakuma Bros Farms and Market in Burlington, WA.

I wanted to get this posted so I'll be adding my photographs this evening. I lamely didn't ask anybody to take a picture of me and Steve so one of these days I hope to run into him so that can happen.

About the farm ... Sakuma business extends from Washington to Oregon and California. They're tractor drivers AND strategic business people. They're 100% "vertically integrated" in the small fruit industry which (in smaller words) means their hands are in every aspect of their farm from research to planting to harvesting to processing to selling to operating a wholesale and retail nursery, etc.

About the people ... Steve's talks about his Japanese ancestors and their farming on Bainbridge Island, how the Japanese Internment affected his family, how their business has developed over the generations, the family philosophy about the farm, thoughts on the future of the farm, thoughts about agriculture, commercial and small farms, and work of a farmer these days, and American ... America.

What I learned from talking with Steve could fill pages but the purpose of this blog isn't to read my writing, it's to see the farmers and hear what they have to say. I found Steve to be quite the conversationalist with sprinkles of dry wit and humor to flavor his experience and wisdom. Steve gives a good *serious face* yet don't let that fool you, he's also a really funny guy.

So without further ado, here's my chat with farmer Steve Sakuma. I split the video into two parts, Part 1 is about 14 minutes Part 2 is about 12 minutes.



Sakuma Bros Farms and Market
17790 Cook Road
Burlington WA 98233
(360) 757-8004

Sunday, July 31, 2011

In the works ... Blue Heron Farm & Hedlin Family Farm

The past few days of sunshine and summer are so welcome here right now by chilly irritable pale people AND acre upon acre of crops that rely on the sun's rays to warm roots and ripen fruit. It'll be interesting to see what August brings and when we'll start seeing roadside stands of sweet farm fresh corn 5 or 6 for $1 instead of .78 cents EACH like I saw in a Skagit Valley grocery yesterday.

Just a few days ago I was fortunate enough to spend just over three hours on the farm with the incredible Anne Schwartz of Blue Heron Farm in Rockport. When I say fortunate I mean fortunate and I think the people who know Anne understand how lucky I feel. Anne is a force ... as a woman, a farmer, agricultural activist, and ambassador of food awareness. I built an image around everything I've heard and read about Anne (okay let's see, she's a powerhouse of a lady so if she were a horse I'm thinking she'd be a Clydesdale, after 30 someodd years of farming her body has got to be worn by the sun, after all those years of living upriver in the foothills of the Cascades *we're talking serious country* she's got to be uber self-reliant, more than a little opinionated, and how could you not be a little grumpy living in the constant dew of Rockport, oh and she probably doesn't have the inclination or time to spend with people like me who obviously have too much time.) So, when I realized that the attractive, slender, petite woman with a long ponytail and kind smile who stepped out of a little red pickup truck was Anne I was pretty darn surprised. More about Ms. Anne when I get all of that video edited! Her stories are really amazing and she has an abundance of experience, knowledge and wisdom to share.

I also got to spend time at Hedlin Family Farm in La Conner walking part of the farm and talking with 4th generation farmer Kai Otteson. During my time at Hedlin, I was introduced to so much technical stuff about seeds, equipment, crop rotation etc. that I'm glad I was recording because my brain started to swim. Kai's a young and very articulate guy who grew up in Alaska studied environmental literature and worked summers on the farm before he landed in the valley full time. Again, lots of video to edit and stories and perspective to share.

And I'm still working on editing video from my visit with Steve Sakuma at Sakuma Brothers Farms.

Getting my laptop stolen really bites.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Comment

A very kind comment from a YouTuber about one of my videos of Katharine Isserlis at Well Fed Farms in Bow made my day.
You are a most engaging young woman/farmer Katharine. As a usually vegetarian/vegan for decades now...what a poignant observation - that our animals used for meat are not on this earth for very long, thus, deserve the best treatment we can offer them. How I wish everyone would awaken to this realization. I thank you both for this very informative and enjoyable series of chats.
I still can barely believe that people watch these videos and find something about the farmers to take away for themselves. I still can barely believe that this thing that I love to do is being so well received. This makes me scream like a girl. Which I am.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wednesday morning - come rain or shine - Sakuma Brothers Farms!

