Jessica Swanson

Design nature play spaces for even the smallest yard

Garden columnist Eve Hanlin is a landscape designer and professional plant nerd in the Clark County, Wash., area. She has a knack for low-maintenance landscapes that serve a greater purpose. Her ultimate goal is to help others foster their passions for the botanical world and live healthier, more sustainable lifestyles. Visit her website, www.GardensByEvelyn.com for resources, and details regarding her design work, consultation services, and upcoming classes and workshops. Photo by Jessica Swanson

Study after study is proving that children benefit (physically and cognitively) from time spent in nature. Reduced levels of stress, depression, & aggravation, increased ability to concentrate, reduced risk of obesity and diabetes, and improved academic performance are just a few of the benefits.* Additionally, children love spending time outdoors when they have the space. Many people believe that their backyards are too small to provide the opportunity for nature-adventures, but this is never the case. You do not need a large yard, nor do you need construction skills, a large budget or hours to spare. Here are some things anyone can do to add more nature play space to their yard.

Bring in a diversity of materials

Sensory items are great for all ages. Most materials can be accumulated by networking with those who have an overabundance. Bring in rocks. Logs. Plants. Branches. Tires. Pinecones. These things aren’t necessarily fancy. They are often things that people with an overabundance aim to get rid of. These things will become toys and building materials.

Sandboxes, dirt piles, gravel areas, mulch, and similar provide fantastic opportunities for play (an old, small tent can become a perfect, shady, rain-proof sandbox that can be zipped closed).

Turn ‘inside’ toys into ‘outside’ toys

Plastic things can be easily cleaned, so why not get them dirty? Small figurines can be live in miniature twig forts and chairs made out of flower petals. “Clothes” for dolls and figures can be easily crafted from large leaves and rubber bands. Dump trucks are MADE for piles of gravel, sand, dirt or wood chips. A plastic kitchen set can make for mud pie heaven.

Plant things that:

  • Create a cool, shady play environment, or to grow into havens, thickets, forts and hideaways.
  • Can be picked and played with, are texturally interesting and interactive (snapdragons snap, herbs smell, and sword fern fiddleheads are fuzzy).
  • That attract fascinating wildlife and mimic natural environments.
  • That are edible and useful. Many fruiting shrubs can be more or less neglected and still produce tasty snacks. Kids can become very passionate about gardening, as well.
  • That are SAFE. No poisonous berries, thanks. If something is not safe, just be sure the kiddos are mature enough to be careful.

Whenever you can, start with larger plants to create play spaces as quickly as possible. The larger the plant, of course, the more expensive. However, the sooner plants can serve their function in the landscape, the better. Children grow up fast, sometimes faster than the plants seem to.

Consider a lawn reduction

When most people want to design a yard for kids, they first think that children need as much grass as possible for picnics and rolling around. While there are many fun things that require grass, children tend to gravitate to more diverse and interactive parts of the landscape. Most of the year in our Pacific Northwest, lawns tend to be too soggy to be much fun, anyway. Remember that soil should always be covered by something (like wood chip mulch) to reduce weeding and maintenance. Also, children love dandelions. Quit exposing children to lawn chemicals and let nature fill in. A few weeds will attract wildlife and inspire wildflower tiaras and weedy bouquets. Children can learn how to respect honeybees while watching them crawl all over clover blossoms.

Water, water everywhere

Water is so much fun! It’s also an imperative ingredient in mud pies. Leaf boats can be floated in puddles or bird baths. Bringing in water in the form of buckets, bird baths, concrete basins, mock riverbeds, and more can provide many opportunities for fun.

Build a fort, or three!

Many of us grew up with a fort in our lives at one point or another. If a fort cannot be made using materials onsite or carved out of a large shrub, they are easy to craft. Old blankets or tarps can be thrown over teepees or frames made of sticks. Bamboo poles of varying lengths, paired with string, can provide the opportunity for young people to gain construction skills. Forts can also be planted, such as a circle of sunflowers, beans up a trellis or shrubs along a fence.

Incorporate wildlife

Let young people help attract wildlife. This inspires a special connection with the creepy crawlies that will show up when the environment is right. Brush piles create havens for snakes and small critters. Compost piles attract decomposers and worms. Mason bees do not sting, and homes for them can be easily built and installed. Sheltered plantings around water sources attract dragonflies, frogs and bathing birds.

Embrace whimsy!

It is possible to incorporate kiddos’ specific interests into the outdoor space, as well. Do you know a young pirate? Seek out an old boat and bury it partway into the ground, so it doesn’t tip. Add a steering wheel and a flag, and adventure awaits. Have someone who loves little cars? Paint street lines on planks of wood. These can be put together and rearranged into roadways around the yard. The possibilities are endless.

*Learn more about the benefits of nature play in the article “Childhood Development and Access to Nature” (University of Colorado, March 22nd, 2009).

Don’t miss out on Lake Merwin

What is so special about Lake Merwin? My friends and I all love to take our kids there. Though most of my friends are bringing their families from nearby Woodland, Yacolt and La Center, I relish the occasional trek from downtown Vancouver to clear my head and let my kids run and play in the crystal clear lake.

Lake Merwin is a reservoir on the East Fork of the Lewis River. The lake is cool and clear even on the most scorching of summer days Vancouver seems to be suffering lately, and worth paying a visit in the cool days as well.

Merwin Park, at the west end of the Merwin reservoir, is open year round for swimming, boarding, fishing and general hanging about. The park can accommodate big groups of people, with 250 parking spots and 135 picnic tables. Merwin Park is especially family friendly, with a playground, clean and spacious restrooms, and hiking trails. Speelyai Bay Park at the east end is also open for day use year round. Smaller but equally as beautiful as Merwin Park, Speelyai offers a busy two-lane boat ramp, another 250 parking spots, but only 25 picnic tables.

Cresap Bay campground, east of Speelyai Bay Park, is open the Friday before Memorial Day and closed September 30. So consider making campsite reservations now for the busy time. Reservations can be made up to nine months in advance, and considering the increasing pull of the East Fork, it’s a good idea to be planning ahead. Cresap Bay Campground has a swimming beach, 56 overnight campsites and a group camping facility with 15 sites, a covered shelter and a fireplace. A two-lane boat ramp and 23-slip marina are available to overnight guests.

