Written by Theresa Collier
Saturday, 05 February 2011 23:00
Marilyn Holt is a woman of determination. At a time of year when most farmers put their land to rest, she and her husband, Cliff Wind build hoop frame greenhouses and continue to sell at their farm store through the winter. Nearly a foot of snow fell in Kitsap County the day I phoned Marilyn Holt to schedule an interview. “The farm is mostly mud now, and the fruit trees are bare sticks. This week, because of the snow and heavy rain, we only have sunchokes, carrots and apples to sell along with the milk, coffee and olive oil,” she says.
The Abundantly Green Farm website shows a black and white aerial photo of the farm taken around 1995 and I am curious about the history and how the family had preserved the farm after all these years.
Heading up the long driveway to the farm, we are greeted by a waddling of ducks announcing our arrival with their quacking. Walking into her foursquare-style home we meet the five “girls:” Marilyn Holt; her farmhand Donna McGaughey; and three female dogs; two of them seniors and one spunky seven-year-old Chihuahua. As we head outside Marilyn clips a leash on the Chihuahua to keep her from chasing the ducks and chickens roaming freely near the house. Across the driveway is a mature orchard with pear, walnut, apple (King, Gravenstein, Banana) and cherry trees, some of which were planted in the last third of the nineteenth century and are still bearing fruit.
Marilyn explains that the home was built around 1900 by her great-grandmother. “My mother was born in this house and passed away in this house,” she says. Inheriting the family farm in 2001, Marilyn had to make a choice. It was either divide her family’s sixty acres into five acre parcels and sell them off or keep the land as a working farm. She and her husband chose not only to keep the farm but expand their operations.
Entering one of the greenhouses we meet two employees who are tending beds of beet seedlings. All starts are grown from seed under hoop frame greenhouses and then transplanted into beds ranging from 150 to 500 feet in length. The farm currently has a staff of five. In the spring there will be eight employees, each of whom brings energy and creativity to help make the farm viable. Jen, one of the farm hands, is creating a new product for the farm store this spring: herb and edible flower bowls.
We are joined by Cliff Wind, Marilyn’s husband, halfway through our tour as we’re exiting one of the heated hoop greenhouses. Discussing the difficulties of finding financial resources for farmers, Cliff voices his frustration at the lack of local government support available to small-scale farmers. In the future he hopes Kitsap County will adopt local government farm support models similar to Jefferson and Skagit Counties.
Looking off to the far fenced pasture we see the cattle outside their barn and a young calf running to catch up to its mother. Cliff says the calf is named Wellington, as in Beef Wellington. The farm sold some of their beef in the fall. They sold out in seventy-two hours, proof that there is a high demand for healthy, pasture-raised beef.
With the tour ending on the wrap-around porch of the home, the discussion again turns to the financial challenges of running the farm. They chose to become a certified organic farm in 2005 even though it significantly cuts into their profit. Marilyn and Cliff believe in the holistic value of organically grown food and know their customers prefer pesticide-free produce. Marilyn expresses frustration at the misconception of farm prices being higher than grocery stores. “Our organic produce is the same price as a moderate grocery store like Fred Meyer. Why would someone choose to purchase produce flown in from overseas when they could have fresh, locally grown produce?”
This has been their shake-out year with many difficulties caused by a severe winter. An early freeze, torrential rains and heavy snowfall caused them to adjust their projected yield. They are learning what to do and what not to do. They are transplanting seedlings daily and expect that as early as March their Farm Store will be full of fresh produce, chickens and eggs in addition to their year-round selection of milk, coffee and olive oil.
Abundantly Green Farm Quick Facts:
• CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) weekly subscriptions begins first week of June – call to reserve your share
• Mini, small and large sized shares available
• Three pickup locations available – Farm Store, Poulsbo Farmers Market, Port Orchard
Farm Store open year-round every Tuesday from 2-6:30 pm
Currently in stock:
• Dungeness Valley Creamery Raw Cow Milk
• Personal Roast Coffee (fresher and less expensive than grocery store coffee)
• Olive oil from Oil of Paicines, a small farm near Hollister, California
• Apples and pears from Eastern Washington farmer, Rob Story
Abundantly Green Farm
Marilyn Holt and Cliff Wind
1146 NE Madison Road
Poulsbo, Washington 98370
(360) 692-2504 or (206) 781-7196