Yay! After seeing numerous black and white photographs of members of the Sakuma family from generations back I get to meet Steve who I believe is a 4th generation farmer at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Burlington. This is one of the most established farms in the valley and I can only imagine how many family members have worked it. The person behind the farmer ... stories! stories! stories!

I'll also get clarification about this excerpt from their website because among other things I have no idea what a caneberry plant is or what the total package they can provide us is. The education continues.

"Certified strawberry and caneberry plant nursery, small fruit production, processing, fresh market, and sales.

Sakuma Brothers is a family business spanning four generations with over 85 years experience in the small fruit industry. We can provide a total package to you - something that no other company in the small fruit industry can match."
Be sure to follow this blog if you're interested in my adventures with Skagit Valley farmers.

Friday, July 8, 2011

An exciting week to come

I'm really looking forward to next week.

I'll be learning something new at Well Fed Farms. I've only told a couple people what I'll be learning and they don't believe it. Most who know me won't believe what I'm going to do. That's all I'm saying now. STAY TUNED for the pictorial.

Looks like I'll also get to meet Anne Schwartz at Blue Heron Farm & Nursery. Anne's had her heart and hands in agriculture for over 30 years and has been at Blue Heron since 1979. Can't wait to take that drive down the North Cascades Highway to talk with her about her life as a New Jersey girl who ended up in Rockport, seriously the soggy foothills of the Cascades.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Learn what the National Young Farmers' Coalition is doing

Today I learned about the National Young Farmers' Coalition. Their mission: to help young people create sustainable lifelong occupations as farmers.

Thank! God!

This is important work. Most American farmers are in their 50s and 60s. Young people going into farming are the hope for keeping American farms and farming alive.

I support us in supporting farmers of every age.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Do you know what a CSA Food Box is? Learn what Community Supported Agriculture is & how it works

I've asked 57 people so far and wasn't too surprised that only a few people knew what Community Supported Agriculture was.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way that consumers can buy local seasonal fresh food direct from farmers. We pay a subscription fee or membership fee and each week we receive a box or bag of local fresh seasonal food, some foods you may have eaten before some you may not so food boxes are sort of like Christmas because you get surprises. This arrangement benefits both farmer and eater in a variety of ways, most important to me is receiving pure food and developing relationships with the farmers who grow the food.

Visit the Local Harvest website to learn more about CSAs and to find CSAs near you, your family, and friends because why not give CSA subscriptions to people you care about for birthdays, Christmas, wedding gifts, moving to a new area, etc. The gift of organic food is a terrific gift!

Currently the Local Harvest database lists 213 CSAs in the State of Washington!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Featured Farmer - Sarita Schaffer, Director at Viva Farms

Sarita Schaffer, the Director of Viva Farms in Burlington, WA, was the first person to say yes, come on up. So on Friday July 1st I got to see Viva Farms and talk with Sarita and six other farmers. I had a blast and hope to go back soon.

Here's Sarita's engaging and educational response to my question "What is a farmer?" She describes the many hats that modern farmers wear every day.

Everybody gave me such a big welcome and I drove away feeling blessed and intoxicated on inspiration about where this whole idea could lead.

Check out Viva Farms blog because it's a wealth of information.

I don't want to mess with an already fine wheel so here's an existing quote describing the mission of Viva Farms in a nutshell:

"Viva Farms is a project of, an international non-profit dedicated to recruiting, training and financing the next generation of sustainable farmers. The Viva Farms Incubator Program strengthens new and immigrant farmers by helping them overcome four common barriers to farm entry: 1) access to education, training and technical assistance; 2) access to capital and credit; 3) access to land; and 4) access to markets. Viva Farms offers bilingual Cultivating Success sustainable farming and agricultural business planning courses in partnership with WSU Skagit Extension and WSU's Latino Farming Program."

Graduates of the Cultivating Success series are provided the opportunity to implement their farm business plans (developed in the Agricultural Entrepreneurship course) at the Viva Farms Incubator Farm, located at the Port of Skagit. Incubator farmers enjoy access to greenhouse space, cultivation equipment, wash/process/pack facilities, technical assistance with organic production and business development and support with marketing, sales and distribution."

"Viva Farms is 2/3 of the way through the 3 year transition period for WSDA Organic certification. We employ cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that conserve resources, promote ecological balance, and promote biodiversity. We do not apply any pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or artificial fertilizers. In 2012, we will submit all of our farm records to the WSDA for Organic certification."