While you won’t be able to camp at Lake Merwin yet, take a day trip to two to this spectacular portion of the Upper Lewis River during one of our many beautiful spring days.

photo by evans burik

RISING FROM THE ASHES

Columbia Gorge fires are sparking opportunities for progress on the North Bank.

There are many organizations in the Columbia River Gorge looking out for the the health of its environment, the lives of its people and the prosperity of its businesses. After a monumental event like the recent Columbia Gorge fires that engulfed the Eagle Creek Wilderness area in Oregon and jumped the Columbia River to burns parts of Skamania County last fall, impacts will be felt far and wide for months and years to come. A silver lining is that some of those impacts may actually benefit Southwest Washington.

These fires are a pivotal moment for the Gorge, which tends to be overrun with day-use congestion on the Oregon side in the summer. But Gorge Towns to Trails, launched by Friends of the Columbia Gorge, is poised to move forward on a multi-year vision for trekking on the Washington side. Renee Tkach is the project manager for Gorge Towns to Trails, an effort to make 200 miles of connected trails in the Columbia River Gorge that bridge Gorge communities on both sides, which are between five and 15 miles apart. The project is nearly seven years in the making.

After the fire: Connecting towns with trails

Tkach describes Gorge Towns to Trails as a “European-style hiking system” connected by shuttles, and sprinkled with lodges and B&Bs. The vision is to transform the Columbia River Gorge from a congested day-use area into a destination for extended multi-day vacations that lead hikers into the communities of the Columbia River Gorge, where they can enjoy the many home grown products like fruit, wine, beer, textiles, fish and so forth, boosting local businesses.

Currently, Gorge Towns to Trails is primarily focused on the North Bank.

Tkach stressed the optimal position of Washougal as the gateway to the Gorge. There is an opportunity for a 34-mile trail connecting Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Horn, Beacon Rock State Park and the Pacific Crest Trail as well as the communities of Washougal, North Bonneville, Stevenson and Cascade Locks. Right now the group is working to connect the remaining 2.5 miles of trail corridor needed for the Washougal to Stevenson trail section, and they have partnered with Port of Camas-Washougal to develop a new, one-mile trail that will serve as the west entrance for Gorge Towns to Trails. In addition, there is a planned expansion and restoration of Steigerwald Refuge, while connecting it to new trail moving east.

Further north, there are plans to connect the urban area of Lyle to the top of the 550-acre Lyle Cherry Orchard property owned by Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust.

“Vancouver and especially Camas and Washougal have really elevated their role in how they interact with this future trail vision. Now Washougal is funding the final connection, the Lewis and Clark Trail. It will be the gateway to Gorge Towns and Trails, setting the pace for the rest of the Gorge community,” Tkach said. “Camas and Washougal are incorporating it into their identity, and now Camas it calling itself a trailhead and developing signage.”

Friends of the Columbia Gorge launched Gorge Towns to Trails in 2011, in celebration of the National Scenic Area’s 30th anniversary and 40,000 acres of new public lands that came into place during that time. And much of the messaging was focused on clearing some of the congestion that had come into the Gorge. The group was exploring ways to disperse people’s usage. “How can we accommodate all these people coming for year round hiking, and the growth in population? The ‘walls and falls’ area had become so congested, it was Disneyland of the Gorge during the summer months,” said Tkach.

The group was already strategizing ways to motivate hikers and visitors to explore east Gorge gems like Stevenson, White Salmon and North Bonneville, when the fires began to rage through the Eagle Creek Wilderness.

Friends of the Columbia Gorge is in the middle of its Preserve the Wonder campaign, which aims to acquire and protect seven unique properties totaling more than 400 acres along the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. The centerpiece of that campaign is Steigerwald Shores, a 160-acre riverfront property adjacent to Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

“With the fire happening on the Oregon side, we have this prime moment in time,” said Tkach. “How do we hit the pause button in this area and develop these other trails as well as let this fire area recover naturally?” The US Forest Service, which is the Friends of the Columbia Gorge’s land manager, is not going to replant at this time, but rather let nature take its course according to Tkach. The famous Angel’s Rest was the hottest area, and the hardest hit, but many were relieved to see that the Gorge wasn’t a barren wasteland as the fires settled down. “It’s a mosaic burn,” said Tkach, “something ideal for the forest, actually.”

Rachel Pawlitz, a public affairs officer with the National Scenic Area, agreed with dispersing tourists and hikers throughout the Gorge, but cautioned that there is crowding on the Washington side as well, especially in places like the popular climb nine miles east of Carson, Dog Mountain. She said the Forest Service hasn’t “settled in our approach” to prevent crowding, environmental impact, parking and associated issues.

As land managers, it’s the Forest Service’s credo to help visitors “leave no trace” and to prevent people having to call search and rescue. Safety and environmental impact are paramount.

Showing the Gorge some love

In the meantime, the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance started a campaign called Show the Gorge Some Love, a month long push in October to bring visitors to the Gorge with special events, sales and targeting marketing of the 18 communities on both side of the river. Similarly, the “Kick Ash” Campaign was spearheaded by the Portland Business Alliance and encouraged Portlanders to head to the Gorge.

Even in Vancouver, unlikely alliances were being formed to support tree planting and the environment in the wake of the fires, including Sky Zone and Friends of Trees.

“In the wake of the Eagle Creek fire, Sky Zone Vancouver approached us with a dodgeball tournament fundraiser for Friends of Trees,” said Sam Erman, Friends of Trees Corporate and Business Relations Specialist. “They expressed their desire to volunteer with an organization in the Gorge once they had the opportunity but wanted to take immediate action for the environment. We partner with businesses in a lot of ways and are thrilled to be working with the business community in Southwest Washington.”

Jill Burnette helms the Columbia Gorge Community Foundation. They are not directly involved with relief or restoration efforts, but rather their role during the fire was to “help disseminate information,” to provide a clearinghouse of resources that were providing relief and services during the fires.

One of the unique things about the CGCF is that is serves both sides of the river, with board members representing every county in the Gorge, including Skamania and Klickitat County in Washington.

Burnette reflected that the fire and relief efforts were well under control, and she had heard a huge amount of gratitude from community members. “The workers were really efficient. They had never met each other and certainly had never worked together before. The entire effort was incredibly well managed.”

