Wednesday, July 25, 2012 Anacortes American A13
Guemes Island farm growing for food security

American staff writer
Gaia Rising relates to the idea that people need to revere the Earth and get back to natural systems. “We have to put (Gaia) the Mother Earth at a level of importance,” said Sequoia Ferrel, founder of Gaia Rising Farm on Guemes Island.

About five years ago, Ferrel started growing vegetables and grains that can be stored through the leaner months, along with winter crops, with the idea of working toward food security. The last two years, the farm has operated as a member-supported farm. Members contribute and reap from the farm through Staple and Storage Crop Shares available at harvest time and Fall and Winter Vegetable Shares available from October through April. The fall and winter shares — $400 for a full share and $225 for a half — provide cool-weather crops, such as kale, chard, arugula, broccoli, cabbage, onions and beets, in a weekly veg­etable box.
The Crop Share is a pickup as available system for grains, dry beans and storage vegetables for the winter and into the spring. Full shares are $550 and half shares are $300. Members help with the fall harvest to tie in with the Ferrel’s mission to minimize the carbon foot­print. Hand labor is used at three harvest parties filled with camaraderie and good food.
“Small-scale farming and farming without trac­tors is a choice we make now in order to protect our future,” farm manager Debra Stansbery wrote on the Gaia Rising blog site. “Not only are we trying to minimize our impact on the environment, we are also trying to build efficient sys­tems of non-mechanized farming in order to be com­pletely oil independent, to be self-sufficient, and to build local resiliency.” One main goal of the farm is to educate people on why it is important to support small farms and create a secure food source. “We’re pretty much headed down a destructive path,” Ferrel said, refer­ring to climate change and poisoning of the earth with fertilizers and pesticides. “Our food system is not at all secure.”
Ferrell works three fields comprising about two acres with Stansbery, a part-time worker and Fer­rel’s husband, Lane, who provides the support sys­tem, she said. Much of their work involves experimentation with crops, seeing what thrives in this environment with its particular amount of rainfall. Smaller farms tend to use more water for a diver­sity of fruits and vegetables, Stansbery said. “And we’re challenging that.”
  They are still learning, Ferrel said. Not using irri­gation means using dif­ferent plant spacing, and dealing with pests without poisons can be a challenge. Their potato crop was hit by wire worms last year, making the entire harvest unsellable. Ferrel is also working to develop a seed bank. One experiment with Black Aztec corn proved the Northwest growing season is too short for the crop, she said. However, she has found at least five corn varieties that do grow well here. In addition, the farm has several dried bean variet­ies, root vegetables, squash and grains, including sev­eral varieties of quinoa. For winter crops, the list stretches from Swiss chard and winter lettuce to Brus­sels sprouts and leeks. “There’s a big range of vegetables gardeners can grow in the winter here,” Ferrel said. The farm gives those who don’t garden the opportunity to still get win­ter vegetables without rely­ing on a grocery store.“Homegrown food is always more delicious,” Stansbery said. “It’s the varieties and the love and care you give the plants,” Ferrel added. “I don’t know if there’s some­thing else magical happen­ing there.”
   In addition to crops, the farm has sheep, ducks and chickens. Ferrel is also starting her first attempt at raising turkeys. She recently received about a dozen Narragan­sett turkey chicks, a heri­tage breed that forages, which ties in with Ferrel’s plan to raise them free range.
Gaia Rising Farm events
• Founder Sequoia Ferrel and manager Debra Stansbery pres­ent a slideshow at Transition Fidalgo & Friends’ 7th Generation Supper at 6 p.m. Tues­day at the Senior Activ­ity Center.
Following the pre­sentation, join a com­munity discussion on what needs to be done to ensure our local food supply can ride out the bumps caused by cli­mate change and rising energy costs.
Everyone is wel­come to this commu­nity supper catered by Gere-a-Deli. Please bring your own bowl, cup, plate and utensils. Suggested donation is $5 for adults and $3 for ages 10 and younger.
For more info, go to or call 293-4048.

• Farm Field Day is 1 to 6 p.m. Sun­day, Aug. 19 at the Gaia Rising Farm on Guemes Island.
• Harvest Celebra­tion is 1 to 6 p.m. Sat­urday, Oct. 13 at the farm.
• For more informa­tion, go to:

or visit them on Facebook.

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