Why would anyone want to start a small scale farm with its demanding physical and financial challenges?One visit to idyllic Finnriver Farm will answer that question.
As you drive in off the main road you pass several small cedar-sided farmhouses, the Huckleberry House, and a red metal barn housing a sparkling new Cider Tasting Room.Beyond one side of the barn are rows of fruit-laden blueberry bushes, several clucking chickens scratching under their chicken tractors, and cold frames housing tender vegetables and fruit trees.
Like most small scale farms, day to day operations at Finnriver Farm offer both constant challenges and tangible rewards.The farm is located in fertile ChimacumValley near Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. Six years ago Crystie and Keith Kisler purchased the original blueberry farm and renamed it Finnriver.
Since then the Kislers have diversified by adding variety to the orchard and vegetables and by growing and milling their own grains. Having grown up in a family with a wheat farming heritage, Keith was interested in applying his grain expertise on the west side of the Cascades. Recently Finnriver released its first two varieties of artisan cider processed in the Old World method that uses secondary fermentation instead of CO2.
Some of the farm’s revenue comes from sales at local farmers markets.They have created a farm community within their 33 acres consisting of approximately twelve people, depending on the season, who assist with various operations of the farm.
Previously an educator, Crystie recently decided to devote her energy full-time to the farm and her family.She is energized by the possibilities she sees on the horizon; creating an agricultural youth hostel and offering opportunities for community involvement in the farm.She and Keith hope that through their hard work and diversification of farm products they will build a sustainable resource for their family, their community and future generations.
Asked about the farm cycle, Crystie recites the seasonal schedule, “winter we bottle the cider, spring is planting and harvest, summer is hay time and fall is apple pressing.”Wistfully she muses, “I guess that leaves little time for family vacations.”The workload is great at Finnriver Farm, but the rewards are enviable; as a visitor you may dream of the opportunity to change places, even if only for a season.