Because CGCF is a community foundation it simply manages permanent endowments. But they do an annual grant-making program, where area organizations apply for funding. “We may see fire and restoration in the next grant making cycle. And twice a year, our donor advised funds generally choose to make grants. Any of those fundholders may elect to support a group who is involved in fire support and restoration,” said Burnette.

The Archer Mountain Fire in Skamania County started on Sept. 5 from embers blowing over the river from the Eagle Creek Fire, which had ignited several days prior. A 15-year-old Vancouver boy has since been charged with reckless burning and other allegations. The Archer Mountain Fire burned 240 acres, and was contained by mid-September, while across the river, the Eagle Creek Fire is still considered active. It has burned nearly 50,000 acres and is considered 50 percent contained as of Nov. 9.

“The Gorge is a resilient place,” said Tkach, who lives in Skamania County just a mile from the north side fires. “It’s still there, it’s still beautiful.”

Story by Jessica Swanson
Photo by Mitch Hammontree

Waxing on about bees

Jacqueline Freeman is making a buzz in the field that chose her – beekeeping.

Originally from small towns in New England, Jacqueline and her husband Joseph Freeman moved to Seattle years ago and tried to be city dwellers. Soon, they discovered they just weren’t urbanites and in 2002 found 10 acres in tiny Venersborg in Clark County. While they didn’t intend to farm, today they have acres of gardens, pasture and forest, home to cows, hens, a goat, three cats, a dog and a few hundred thousand honey bees.

Jacqueline’s relationship with bees began when she was offered a hive from a couple that was moving from their house in Portland.

“I was fascinated from day one,” she said. “I was transfixed. I spent all this time with the bees. It wasn’t just a box of bugs.”

Over the years, Jacqueline learned about organic gardening, permaculture, and what really resonated was biodynamics, essentially a spiritual approach to organic gardening. She became a certified beekeeper and joined the Clark County Beekeepers Association. She quickly noticed most methods for contemporary beekeeping involved the use of chemicals and medicines to keep the bees alive and productive. But the more she listened to the bees, the more she knew she couldn’t take this approach. Her fellow beekeepers told her she would lose whole hives – and she did – but today she has ten working hives and a wealth of knowledge to keep them thriving. And the tides are changing – today, four out of the five officers at the bee club are fully organic.

After years of talking and listening to her bees, Jacqueline started writing down what she was learning through experience – and what the bees themselves were saying to her in her meditative sessions by their hives. Eventually, she had a book on organic beekeeping fleshed out. With the help of Susan Chernak McElroy (New York Times bestselling author of “Animals as Teachers & Healers”), she completed “The Song of Increase: Returning to our Sacred Partnership with Honeybees.”

The self-published tome was quickly picked up by Sounds True Publishing and will soon be translated into languages around the world. Jacqueline accepts invitations from across the country and Europe to talk about bees and meet with beekeepers.

Back at the farm, she offers classes of all kinds, and Joseph teaches a physical therapy technique he developed for horses. But the bees have become a central and sacred part of their journey.

Jacqueline Freeman
Friendly Haven Rise Farm
20309 N.E. 242nd Ave., Battle Ground
360-687-8384

 

 

Fuel runs on fresh and foraged farmer-driven foods

story + photos by kendra pearce

Fuel Bistro and Wine
109 S. 65th Ave., Ste. 108, Ridgefield
360-727-9759

 

Fuel Bistro and Wine has cut its teeth and is embracing its second autumn tucked away in the unlikeliest of places, the Ridgefield Junction. Although the location is peculiar, the menu and chef are remarkable.

Sebastian Carosi is exactly what one would expect from a man who has chosen local food as his life’s path leaving a wake of national and international accolades behind him as he moves toward new food passions, projects and continued community activism. Unapologetic for his beliefs, unflinching in his choices, and nearly unequalled in his talents for providing inventive local food, Carosi has provided yet another affordable place to enjoy the best of the region.

The menu, a simple piece of paper, the Slow Food Snail and Monsanto Skull and Crossbones in the corner (a direct reflection of the tattoo on Carosi’s wrist), and a wine list that showcases Fuel’s understated yet consistent message to their patronage – eat local. “Every wine served here is from Oregon and Washington; I know the winery or I won’t sell it” is Carosi’s philosophy and reflected in his staff’s ability to discuss the wine and food at length.

The fare is more than one expects from the minute kitchen – salads, soups, single plates and sandwiches, but the ingredients are what make this place work. A thoughtful seasonal menu reflects Carosi’s foraging passions and his ability to seek out the best regional ingredients, including salt from Jacobsen’s, cheese from Cascadia and Rogue creameries and bitters, nettle and mushrooms from Carosi’s forays.

While the summer menu boasted tomatoes from Ridgefield’s own Northwest Organics, the autumn menu focuses on heartier flavors. Carosi has brought back a favorite: the slightly spicy, incredibly flavorful vegetarian Farmhouse Soup, as well as new additions – mushroom strudel featuring foraged chanterelles in a mustard cream, and the smoked salmon club with applewood bacon, smoky mayonnaise on pumpernickel served with a side of lemonade vinaigrette dressed greens or fresh kettle chips.

There are many places that have jumped on the local food bandwagon; Fuel Bistro and Wine has the unique fortune of having a man behind the food that is a true pioneer in the concept. You won’t find artificial sweetener for the tea, you will pay extra for bread and fat, and you will find that Carosi and staff truly believe that “food and wine are a passion-driven business; it comes from your heart and your hands.”

 

Opus School of Music charts new course in Camas

Opus School of Music, in Ridgefield since 2006, recently set up shop in a Camas house on Northeast Second Avenue with two pianos donated from Portland Piano Company and, seemingly, a line of students out the door.

Director Rob Melton chose Camas because he wanted to locate in a community that has “great school teachers” and “families that invest in their kids.” When a friend, Dave Pitassi, ultimately led Melton to the space the school occupies now, a practice room was named after him. Room naming is an important part of the Opus aesthetic — all the rooms in the school are named after different people and things — and it lends an air of aspiration to greatness and gratitude for support.

