by Laura Steiger, Outreach Department
Dusty Williams of Broad Leaf Farm in Everson is one of the hardworking and super-knowledgeable local farmers who has been providing the Co-op with fresh, organic produce for many years.
If you’ve purchased fresh produce at the Co-op in the past 16 years or so, you’ve likely enjoyed some of the organic veggies grown by Dusty Williams of Broad Leaf Farm in Everson.
Dusty has been selling his organic produce to the Co-op since the turn of the century (yeah, we had one of those recently).
He began purchasing farmland back in 1987 at a price that would make new startup farmers weep for the more attainable land values of bygone days. Luckily for those weeping beginning farmers, Dusty has been making his farmland available, and sharing equipment and his invaluable expertise, for many years.
He recently attained the enviable position of head cider taster for Washington Hard Cider. In exchange for fixing up an outbuilding on the farm, the cider makers are using the space to brew their tasty ciders.
Additionally, two farms providing the Co-op are currently working on the farmland —Spring Time Farm and Terra Verde Farm—and a Fairhaven College student is running a CSA for her senior project. Co-op shoppers will recognize several other alumni of the farmland: Rabbit Field Farms, Backyard Beans and Grains, and Spring Frog Farm at Holistic Homestead.
Certified organic since 1996, the farm has an abundant diversity of crops
Crops include green and purple asparagus, snap peas, strawberries, napa cabbage, red and gold beets, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, kale, chard, zucchini, onions, and garlic … lots of garlic.
As we looked out over the garlic field I asked Dusty if the garlic scapes growing on each plant would need to be cut by hand. Short answer: yes. It seemed a daunting task. “It looks overwhelming, but you just need to start working, and before you know it you look up and you’re at the end of the first row,” said Dusty.
Dusty, or his staff, make deliveries to the Co-op three times per week to keep up with demand and to keep the produce as fresh as possible.
Some produce from Broad Leaf Farm will be clearly labeled as such, but others may be labeled as “assorted Whatcom County growers,” particularly kale and other greens that have rapidly increased in popularity. To keep up with the demand from Co-op shoppers, many local, organic farms are now also growing these crops.
In keeping with Dusty’s love of farming, and his passion to continually care for and improve his land, he is growing chestnut trees to enhance the property and a winter rye cover crop, the seeds of which are also harvested for sale. He is experimenting with bamboo to use for poles. The bamboo was particularly beautiful with a dark burnished appearance that was so shiny it looked as if it had been varnished. In 2014, solar panels were installed on the farm and are now producing about one-quarter of the energy needs.
Luckily for all of us, Dusty has no plans to stop farming any time soon. “The years between 60 and 80 can be the best working years. In your 20s and 30s is when you should be traveling and trying out different things. When you get older is the time to stay put and work.”