Folks out here on the Olympic Peninsula have been close to the land for a long time. A lot of this area’s history has been tied up with the timber industry as well as fishing. Sometimes we forget that there has also been a strong agricultural presence. The Dungeness Valley in Sequim, for example, grew potatoes wheat, oats, peas and apples for shipping to ports around Puget Sound. There was also a large crop of hops which supplied the Port Townsend breweries and the thirsty sailors who frequented them. The Egg and I, a book about rural Jefferson County in the 1930s highlighted a mixed agriculture economy that appears to be coming back.
The local food movement has really taken hold here. OlyCAP and other community organizations worked together to sponsor a conference on food security on the Olympic Peninsula back in 2007. That seemed to get a lot of people working together to help support area organic farmers and just introduce a bunch of people to each other. In the past few years area farmers markets have grown like never before with active markets in Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend. Nash Huber of Nash’s Organic Produce was in the running for a national award as an organic farmer a few years back. Many of the local farmers have demonstrated tremendous community spirit in contributing excess produce to local food banks and allowing community groups to glean remaining produce from their fields and orchards after the harvest. Community support runs both ways.
Both Clallam County and Jefferson County have a growing farm population and with expanding outlets that include the farmers markets, area restaurants and “farm share” Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, individual farmers have a chance to make a difference. A lot of the new farming is organic as well, responding to a renewed public interest in healthy food. In Clallam County, Nash’s Organic Produce has been a leader in organic food production for years and their farm stand offers items not only from their farm, but other items from local producers. Jefferson County has a number of organic producers with farmers like John Gunning at Collingswood Farms and the folks at Midori farms actually producing in or near the Port Townsend “urban” environment. The organic food movement is supportive of all kinds of growers. Sequim is famous for its lavender and there are many organic lavender producers there. Every summer in July many lavender farms are open to the public during the Sequim Lavender Festival — pictured above, Homer and Cynthia of Homer Smith Insurance visited Graysmarsh Farm this past July,
Growing organic food – or even organic lavender – starts with organic seed and the Organic Seed Alliance has been quietly going about its business of educating farmers about the benefits of organic seed and advocating for organic production since 2003. Their offices are in Port Townsend and their reach is literally worldwide.
Each of these farms and organizations is pretty small when considered alone, but taken together they put the Olympic Peninsula in the front ranks of the local food and organic movement. They make us all think a little bit more about the importance of supporting each other in our community.