While the school offers individual and group lessons from pre-K to adult, light retail and rentals, what sets it apart from similar schools is the jam band. All classes participate in performances and recitals throughout the year, but the jam band is a different beast. All students learn four of the same songs, including The Lion Sleeps Tonight and Brown Eyed Girl and pick up gigs around the county throughout the year. A performance might include between four and twelve kids running through their set twice. Often, previous students join in, and there are always extra bongos and shakers for audience participation.

In addition to the jam band, the Polyroux Music Festival takes place at the Old Liberty Theater in Ridgefield and showcases local and rising talent. The festival, founded and curated by Melton, has just completed its fifth year. The Autumnal showcase is, of course, each fall.

“The idea is that music is meant to be played for people,” said Melton, adding that he was “bummed out” taking lessons as a child only to learn that he had to “find that community” on his own.

Today Melton is a graduate of Portland State University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in piano performance and a Masters in Teaching Music (MAT). He used a captivating Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000 for the new venture. Families are included at every turn. A cozy backyard deck, front yard raised bed garden and comfy sofas inside the front door welcomes all to sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Little cups hold big dreams

Play cafe adds preschool and franchise opportunities

photos by jessica swanson

ust one year ago last October, Little Cups and Grownups opened on Main Street in Old Town Battle Ground. Matt Parker had left behind his job as a bodyshop manager and – a little blessing – his commute from Battle Ground to Beaverton. He and his wife Janelle decided to do something that held meaning for their family of six – open a “play cafe” in their hometown. At the same time, the popular Cafe Sip and Play in East Vancouver suddenly closed, and they were able to score some beloved toys and fixtures. Four months later, the Sip and Play space was still for rent, so they took it over and now run two shops most days of the week.

This fall, the Parkers started a preschool in the Battle Ground location. At press time, 12 kids were enrolled in two classes – a three- to five-year-old class and a “two and you” class for children and parents to attend together.

“We needed something to help supplement the cafe, and Battle Ground is a good place for another preschool because the other ones fill up really fast,” said Parker. The Parkers’ former onsite business office was converted to classroom space, where the preschoolers do arts and crafts and then have playtime in the main space. The school is starting small, but the eventual goal is to offer classes for three age groups: 2, 3 to 4 and 4 to 5, and double enrollment in the first year.

Play area 2

Despite – or maybe because of – all the excitement, I can almost hear the tired in Parker’s voice as he describes the family’s journey over the last year.

“It has been a lot of hard work – a lot harder than we anticipated,” he said. “This is the most challenging thing we have ever done.” The Parkers used their savings to launch their business. They have different business partners at each location, but those partners are not active in the stores.

The Parkers are now offering franchise opportunities with Little Cups. “The family opening a third location – it would be too much for us to do, but it could be great for somebody else,” said Matt. “They would get the benefits, name brand and all the experience that we’ve gleaned over the last year.”

Little Cups and Grownups

littlecupscafe.com

Battle Ground

614 E. Main St., 360-687-2045

East Vancouver

3000 S.E. 164th Ave., Suite 107, 360-254-2375

A lake to be liked

Don’t pass up this local gem for hiking, swimming and year round camping

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photos by todd gunderson

Battle Ground Lake State Park feels a world way, especially in the winter, with the fog settled on the water, dew in the grass and only the hushed sounds of anglers on the docks. Only 20 minutes from Vancouver, right outside Old Town Battle Ground, this 280-acre park collects a day-use fee of $10, and is really worth it, especially for large and small family gatherings, day hikes and horseback riding, not to mention the lake itself.

One could easily spend the day down at the picturesque lake, which is of volcanic origin and considered to be a smaller version of Oregon’s Crater Lake, according to information provided by Washington State Parks. The spring-fed lake is stocked with trout, and when we were there, a pair of fishermen were practicing fly fishing on the banks.

For hikers and families, the trail around the lake is rustic and wet and full of creatures and mushrooms to identify. It’s an infinite adventure for small feet and fingers. The trail follows or dips down right to the water in many places, and my kids were so enthralled with the riparian area that I had to drag them out of there even though it was only 50 degrees and we were all freezing.

Battle Ground Lake State Park is a year-round campground with ample facilities, but the jewel of the off-season are the four lake-facing cabins among a grove of Douglas fir trees. Each cabin is 12-by-24 feet in size and accommodates up to five people. My only complaint is that it is nearly impossible to find out how much a cabin rents for, and you have to create an online identity at washington.goingtocamp.com

before you can learn fees or reserve cabins. Since fees change from year to year and season to season, I recommend calling 888-CAMPOUT to learn more and reserve. This park has 25 standard campsites, six hookup sites and 15 primitive sites that require campers to hike a quarter- to a half-mile from the parking lot, along with group accommodations and horse camping. The primitive sites are $12 and prices go up to almost $40.

Battle Ground Lake State Park is less popular than other local parks because of the fees, but it is truly a gem, and worth a visit or a stay.  

Letter: Winter 2014

Jessica

photo Todd Gunderson

Winter is (nearly) here, and I’m not *just* a tiny bit jittery. I do own a “happy light” and I think maybe this year, I will actually use it. The Farmers’ Almanac is telling us it’s going to be a doozy of a season wherever we are, but to expect a particularly frigid winter this year in the PNW.

Am I scaring you? Not to worry, I have the solution. Just go out. Out, and out, and out some more. When my first child was born, I didn’t have a car, and we were both cooped up and nutty-pants come the rain, so we donned rain gear every single day and got out of Dodge. We walked downtown from the Lincoln Neighborhood once a week to meet a friend; we walked to Shumway to meet other moms. We walked to the parks; we walked to visit our neighborhood goats. We were wet and cold but happy and sane(ish), by golly. I have my mom-mobile now, which you’ll have to take away from me at my funeral (sorry, Earth), but the principle applies: Even though it’s winter, and the weather thwarts us at every turn, GET. OUT. The out-of-doors offers exercise and oxygen, and all the world’s a playground with the right mindset.

In this issue’s feature on winter play (page 11), writer Sheri Byrd explores an endless winter wonderland of outdoor and indoor activities. Hit the Sno-Parks, the hot springs, or the climbing wall. In the immortal words of the world’s largest activewear company, just do it. On page 15, we take you to Battle Ground Lake State Park, a real gem in this region’s crown. We are terribly lucky to have this picturesque lake nearby with its huge campground, fishing, hiking and cabins. Check it out.