We can support Viva Farms by making tax deductible donations on their Donate page.

If you live in the area you can subscribe to receive a CSA food box.

If you don't live in the area but know someone who does why not give them the gift of a CSA food box? How cool would that be?!

Volunteer, arrange to go yourself or bring a friend or group.

Featured Farmers - Katharine Isserlis & Erik Olson at Well Fed Farms

On the afternoon of July 1st I spent some time visiting Katharine Isserlis at Well Fed Farms, the farm that she and her husband Erik Olson have in Bow, WA.

I had a great time with Katharine learning about her daily life as a young girl who farms and learning about their farm and the broiler chickens, meeting their Great Pyrenees puppy named Steve, two little pigs, flock of hens (aka the Ladies), and Irene the cow. Katharine tells interesting stories on video and you WILL NOT want to miss the story of how she learned to butcher a chicken. There’s so much cuteness on this farm that I could have stayed a lot longer, I really would have loved to play with the little pigs and given Irene a little brushing just to spend some time with her, not that she needs it she’s a soft cow. As for Steve, that wet-nosed bundle of white fluff could have kept me entertained all day long. I’ll definitely be going back.

Katharine and Erik sell eggs and raise and sell chickens during Spring and Summer and rabbits during Autumn and Winter. They grow some produce and used to offer CSAs but they don’t offer CSAs any longer. During my visit I got some kale and a broiler chicken, both were delicious.

As you can see, the video of Katharine is divided in three sections. Enjoy!

Part 1

 Part 2

 Part 3

Updates are posted at Well Fed Farms of what meat is available and when, you may even get lucky with some eggs. Go visit Katharine and Erik, they're only a few minutes west off I-5 at the Cook Road exit, super easy to get to.

Well Fed Farms
9402 Avon Allen Road
Bow WA 98232
tel (360) 708-0520
cell (509) 954-1739

Featured Farmers - Nelida Martinez and Lisette Flores at Viva Farms

Nelida and Lisette, the mother-daughter team that farms together as Pure Nelida, are energizer bunnies in disguise. I met them on July 1st, a sunny and warm day, and they were working hard at seeding their land at Viva Farms, happy and beaming smiles so wide you'd think they just won the lottery or something.

They grow over 70 varieties of vegetables along with NW and Oaxacan herbs and other crops. You can see them also at the Mount Vernon and Bow Farmers' Markets. Nelida used to farm other people's soil in an environment thick with toxic chemicals, now she farms her own land at Viva Farms using organic and sustainable methods.

My gut told me there was something special about these women, just a feeling I got standing with them. A couple days later I came across a story about Nelida's history that Sarita Schaffer had posted on Puget Sound Food Network's blog. After reading it I understood my intuition. You must read Nelida's story (click here), INSPIRATION IS GUARANTEED.

In this video Lisette tells a sweet story of family, hard work, and blessings.

Viva Farms is a joint venture of WSU Extension &, an international non-profit dedicated to helping new farmers get started by providing land, equipment and infrastructure, education, training and technical assistance (bilingual- Eng/Esp), marketing and distribution support and start-up loans.

We can support Viva Farms with tax deductible donations, subscribing to getting CSA food boxes, and volunteering all of which can be done at their website.

Featured Farmer - Regino Flores at Viva Farms

Regino Flores has been farming other people's land all his life. Now he's farming his own soil organically and sustainably at Viva Farms in Burlington, WA.

I met Regino during my visit on July 1st and he shares some stories as we stood in his fragrant red and green strawberry field that smelled absolutely delicious. Regino is a life-long farmer, husband and father (his children include twins). He's happy growing good food for us to eat and hopes we're content eating what he grows. Soon blueberries will added to his crops!

(Thanks to Sarita Schaffer, Director at Viva Farms, for translating for Regino)

Viva Farms is a joint venture of WSU Extension &, an international non-profit dedicated to helping new farmers get started by providing land, equipment and infrastructure, education, training and technical assistance (bilingual- Eng/Esp), marketing and distribution support and start-up loans.

We can support Viva Farms with tax deductible donations, subscribing to getting CSA food boxes, and volunteering all of which can be done at their website.

Featured Farmer - Dan Leuthy at Viva Farms

Dan Leuthy organically and sustainably farms a variety of crops on an acre of land at Viva Farms.

