Get to Know Your Farmers
Here we are, 2022 and after 8 full years of being on this property, we're going to actually tell you about us.
Erin was born in Bremerton (he'd enter "GO KNIGHTS", right now is he was standing here dictating). He's lived his life as a Kitsap native, with the exception of time at college and his early substitute teaching days. He's also spent his adult life summers on adventures, mostly involving rivers both in Washington and throughout the West. His favorite being the Middle Fork Salmon in Idaho, where he was a professional raft guide for 6 years. Erin's worn a lot of hats in his life in a variety of realms; politics, education and adventure, but in 2013, he traded them all in for a very large, horse hair sun hat. Before venturing full bore down his path into agriculture, Erin does what Erin does best - consume knowledge. He read every book he could on how to grow a homestead and make the best of the land you are provided. He read about pastured poultry, permaculture and how to best treat the Earth to keep it vital. He knew exactly what he wanted before we even found the property! Maps of permaculture, notebooks of lists of the best homestead varieties of hog, sheep, goats and poultry. What kind of dogs he wanted and how to build fencing to keep them all in. Rewind....just a little fun fact about Erin. When we first got married, Erin wasn't much of a burley man. He was taught at a very young age that anything with more than 2 moving parts - was magic. He didn't know how to fix much or even run a chainsaw. As destiny would have it, these things now had purpose in his life and he was determined to learn them. Everything new that he did, we "punched his man card". It wasn't an actual, physical card, but it was fun when one day Erin said, "we'll, punch the man card" and was like, "ya know what, you don't need that man card anymore". He was fully capable of managing, building and maintaining anything we needed him to do. Well, with one exception that he's still working on, mastering the maintenance of a small engine.
Erin's love of agriculture is very deep, as clean food and happy animals is very important to him. His passion for access to clean food goes much deeper than his work as the General Manager of a local online farmers market, it's in his desire to save farm land and stop loosing it to development. "The best way to save farm land is to incentivize it's use. The best way to do that, is to grow food on it". This is why we worked with a small group of like minded individuals to start Kitsap Fresh 8 years ago. We live on the KP when we first learned to grow food. We had so much lettuce, we didn't know what to do with it all. Then someone told us about the Fresh Food Revolution, which was an online farmers market located on the KP. Local producers listed what they had available and local consumers would log on and purchase it, picking it up on the following Wednesday. We thought this was amazing and it worked as an adjunct to the local farmers market, which was on the weekend. Farmers need to pick food more than once a week or it stops producing, so 2 days of sales was a great thing. Plus, you don't pick that food until it's sold. We thought it was amazing and we sold a ton of lettuce and other fun stuff, including our first eggs!. I still remember hand stamping all the cards that were carefully tied to each bundle...ahh, the days when we had time for cutesy stuff. Anyways, we knew that when we had our own farm, we needed to do the same thing, so we did and now Kitsap Fresh has several pick up points throughout Kitsap and even home delivery. I still can't believe how far it has come, but the best part, honestly, is seeing how many new farmer producers we meet every year. KF is such an easy place to sell your food, doesn't matter how much or how little you have, you can still list it, even if it's 2 bags of peas and 4 bunches of kale. The amazing thing, is when people sell food, they get excited to see what other food they can grow and sell, it's like this little part of our mind that we didn't know even existed, kicks in and wants to grow food. Just like a chicken wanting to sit on her first clutch of eggs, how does she know to turn them every day and when to start sitting on them and the importance of her to stay on them for that 21 days with the exception of getting up to relieve and re-nourish. And when they hatch, there's a whole new set of behaviors she never knew, but they were hardwired into her instinct. Same is true of us when we connect with animals and our food. Anyways, I'm way off topic, which is something I do frequently and well. I'm Roni and I'm the female here. Lots of people still mix up who's name is who with us. It makes sense, he has the girl name, I have the boy name. We still answer to whatever you might call us.
So I grew up in North Dakota, not on a farm, but my grandfather was a cattle and commodities farmer. He grew angus cows and commodity crops; flaxseed, black oil sunflowers, canola and Seminole grain. I learned that farming was long, hard days, but they were worth it. I learned that the weather is not always helpful and that nature has other plans. I learned there are good days and then there are days that hurt your heart and make you cry. But no matter what obstacle you were met with, there is a path forward. As a very wonderful women used to stay, "Well, it isn't convenient, but it's not impossible" -Judy O'Hare, incredibly wonderful woman. Anyways, the farm was amazing! We could run wild as children! We could get as dirty as we wanted to, get as tired as we wanted to, climb any tree, sing to any cow and get into trouble as much as we wanted to. It was the best life, summer visits to the farm. As I grew older and monsanto grew in popularity, I watched something slowly die in my grampa's eyes. He'd talk about the "deals" with the devil and how the cost just kept going up, up, up and how he wasn't allowed to keep his seed year to year. One visit, I went to the silo, like I did every time to grab a handful of grain and chew it up. I'd never seen my grampa run before, but he was yelling and waving his arms, "Don't put that in your mouth!!!". Ya, it was all rainbow covered like gas floating on water. Poison to keep rodents from eating them once they were planted. What? Am I not going to eat the grain that grows off that seed? Surely, that would be poisonous too. I'd ride to the grain elevator with him and watch from the cab of the truck, while he was told the disappointing news that his hard work at earned bottom dollar as the grain from overseas was driving down American prices. And the horrible feelings I had learning that several hundred head of cattle had froze in the field overnight from a freak snowstorm that blanketed his farm with 6 ft of snow - yes, while people were sleeping, this happened. Devastation. I don't remember when he finally stopped farming, but we talked about what it would be like if I took over the farm and made it a "dude ranch", where folks could come and see what life was like on a farm. Work hard, sleep better than you ever have in your life, eat real food and connect with the Earth in a way that's you didn't even know you could. But, I became an RN and did some travel nursing. I came to Washington in 2006, on assignment and never left again. Trees, mountains, water...what else do need?! Not long after I decided to stay, I met Erin. He was instantly my best friend and we've been together ever since. I still work off farm as an RN in a surgical center doing recovery twice a week. Between the 2 of us, the farm is never unattended, which is why we can never really go anywhere. We've recently starting taking days away, one at a time, not ideal, but it works thanks to some really great people. My main focus here is the animals and their health. I am forever making charts and calendars and now, social media posts and google ad updates and good gracious...this is not the fun part of sharing farming. But the best part, is the animals. I truly, honestly at the very heart of my heart, love each and every one of them. I always tell them, "If you are sad, scared or hurt, you come to grama, she help you. But you can also come if you just want to tell me you love me." I'm grama, they all have mommies and gramas are always the best, so that's where I fit in. I'm very passionate about farming and being real about agriculture.
So often, we people tell us, "you're living my dream, I want this so bad". Our message, is....you can.
Be the change...
I'd also like to take this moment to acknowledge and appreciate Holly Hendrick, who started the Fresh Food Revolution and inspired us so many in so many ways. Holly loved and appreciated all people and stood up for what she believed in. We will always admire Holly and be grateful for how she has inspired us to pursue this life of agriculture. Sadly, Holly passed away in 2018, but her legacy will live on with the success of online farmers markets like the FFR & Kitsap Fresh. Thank you Holly.