Want to stay near by, but the kids are going all crazy? Stop into Little Cups and Grownups (page 22) for a morning out. Or check out the dozen or so family friendly farms in the area. Even though it’s the off-season, you might talk a farmer into a tour of their winter garden or pet-stock barn. Let’s face it, kids love pigs.

The point is, we want our readers to be happy, healthy and mentally stable when spring comes creeping back. Take our advice: Ready, set, GO!

Conway Family Farm’s ‘pet-stock’ provides milk and cheese for many

Goats

photos by jessica swanson

When Lorrie Conway was a young girl in 4-H, she defied her cattle ranching father – by raising a goat. When her eldest daughter chose a goat as her 4-H project 20 years ago, goats came back into her life. Now, she can’t give them up. So in addition to her full time job and homestead, Lorrie wakes at 4 a.m. each day to milk 15 to 20 Nubian does. “It’s my Zen time,” she says.

Lorrie estimates that she and her husband Shaun spend six hours a day with the goats, providing around 55 loyal customers with fresh raw goat milk every week from their Grade A raw milk dairy. She sets high standards for her products and the health of her animals, and she expects customers to bring the same commitment. She considers each customer a partner, and each must visit the farm and meet with her before becoming a customer.

The Conways also have a small farm store, where you can find woolen yarn and blankets from the farm’s sheep, the occasional dozen eggs, and a few other homemade products. In addition, there is a u-pick blueberry patch, and this year, the Conways built a cheese cave to store cheese made from excess goat milk.

The farm is a member of the Washington State University Clark County Extension Service Model Properties Program, and the Conways are always seeking innovative ways to keep their prices down while sustainably stewarding their partially wooded five-acre parcel. For example, the futures market indicated “no relief in rising feed costs,” said Lorrie. So this year, they put in a hydroponic sprout growing system, so they can feed their pastured goats fresh green grass daily in addition to alfalfa hay but at less than a third of the cost.

Over the last four years, Clark County has seen a rise in the number of small farms, but a decrease in the average acreage. In fact, when Lorrie and Shaun first moved on to their acreage more than 20 years ago, she thought they would eventually go bigger. But today, she believes they have cultivated a “culture of excellence” at their farm, by having to be discriminating and fastidious in all of their ventures. She says, “We are hell bent on showing people what you can do on five acres. It’s big enough. You just have to be efficient.”  

Harvest Days

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This year’s tour offers an inside look at a variety of farms, from stalwarts such as Kunze Farm and Bizi Farms to brand new family operations such as Botany Bay Farm and Five Spouts Farm. (For more on Botany Bay Farm, see the Green Life section on page 8.) Doug Stienbarger, WSU Clark County Extension director, said that in the last two to four years, while the number of small farms has been increasing, the amount of acreage each sits on is decreasing, which supports recent anecdotal evidence that there are simply more, smaller farms.

Eric Lambert, Extension Small Acreage Program coordinator, says properties of most sizes are welcome under the small acreage banner. It’s more about “how you intend to use your land,” he said. “If you have ten acres of lawn, it doesn’t really work, [but if you are] growing some food, raising some animals, and having wildlife habitat, it’s a good fit whether it’s 40 acres or two.”

The Harvest Celebration started in 1998 in Clallam County and spread to 13 or 14 counties in the state. While some counties coordinate a farm dinner and other events, Clark County farms are left to decide what they would like to offer. Most host a day’s worth of family friendly activities. This year, as in years past Northwest Organic Farms is hosting a popular garlic and tomato festival, which draws 500 people, and Half Moon Farm will put on a honey festival to celebrate bees and bee products. An apple fest is also in the works.

“We are trying to connect consumers with their food and agriculture products. Most people didn’t grow up on farms. They don’t know where their food comes from,” said Lambert. “Building relationships is one of the key goals of this event.”

A role for land stewardship education

Some of the farms on the Harvest Celebration Tour are part of the Model Properties Program, a collaboration with Clark County Environmental Services. Lambert said “landowners and farmers can show their commitment to land stewardship,” and receive a designation that they are implementing clean water management practices and good land stewardship on their acreage. These practices include guttering to reduce mud, fencing to keep animals from eroding streams, composting manure and covering compost, siting outbuildings to improve efficiency, properly storing chemicals and fuels away from wells and septic systems, keeping vegetation around waterways and wetlands, limiting bare soil areas and trying to keep a weed free pasture.

Lambert does a casual site visit of a property at the request of an owner, and makes recommendations that fit the above criteria. When the property meets the criteria, it receives a placard recognizing the steward’s efforts.

Several farms on this year’s tour are model properties, including Conway Family Farms, Five Sprouts Farm, Storytree Farm and Garden Delights Herb Farm and CSA, with five other properties in the county currently carrying the designation.

Erin Harwood is a farmer and co-owner of Garden Delights, as well as the previous small acreage coordinator.

“I would say it takes a lot of effort [to become a model property] – all of it well worth it!” she said. “Our family has owned our farm property for more than 20 years, and we have continually worked to improve it over time. This included improving our knowledge, experience and also management skills. While all of this sounds challenging, it is definitely feasible to become a model property! I suspect there are a lot of properties out there that would qualify, they just set such high standards for themselves – which is great and exactly why they would qualify.”

WSU Clark County Extension’s flagship course is coming up in September. Living on the Land: Stewardship for Small Acreages is a 12-week course that includes modules on soil management, best water practices, livestock and animal management, and “Turning Dreams into Reality.” This course is open to anyone who has land or is thinking about acquiring it. Lambert says that farmers who attend this class along with an early winter business planning class have a great shot at success on their land.

Staying connected

While the Harvest Celebration is a great opportunity to connect with farmers once a year, there are ways to connect year round, including an online Farm Finder accessible at http://smallfarms.wsu.edu/farms/locate_search.asp.

“A lot of people are demanding more local food, having that connection with your famer and supporting local economy,” said Stienbarger. “We are trying to preserve the agricultural roots that we have in this county.”  

