WA young farmers, mixing it up!

So, It turns out, I’m just jumping on this farming bandwagon with a bunch of other people 🙂  A lot of people my age are getting interested in organic farming right now.  I swear I’m not doing it to try and be cool, though.  I’d have to be crazy to be doing this much work for this little money just to impress someone.  I’m doing it because I’ve discovered I really have a passion for it.  But it looks like the farming passion is catching a lot of 20- and 30-somethings… at least I can tell you that there were over 250 people at the first annual “WA Young Farmer Mixer” on Vashon Island on Oct 4, and those people had to deal with ferry schedules in order to attend so they must have really wanted to be there!

At the Vashon mixer: Group photo with those who were left on cleanup duty at the end of the night! (And somebody's dog...) Chandler (tallest in back row in hat) and Severine (front right corner) were the organizers.

It was a pretty sweet function, and here’s how it happened and how I came to be involved.   At the Small Farmers Journal Auction back in April, we were fortunate enough to meet both  Chandler Briggs and Severine Fleming.  Chandler was an apprentice at Persephone Farm a few years ago (my post about Persephone here) and he is now farming on Vashon at Island Meadow Farm.  Severine is a mover and a shaker of The Greenhorns, a national nonprofit group by and for young farmers.  I can’t even try to be as articulate as Severine about the purpose of  organization, but I can say I’m super glad they exist and that they helped us throw this party.

It was an all ages event. Notice the seed packet nametags

In April, Severine was in the early stages of planning the “Greenhorns West Coast Tour,” and Chandler volunteered to be in charge of Washington State’s event.  Chandler looped us Bainbridge folks in to the email list for the behind-the-scenes planning and organizing of the event.  It was a privilege to be able to be involved;  it made me call up some skills which I hadn’t used since my “Future Leaders” club presidency in High School!  Asking for donations, making contacts with important farm-support orgs whose presence we wanted at the event, spreading publicity on facebook, etc.

Spit roast

Pies: the beginning of a wonderful potluck

The event came together well and was attended by a throng of young farmers, farmer hopefuls, and supporters… way beyond our expectations attendance-wise.  There was square dancing, a pig roast, a huge buffet of donated and potluck food, informational tables, brainstorming sessions, and lots and lots of “mixing”!!  (There also should have been a preview screening of the Greenhorns’ documentary film, but technical difficulties got in the way.)

Some conversations are going on here

Dancing to The Tallboys

My favorite part, though, was probably the day-before-and-morning-of prep party.  Chopping vegetables and making signs while having a more intimate discussion with the dozen or so young farmer organizers was a very valuable time.  It meant a lot to spend time with others in my position (apprentices) as well as folks like Chandler who have taken the next step and are running farms on their own.  It made me feel like I am part of a movement larger than myself, made up of people who I feel kinship with and look forward to learning and growing with.  There are lots of issues to be dealt with around young people beginning farming, such as access to land and having appropriate expectations about starting out on one’s own.  But there are also lots of reasons to be excited, and the mixer was about focusing on all the positives, meeting people, and having fun.   Can’t wait for next year’s party!

Last minute planning on a cozy evening at Island Meadow Farm


Roasting peppers at the prep party

Choppin stuff at the prep party


4 Responses

  1. Kind of a shame that you are enjoying yourself on the west coast! I think you’re going to be spoiled and stay there….
    The post-harvest party sounds like a blast!

  2. I’m glad to see that it isn’t all work and no play. You’ve been working so hard and I’m happy to hear you and the other apprentices can throw yourselves into having a good time too. See you soon. Gram

  3. Hi Becky,
    I reached your blog by way of Chandler’s – and I’m so glad I did, because WOW do we have things in common. I’m from the Ann Arbor area too and have been farming in Washington for the past few years now. Actually, Chandler and I apprenticed together at Persephone – I’m sure we crossed paths at some point during the mixer on Vashon too. I’m living in Bellingham now, and thinking pretty strongly about a season farming back in Michigan where most of my family still lives. Anyway, its always encouraging to hear about someone asking herself some of the same questions about place and home and path. It sounds like you had a great season; thanks for sharing it. erin.

    • Wow Erin, thanks for saying hi! Chandler was just here visiting our farm yesterday and we talked about you 🙂 Sounds like you are doing cool stuff up in Bellingham! I liked Bham a lot when I visited and it seems like there are a lot of great farms and farming potential in Whatcom cty. Chandler says you’re from Chelsea? I grew up in Saline. Good old southeast MI. Ann Arbor’s farmers market is *great* – I liked the look of Tantre Farms especially. I liked your blog with all the canning and fermentation recipes. Keep up the good work and keep in touch… maybe I’ll meet you for real sometime soon. ~ B

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