Another farm tour I did while in Washington over the summer was at Cloudview Farm, just a few miles from my grandma’s house in my hometown. Most of the farmers where I grew up are the typical farmer that you see across the United States today. High use of pesticides and fertilizer, focusing on large amounts of one/a few crops, and not very excited about the organic movement. Cloudview Farm is completely different. It’s organic, focuses a small amount of land (comparative to the other farmers in the area) on a broad range of crops, and attracts a crowd with a bit of a hippie vibe. During the summer the property fills with schoolteachers and other individuals with flexible jobs that allow them to come over and live in motor homes, trailers, and structures that look like tee-pees while they help work the land and sell the produce at farmer’s markets around the area.
It was started by Jim Baird, and I imagine him to be a version of what Joel Salatin must have been like when he first started out. My dad has partnered with Jim on a few potato trials (planting different varieties of potatoes, at different times, in different places, to test out how they grow best) which is how we scored ourselves an invite to this particular tour.
Cloudview started in one farmer’s market in the central Washington area, in a town called Farmer’s Market. The place where I grew up, and the towns that surround it, aren’t very progressive and so farmer’s markets aren’t highly attended. They’ve grown over time though, and now they sell to schools and provide a CSA subscription, as well as visiting the markets each week.
Jim described what he’s doing as a community style farm, where employees help determine the direction that things move. They started a hog operation this year, and already have goats and chickens on the property. In what I consider to be a pretty small space, they were growing close to 70 varieties of vegetables!
These apricots, fresh off the tree, no artificial ripening whatsoever, were DIVINE. I made myself sick on them.
On the left is a man discussing organic trials and studies they are doing on the property, trying to answer the question, “Is organic really better for the environment when it comes to carbon emissions?” My dad is on the right, talking about his potatoes.
My two favorite pictures from the day.
Pigs!!! If you have seen my Childhood album on the That Wife facebook group page, you know I can’t get enough of them.
I loved this place so much, I came back a few weeks later and did a high school Senior Portrait session on the grounds. I really hope I can establish more of a base and do more portrait sessions like that in the future!
After our dinner was the most extreme version of a localganic dinner that I’ve ever had. Almost every single thing available in the buffet was not only made from scratch, it was also produced on the premises.
I wanted to write this post not only to document what I thought was a really unique experience, but also to leave you with this thought by Jim (via some notes taken by me on my iphone). He left some time during the tour for questions and answers, and someone asked if it was really realistic for farmers to spend their time trying to develop a business operating on an organic model.
Can this type of farming feed the world? 200 acres of orchards could feed all of Seattle. What if we stop spending so much time shipping our food, and think about translocation of people? Get more people living closer to their food and being involved with their food. Are people willing to do the labor? Would you literally “work for your food”? Harvesting the food fosters a sense of community, conversation and hard work and laughter, and selling to farmer’s markets allows them to connect with the people buying the food.
I enjoyed mulling this thought over, that maybe (at least here in America) some of the answer lies in more people being willing to become involved in food production. Moving away from the city and experiencing what the country (not the suburbs, the country) has to offer.
That is how I grew up, and even though I never thought it would be possible as a teenager, I long for it now. I want a garden, and a goat, some chickens, and a pig or two. And I wouldn’t mind strapping my baby to my back and bending down in Jim’s field to harvest some kale once or twice during the summer either.