Half Moon Farm’s 18 hives keeping their large garden and honey business buzzing

Bee Haven

 photos by jessica swanson

When Brenda Calvert’s husband Bob retired from the Navy 10 years ago, he was looking for a hobby. Already flourishing was Brenda’s garden art business and small farm on eight acres in Brush Prairie. When Bob became interested in beekeeping, it was a perfect complement to the business – obviously – and soon, it became a large part of the couple’s business.

“He got hooked,” Brenda said, “and then I got hooked.”

Bees are in the news a lot these days – and it’s never good news. This summer’s lowlight was a 50,000-bee pesticide death in Oregon that prompted the Oregon Department of Agriculture to place a 180-day ban on the use of dinotefuron, a pesticide based on neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide associated with massive bee die-offs. The couple currently manages 18 beehives, each of which can produce up to 250 pounds of honey in a season from a variety of flower sources. More importantly Brenda has become a leader in the beekeeping community, an advocate for bees and sustainable practices, and a mentor to aspiring beekeepers.

Half Moon Farm is a steward of bees and the land use practices they need to survive. When the Calverts moved onto their acreage in 1998, they cleared the overgrown blackberries with pigs, who uprooted the whole property and allowed the Calverts to avoid spraying toxic chemicals on their land. They have continued to develop their land in similar ways, sustainably and in tune with nature. The couple has various pollinator gardens, a large lavender patch with more than 400 plants of various European varieties, heirloom pumpkins and a variety of vegetables, fruits and nuts thriving in concert with a diverse wooded acreage.

Brenda does not use spray pesticides, rather opting for torching weeds, using boiling water on them or, if necessary, injecting them with apple cider vinegar or a “touch of Round Up.” She beams with pride at the amount of beneficial insects and other creatures living on the property, such as praying mantises and “about a million frogs.” For fertilizer, Brenda uses organic chicken and mushroom compost and diatomaceous earth. She raises chickens for eggs, which are in high demand, and this year, a few pigs are hanging out in the front garden. This fall, a new farm store will house all of Half Moon’s products in one place.

Half Moon is not a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, but instead its customers check for availability and then make appointments to come by and pick up produce, flowers and honey. Brenda grew up on her family’s land in the area and remembers “riding my horse to Battle Ground” and remarking that the landscape has truly changed since there were dozens of dairies dotting Clark County and bees weren’t dying by 30 percent a year.

There are a number of theories about why bees are dying at alarming rates – one of Brenda’s is that there are so many chemicals, their immune systems are simply breaking down and the hive cannot stay as strong as it used to. These days, bees need extra care. In the Pacific Northwest, the bees must be protected from the dampness, and to that end the hives at Half Moon Farms have eaves to keep the homes dry.

There is a bit of interest blooming in backyard beekeeping, but Brenda encourages pragmatism – taking a bee-first attitude. “Forget about the honey” she said, and concentrate on establishing the bees when first getting started. A hive of bees needs almost 100 pounds of honey to survive and they spend the first few years establishing themselves.

For more on keeping bees and bee awareness, email clarkcountybee@yahoo.com, or check for up-to-date local information on the Washington Beekeepers Association website: wasba.org/local-beekeeping-organizations/#2.  

Fort Columbia State Park and Station Camp/Middle Village

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photos by todd gunderson

You don’t have to be a military buff to enjoy Fort Columbia State Park and in Chinook, but those who are will soak up the history and scenery like a sponge. Middle Village/Station Camp, dedicated in 2012, is equally fascinating, and paints a clear and complex picture of the cultures that came before us.

Known as Middle Village, as well as the town of McGowan and Station Camp, this special spot is where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. This area was inhabited for thousands of years by the industrious community of Chinook Indians. But they had to defend themselves against scores of Europeans, and by 1825, the Plank Houses of Middle Village had been burned down.

Canoes were central to Chinook community and commercial life – typically, there were enough canoes to put everyone afloat at once, large ones holding up to 20 people and tons of cargo. Smaller, “Sweetwater” canoes carried one person and up to 250 pounds of goods and were often used for harvesting camas bulbs. Lifesize models of Chinook canoes are central to the Middle Village historic site, and a walking path with lookout structures encircles the site, with very informative placards and monuments telling the history of the place and leading the visitor back in time.

The site was developed by the McGowans, a family that came west for the Gold Rush and later made its fortune in fish. The McGowans established the first commercial salmon packing business in the region in 1857 after P.J. McGowan laid claim to 320 acres of a failed Catholic mission to convert the Chinook to Christianity.

In 1904, McGowan paid for the construction of a Catholic Church built of Port Orford Cedar. While six generations of McGowans lived here, after the cannery moved and fish traps and seines were outlawed, many of the Middle Village/Station Camp buildings deteriorated. In 1962, St. Mary’s was restored and Sunday evening service is held there every week for parishioners and visitors alike. The church was known as the “Star of the Sea” and was one of the earliest know mission land grants in Washington.

The Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery spent just 10 days here in 1805. Historians called the spot “Station Camp” because it was Lieutenant William Clark’s primary survey station to produce a detailed and accurate map of the mouth of the Columbia River and surrounding area.

Fort Columbia has not changed much since it was established to defend the upper Pacific coast from 1906 through World War II. It’s a quick tour but a fun one for families with spooky buildings to explore, grassy knolls to picnic on and a large cannon to peer into. The State Park and national Lewis and Clark site encompasses 593 acres and a mile of freshwater shoreline. The site includes Barracks and Officer’s Quarters, which now serve as an interpretive site and administration. Battery Ord makes for a truly personal look inside the protected operations of the base. The Powerhouse is hidden in the grass, sporting a large historic steam generator and the remains of a telephone switchboard. The Ordnance Storehouse today is a community theater, which upon our visit was showing Wizard of Oz.

Before you leave the site, make your way down behind the theater and splash around on the secluded beach. It’s quite a lovely stop before the long drive back to the city.

With thanks to the National Park Service for providing such great infomation on these important sites.

Harvest aims to please, lands mostly on target

Harvest Dish

photo by todd gunderson

Harvest is a bustling restaurant with a big city feel set into the historic Camas Hotel. A delightful farm table was full during our entire visit, giving the dining room a vibrant and warm center and as the night progressed – we were there during the action-packed Camas Days – tables filled all around us and along the sidewalk out front. The small wait staff cheerfully patrolled the dining room – even pausing to sing a showstopping happy birthday – while Chef Tim McCusker popped out of the kitchen to check on guests and inquire about dishes.

