Anne Lawrence

Truly, a green life

photo by anne lawrence

Every detail of Garrett and Alyssa Hoyt’s life together with their five children is carefully choreographed with a purpose in mind. That purpose is the art and practice of truly living green – working hard to create a life filled with joy and meaningful relationships and a sense of community, while treading lightly on the earth. Their proving ground is their home on five fertile acres of land they call Five Sprouts Farm.

Their work is evident in every area of the farm. Near the front of the property, Garrett built a long wooden structure to support their hardy kiwi vines. One of Garrett’s handbuilt farm gates allows access to the sheep pasture. Colorful jars of Alyssa’s carefully preserved produce line shelves in an outbuilding near the house. Handbuilt by Alyssa, a wooden rack in the living room holds reading material for the children.

Stumps and tree debris

Following the design principles of Hugelkultur, enormous uprooted tree stumps are carefully positioned across the center of the property, awaiting the next step. (Hugelkultur is the practice of creating raised garden beds by mounding up piles of decomposing wood and then covering them with mulch, soil, and compost for the purpose of enriching the soil and conserving water.)

Garrett and Alyssa choose to use sustainable products at home. They use cloth towels, napkins and toilet cloths. They use vinegar and baking soda for cleaning. They try to minimize home energy consumption by keeping lights off and the temperature down. Whenever possible, they carpool, combine trips, ride bicycles or walk.

Providing the family with a plentiful supply of eggs, robust hens forage in the protection of a thickly wooded area, roosting inside a converted trailer at night. The family’s abundant gardens, filled with myriad vegetables including heirloom tomatoes and rainbow carrots, are productive enough to feed the Hoyts and also to stock produce booths at two weekly farmers markets.

In the spirit of community education, the Hoyts maintain a website and blog and have opened their farm to the public for educational field days and farm tours.

Garrett is involved with the Clark County Food Systems Council, and Alyssa has volunteered with the Master Composter/Recyclers program.

The family’s work load and lifestyle shifted dramatically this year when Garrett accepted a full-time faculty position at Clark College. For example, the couple’s formerly homeschooled children now attend public school. But their purpose is unchanged.

“I love the quote by Ghandi,” said Alyssa. “‘Live simply so that others may simply live.’ As we shift our society’s thinking from being the center of the universe to being a part of a worldwide system, I think we will positively impact the lives of others around the world.”  

The many faces of Botany Bay Farm

photos by anne lawrence

Busy raising their children on a quarter acre lot in east Vancouver, Mark and Cherie Sturtevant always knew they wanted to build a family enterprise. Having read and embraced the principles in Sally Fallon’s groundbreaking book, Nourishing Traditions, Cherie prepared almost all of her family’s food from scratch, but lacked land on which to grow that food. Daughter Heidi says that viewing the 2010 film documentary Food, Inc. was a “game changer” for the family. They wanted a deeper involvement in the production of their food.

Guided by Mark’s entrepreneurial spirit, the family began a yearlong search for land. In early 2011 Mark and Cherie purchased 34 acres with a large home in Brush Prairie, where the family of twelve founded Botany Bay Farm.

Botany Bay chickens in front of tent

That same year, daughters Heidi and Sarah, along with sons Joe and Caleb, and Sarah’s husband Camden, traveled to Swope, VA., for a day-long educational tour of Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. Cherie and Mark, along with sons Joshua and Christian, toured Polyface Farm in spring of 2013. From Salatin, they learned firsthand about rotational grazing and holistic farm management as a method to raise healthy animals and nutritious food without chemicals in a symbiotic relationship with the land. The three siblings returned to Brush Prairie overflowing with new knowledge and enthusiasm.

The Sturtevants planned the layout, cleared out overgrown blackberries, customized existing outbuildings, added and repaired fencing, and built movable structures for animal housing. In spring of 2012, the family launched a website and began selling to local consumers. The farm’s beef, pork, chicken, rabbit, eggs and lamb are all raised on pasture without hormones or antibiotics. Their supplemental feed is non-GMO and soy-free. They graze following a rotational cycle that regularly moves the animals to fresh pasture. No chemical pesticides or herbicides are used on the farm.

At Botany Bay, each family member works at his or her specialty. Daughter Sarah created the website. Son Joe, a computer science major, keeps the computers running smoothly. Heidi is responsible for marketing, and Caleb is the general manager, assisted by John. Maria creates the farm’s line of natural bath and body products. On harvest days, the entire family works together preparing the meat for their local consumers.

Daughter Heidi shared her love of the family enterprise: “One of the things I appreciate most about living on the farm is the many opportunities we have to work together as a family, whether it’s getting our hands dirty in the field or solving problems around the dinner table.”

Botany Bay Farm chicken and other meats can be preordered for pickup at the farm. The next pork harvest is scheduled for late October. Their whole fresh chickens are also available at Chuck’s Produce and New Seasons Market.

Botany Bay Farm

13513 N.E. 132nd Ave., Brush Prairie