During my visit on July 1st Dan shared a lot about himself and his journey into farming after a 20+ year career as a physical therapist. Dan's a natural storyteller and I think you'll find him as inspiring as I did.

Viva Farms is a joint venture of WSU Extension &, an international non-profit dedicated to helping new farmers get started by providing land, equipment and infrastructure, education, training and technical assistance (bilingual- Eng/Esp), marketing and distribution support and start-up loans.

We can support Viva Farms with tax deductible donations, subscribing to getting CSA food boxes, and volunteering all of which can be done at their website.

Featured Farmer - David Youngquist, Program Manager & Field Educator

During my visit to Viva Farms in Burlington, WA, on Friday July 1st one of the people I met was David Youngquist, a humble and very likeable young guy whose family has been farming for over 100 years. Family happily ties David to agriculture and the challenges of farming keep him keeping on.

Viva Farms is a joint venture of WSU Extension &, an international non-profit dedicated to helping new farmers get started by providing land, equipment and infrastructure, education, training and technical assistance (bilingual- Eng/Esp), marketing and distribution support and start-up loans.

We can support Viva Farms with tax deductible donations, subscribing to getting CSA food boxes, and volunteering all of which can be done at their website.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I'm visiting two farms today and meeting the folks behind them

6:00 a.m.:
I'm pretty darn excited to be visiting the good people at Viva Farms in Burlington and Well Fed Farms in Bow today. You'll be learning what I learn soon so stay tuned!

9:00 p.m.:
Back home. What a fun full sunshiny day! I filmed 5 farmers at Viva Farms (including the Director Sarita Schaffer) and Katharine Isserlis at Well Fed Farms. Now comes the indoors stuff ... processing 6 videos and the photographs. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The First Post - Tah Dah!

Wow, this blog is finally developing. Much later than expected just like so many acres of crops throughout Skagit Valley that could use the medicine of serious doses of Sunshine Vitamin D. Strawberries are slowly ripening. Corn isn’t all the way sweet. Tomatoes, well they’re hangin’ around chillin’ on the vine waiting for sunny days.
This first post should probably introduce myself, say why I started this blog, what I hope to accomplish with it, and where I hope it leads. The usual FAQs.
WHO AM I? My name is Denice. Lived in greater Seattle always. My occupation is full-time real estate agent and part-time freelance legal secretary. I’m athletic and have lots of interests, mostly I love to laugh. I’m known to say REALLY?!? in a really high voice way too much. I have a Chihuahua named Tippy that I hope you’ll meet, a special Chihuahua for many reasons: gentle as a baby angel, doesn’t bite, doesn’t bark much, can squeal like a pig, models things I put on her. And believe it or not, she's a natural sheep herder.
WHY DID I START THIS BLOG? This blog came about as an extension of something I love, road trips! I love to drive. I love to travel. I love country roads, open spaces, tractors, and animals. Along with wandering around Skagit Valley, driving passed farmers working, visiting farms and livestock, and seeing fields of food and flowers I began getting lots of farm fresh and organic food here. Food straight from farmers and butchers that I trust.
WHAT DO I HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH? I love sharing food and road trip stories and that led to me wanting to put together some sort of resource to share the neat people, places and things I bump into. Most people have never been on a farm or met a farmer. We can learn about farms all day but what about the people, the people who are the farmers that own/operate the farm? I hope that some of my fun, silliness, and adventure are contagious and you catch it and give it to someone. I hope some of my adventures get you excited about taking a kid or friend to visit a farm, talk to someone who farms, get your hands on quality local food, maybe try to grow something to eat in a pot on your windsill or deck.
WHERE DO I HOPE IT ALL LEADS? Well, you know, I’d like to leave that up to … The Universe. This idea is an extension of how I like to spend my time, it's not connected to paying work. It’ll get me playing with my video cams and cameras more often. I’ll be doing my part to contribute to the economy by purchasing copious amounts of fuel. Maybe some farmers in the valley, or family of them, will learn of it and share stories and paint pictures of lives of people who farm. I hope it leads to me learning more about Skagit Valley history, farming, and personal gardening.
I owe a huge THANKS to Jodie, Outreach and Marketing Coordinator at Skagit Valley Food Co-op in Mount Vernon for her help in getting me started on this project.