We ordered five dishes, and two of them were unparalleled. The chicken and bacon stew, winner of a Camas chili cook-off, was superb. A smoky flavor permeated the whole dish, with just enough bite to warrant a cold Laurelwood Workhorse IPA. The white bean, chicken breast and cream combination gave the chili a pleasant color and meaty texture while the roasted jalapenos were balanced by the jack cheese and cilantro piled up on top.

While my companion was hogging the chili, I gobbled down a small plate of caramelized scallops, beautifully perched atop a baby spinach salad with roasted apples, blue cheese, spiced candied pecans, tossed in a warm bacon balsamic dressing. The scallops were perfectly seared off and the salty-sweet late summer salad complemented the shellfish and allowed the 4-ounce dish to leave a robust impression.

My companion ordered the special of the evening – a rack of ribs in a bacon balsamic sauce with a side of bacon-topped macaroni and cheese. The ribs were a bit chewy and dry, and came in an unappetizing “picnic basket” presentation – a metal tray lined with blue gingham paper. My second course came off the small plates menu. The New York steak spinach salad was a disappointment of ice cold tough flank steak, large slices of Roma tomato, and an unexpectedly spicy salad with blue cheese, peach dressing and pickled cucumbers. We also tried the apricot pork turnover, which was a large and beautiful but soaked-through stuffed pastry, with roasted pork loin, apricot jam, goat cheese atop a basil jicama citrus slaw. The slaw was lovely and refreshing.

Harvest is a fun, upscale-but-homey spot in historic downtown Camas, and it fits right in with the busy bistros and retail shops in the neighborhood. I can’t wait to try it out again.

Harvest

401 N.E. Fourth Ave., Camas

camasharvest.com

360-210-4037

Work for the future

Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway Trail is a perfect family outing

Family Biking

photo by claire beagle

I am a little ashamed to admit that I lived on Vancouver’s west side for years before I “discovered” the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail. And to keep that from happening to you, I wanted to feature it here. We stroll the beautiful west end, starting at the Stewart Glen Trailhead on Fruit Valley Road in full view of the creek ready to open to Vancouver Lake. We walk toward Kiggins Bowl, usually stopping at the grass bottomland just short of Main Street.

My kids are very small but even they love it, locating leaves just the size of their hands and learning about how fallen trees feed whole forests. There are a few trails that lead up off the path, great for exploring further, and cyclists, strollers, skateboarders and joggers to cooperate with. Native species flourish here, as do invasive plants, and some vandalists, unfortunately, but as Carlos Ocejo, maintenance worker lead for Greenway sensitive lands, says, “there are all kinds of teachable moments here.” He volunteers on the Greenway with his kids and encourages others to do the same.

The eight-mile hard-surfaced shared-use trail follows the creek from Northwest Bernie Road to the developing jewel Leverich Park, then through the forests and grasslands of Arnold Park, past State Route 500, on to Meadow Homes Park, and it ends just west of Northeast 90th Avenue and Burton Road.

There are parking lots dedicated for Greenway users and several kinds of facilities along the way, including seasonal restrooms, event spaces, disc golf, sports fields and a track at Kiggins Bowl.

The trail includes bottom and upper lands and so “there is a lot of plant variety throughout the whole trail,” said Ocejo, and a diverse tree canopy. Trail users will find a mix of deciduous, conifers and evergreen trees along with native species such as ninebark, Indian plum, spirea, red currant and thimbleberry.

Reed canarygrass is among the biggest trouble makers in this riparian zone trail, especially in the section starting at 65th Avenue and 18th Street. Ocejo’s crew is exploring several chemical free ways of eradicating the plant and have had some success on this stretch of the trail. The grass seed can live for 100 years, so it poses a special threat. Methods to discourage reed canarygrass include dense planting of native species and tilling a field of it and covering it with plastic. The crew has even looked at using goats.

When Ocejo talks about taking a job on the Greenway, his sentiments echo mine exactly: “I wanted to be here. It seems like work for the future.”

Divine – again!

Divine Consign

photo by jessica swanson

A niche that does well in larger markets all over the country has only been in Vancouver about a month – upscale resale clothing.

B. Divine, a newly opened shop on 88th St. in Hazel Dell, is another jewel in the Divine crown, Vancouver’s ever-diversifying nonprofit operation. The best way to shop green is to shop second hand, and B. Divine offers a full range of dress, business and some casual wear for women, including clothing, accessories and shoes. The store is tastefully appointed and decorated with inspirational quotes attributed to various sources, including one by the dressing rooms from God himself: Thou shalt not steal.

For now, the shop accepts all donations in all seasons and keeps those for the 3,500-square-foot floor that fit B. Divine’s demographic – the rest are given away to other charity organizations.

Therese Mills, the store’s manager, shared a larger vision for the shop, which is to mentor young women in retail management and merchandising. Mills spent two decades with Nordstrom as a manager, merchandiser and national buyer, and she would be pleased to send women into the job market with their first reference and letter of recommendation.

“I have 20 years of retail experience, and can give back to the community in that way,” said Mills. The program, which is still in the drawing board is envisioned to be about six months, with graduates walking about with skills and expertise in the sales trade.

Mills is the only paid staff member, and hopes to be managing about 25 volunteers with twice monthly commitments, along with future mentorship participants.

Linda Glover is executive director at Gifts for our Community, which has run Divine Consign on Main Street in Vancouver since 2005, and before that the successful holiday shop fundraisers. She said the boutique “fits right in with what we do here” and is happy to be taking entering the fastest growing sector sector in retail – resale clothing.

GfoC grants dollars to arts, education and human services organizations using sales from its four retail operations, furniture store Divine Consign, B. Divine, Divine Bites (cupcakes) and Divine Again, an upholstery service.

