In 2008, our family moved from the cityscapes of Seattle to the rural countryside of Snohomish. We wish we could say the move was rational and based on a long family farming tradition, but it wasn’t. Our escape was an amazing trade, a fraction of an acre for nearly 40. With this change, our highest priority was to raise our family in a place where our kids could run wild in the grass, get dirty in the mud, climb trees, swim in a river, take care of animals, lay under the stars, understand where food comes from, and just be outside and feel a freedom that only kids can have. We remodeled the old farmhouse and began our long-term plan of farm restoration. Not coming from a farming background, we took a crash course in hay production and continued to harvest the hay fields. The following year, we rescued a small herd of Scottish Highland cattle and thus, began our bovine education and started to sell our grass-fed beef to a set of loyal customers. Our dreams expanded into the acres of space and we put in a garden, added poultry, acquired horses, and planted natives everywhere. From the start, it became clear that for our farm to be sustainable, diversity was the solution.
In 2010, we planted an organic raspberry patch with the idea that people would come to do the picking and we would sell at our local farmers markets. We did this successfully for about 5 years, then sadly as enthusiasm for the berries was surging, we noticed a root rot was killing our raspberry plants. We pivoted and planted other berries, blackberries and tayberries, and Nick tried different methods to deal with the problem, but the raspberries never recovered. Again at a farming crossroads, diversity was the answer. In 2016, Nick planted a forest farm full of black currants, huckleberries, Aronia berries (a new superfood), Hazelnuts, and Chestnuts. We converted the raspberry patch to an orchard where we put a heartier crop of apples and pears, and we waited. It takes 3 to 4 years for trees to grow to the point of descent fruit production, much like it takes our kids many years before they are mature enough to leave the home.
During this waiting period, Nick experimented with hard cider production and we have all been pleasantly surprised with how tasty it is. We plan to expand beyond our neighbors and friends, and hopefully sell our hard cider on-site. Our vision is for people to come sit in the sun on a late summer/early autumn day and swill a cold, crisp draft cider brewed at the same place the apples were grown, by the same farmer.
Another way we intend to open our farm to the public is to host farm stays, overnights in settings where folks can escape their norm and sink into the vibe here at Raising Cane Ranch. We offer a slowed pace, the songs of bugs, frogs, and coyotes, the smell of grass, and the taste of locally raised food and drink. Connecting people to the rhythms of the natural world and agricultural balance is the goal.
I like to joke, being a farmer is not simple at all. They have to know about animals, plants, soil, composting, weather, machinery, carpentry, engineering, the environment, politics, the neighbors, electrical, plumbing, food processing, and many other topics. On top of that, they have to be able to alter their course, adapt to a changing environment, try not get too invested in one product, and be patient. Farming should not be taken lightly. It is an experience of experimentation, joy and satisfaction, disappointment and futility, growth, never-ending hard work, and enlightenment. It really is like parenting in so many ways. Now that our kids are older, the farm provides needed space and adventure and sometimes peace, a break from the pressures of growing up. For Nick and I, our farm is our sanctuary. Moving here during this phase of our lives has been a good decision, despite us being romantically naïve when we made it. As I think about how to update “our story” for this new website, I come back to my original ending, what more could you ask for from life?
Here's a look at our farm in 2012.
Shot and edited by Chris McElroy~ 2012