by Jean Rogers, Farm Fund Administrator
On Labor Day weekend we gathered at Boundary Bay Brewery for the fifth annual Hootenanny to benefit the Co-op's Farm Fund. We danced, we ate, we were entertained, but most importantly we awarded the 2017 Farmer Awards!
Thanks to the farmers for taking time out during the busy harvest season to join us at the event. And, thanks to our event co-hosts: Sustainable Connections Food & Farming Program and Boundary Bay Brewery.
As we savor the bounty of the late harvest season, it’s a perfect time to highlight the winners of the Local Farmer Awards, announced at the Farm Fund Hootenanny in September.
We are thrilled to present the 2017 award winners and tell you a bit about why they were selected.
Innovator Farmer Award
Highlighting a farmer who has contributed innovative or sustainable practices to local farming. We had a tie for this award and are happy to feature two excellent winners.
Lopez Brothers Farm
Feliciano Lopez is being recognized as the first Latino farmer to receive a Next Step grant from the Farm Fund and for his commitment to principles of sustainability for the health of his family, his workers, and his customers. Lopez Brothers Farm is introducing organic Oaxacan produce to our region including purple corn; red, pink, and purple beans; tomatillos; papalo and pepicha (two delicious aromatic herbs); and chilacayotes (a gourd that tastes like squash). “People love chilacayotes in our culture,” said Feliciano. The farm also supplies organic berries to our co-op and the Skagit Valley Food Co-op.
Jason Weston, Joe’s Gardens
(pictured is Nathan Weston, accepting the award on behalf of his brother Jason)
Jason Weston of Joe’s Gardens was honored for his work to revive the Planet Jr. walk-behind tractors, built from the 1870s to the 1960s for use on small farms. Years ago, Jason refurbished Joe Bertero’s (the founder of Joe’s Gardens) 1950s Planet Jr. and then began searching for and purchasing old machines and parts for resortation, sometimes fabricating parts and creating new attachments. He also established a Facebook group to share info about rebuilding and using the Planet Jr. and small wheel hoes. According to Jason, in 2016 four Planet Jr. tractors were in use and this year there are a few hundred in use on 40 to 50 U.S. farms.
New Farmer Award
Highlighting an outstanding new farm.
Kevin and Briana Buck,
Twin Cedars Farm
Customers raved about Twin Cedars Farm. Here’s just a bit of what they had to say.
“Over the last few years I have been silly happy with the fresh food they provide me. Not only that, they always seem happy to mentor me with my own home garden … no matter how busy or tired they are. For me, this demonstrates that they are interested in empowering the future of food by empowering their friends and customers with knowledge and healthy food to boot!”
“When I’m buying garlic from the grocery store, I just pick it out, and move on. But when I buy it from Kevin and Briana, I get a lesson in food that I can then remember and reproduce.”
Mentor Farmer Award
Highlighting a farmer who has shared experiences, skills and support with other local farmers.
Myrle Foster, Circle F Farm
Myrle Foster, of Circle F Farm, received especially enthusiastic comments from Farm Fund grant and loan recipients Katie Pencke and Matthew McDermott, owners of Alluvial Farm. Katie said, “Myrle has gone above and beyond to share experiences, skills, and support with other local farmers. Myrle’s work has paved the way for the cooperative to establish the necessary infrastructure to distribute its first product under a shared label. Mr. Foster has also been instrumental in supporting Alluvial Farm’s pastured pork business, lending us space to farm on his family’s historic site on the Mount Baker Highway and providing equipment, a hand with pig herding, and endless words of encouragement.”