Yacolt

Lucia Falls Park

27781 Lucia Falls Road

Lucia Falls Park along with Moulton Falls Park offer 325 acres of older growth forest, three separate waterfalls and miles of trails. The whole area is open for free to the public and offers picnicking, hiking and horse access, though no swimming is allowed at Lucia Falls, in order to protect fish habitat. Lucia Falls is truly stunning and I recommend letting your inner child go way out on the rocks to play at the edge of the East Fork of the Lewis River, checking out tiny tadpole pools and making the trip over the soaring footbridge. There is a one-mile loop trail at Lucia Falls, as well as a 2.5-mile trail to Moulton Falls Park. The nine-mile Bells trail, which also starts here, will eventually link up with the Rock Creek Campground to the South.

Yacolt Mountain Farm and Nursery

20217 N.E. Yacolt Mountain Road

yacoltmountainfarmandnursery.com

925-200-6683

I hope unbiased journalism really is dead, because I need to tell you something: Yacolt Mountain Farm and Nursery is awesome. A young couple, Dan and Caroline Swansey, left their positions as farm managers in California, and moved to the Pacific Northwest, which had captured their hearts. With the help of Caroline’s family, they purchased acreage on Yacolt Mountain Road, and through their own toil have turned it into a diverse, small-scale horse-powered farm. Yes, they farm using only horses and their own backs. They grow organic produce, which they sell by the share to members and at farmers markets, and raise sheep, goats, chickens and pigs for various uses. The horses are the heart of the operation and lovingly cared for.

Also check out: Finnmark Farms (Goat Barn and Milk Parlor). If you’ve purchased delicious raw goat milk at a shop in Clark County, chances are it comes from Finnmark Farms in Yacolt, one of a small number of local goat farms that have recently opened. You can also buy direct from the farm with prior arrangement. finnmarkfarms.com 360-949-5008

Cedar Creek Grist Mill

Cedar Creek Road

cedarcreekgristmill.com

360-225-5832

OK, so maybe you have never thought, “I really want to drive 40 miles and spend my Saturday afternoon at a historic grain mill.” But listen, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, I know you have thought “I really want to drive 40 miles and spend my Saturday in the middle of a beautiful forest on a trail next to a river.” That is why people move here in droves. The Cedar Creek Grist Mill really is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Pop inside the water-powered mill for a tour and maybe some fresh milled grain, climb up into the rafters to peer down into the turbine and then take some picturesque photos outside the covered deck next to the flume. But best of all, walk over the historic covered bridge and down the short trail to its end at water’s edge, stopping for a picnic along the way. It’s quite a serene spot in Clark County, and a National Historic Site to boot.

Pomeroy Living History Farm

20902 N.E. Lucia Falls Road

pomeroyfarm.org

360-686-3537

History, as they say, is always in the making. And it is no exception at this interactive educational farm that showcases farming techniques from the early 20th century, and is host to some of the most popular events in rural Clark County. The farm has several weekends where it is open to the public for events such as May’s very popular Herb, Vegetable and Sustainable living fair, and October’s Pumpkin Lane. For the very last time on June 8 and 9, Pomeroy will host its historic Steam Logging weekend, showcasing early logging and farming techniques. But as all things change, the educational aspect of Pomeroy Farms is making way for more private events such as weddings, and will not be open as much to the public come 2014. However, very popular formal teas are offered periodically, and they are a great way to access the farm.

Keeping kids healthy is a matter of real food

Karen Kennedy, MS, Certified Nutritionist

photo by anni becker

Karen Kennedy, MS, Certified Nutritionist
Real Food Matters
360-263-5675
realfood-matters.net
Ripplfamilyfarm.blogspot.com
Kennedy teaches cooking, nutrition and health classes to people of all ages — and she also taught yoga for 15 years. But can you guess what her favorite class is? Knife skills!

To Karen Kennedy, real food matters. Finishing her graduate studies in nutrition led her to working on a large-scale organic farm in England and to opening a nutrition practice in Bristol. While living abroad, she consulted with individuals and families, and taught nutrition and cooking classes. After starting her family, she moved back to the states with her husband. A position with Washington State University put her in front of Vancouver public school students teaching nutrition and cooking, as well as adult diabetes education, all while establishing her family’s five-acre homestead in La Center, the Rippl Family Farm. Today, Kennedy has re-established her practice, and she has begun corporate wellness classes, community classes at such venues as Cotton Babies in Vancouver, individual consulting and working directly with patients referred from Dr. Josephine Drew at Ridgefield Family Medicine.

Kennedy’s breadth of knowledge and ability is wide, but a significant focus is on teaching folks about the importance of consuming real foods. Children, she said, are the “most vulnerable” to a food system that can no longer be trusted to nourish people. “They are growing so quickly,” she said. “They are the most important ones.”

When asked what is the most important advice she has for parents about how to nourish their children, she said parents need to provide completely unprocessed or very minimally processed foods. She encourages people to see what they can make at home, to try preparing traditional, healthy foods. For example, she said, “You can make yogurt at home. Go-Gurt is a real stretch from what you can make at home.”

She also said to “make sure kids get protein with each meal. Call it their growing food – the language we use with kids is very important. They are always trying to be a bigger person.”

Because her own kids are in school, Kennedy also notes a health-disrupting trend of often rewarding children with sugary snacks and “treats.”

“Treats are great, like a birthday cake or celebratory meal, and making cookies together. But a treat isn’t a treat when you get it everyday.”

Behind the scenes with A local nonprofit champion

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photo by marie pham

As a teenager, Jeanne Kojis lived in Joliet, Illinois. “The town I grew up in,” she said, “was labeled ‘low income stagnant.’” It was there that she began on a path of community activism. She served on her first board of directors when she was 16, for a Chicago organization that encompassed a drug hotline and free store, and that participated in the very first Earth Day.

She moved west with her husband in 1984, and has raised three children in Vancouver. She became active in her children’s schools and attended the Portland State University Institute for Nonprofit Management program in the ‘90s.

Kojis has been the executive director of the Nonprofit Network Southwest Washington since it separated from the Divine Consign furniture store in 2008. Despite her title, Kojis takes a very behind-the-scenes approach, reflecting, “I feel like I support the people who do the tough stuff, who are on the frontlines to make change.”

NPN provides general education, training and social opportunities to leaders and staff of nonprofits in Southwest Washington. She said, “We connect nonprofits to information and resources.”

NPN also connects regular people to nonprofits in order to generate support for them and their individual causes. One way NPN does this is through the “Giving Circle,” which is a group of people each year who give $250 or more to attend a monthly series of presentations by local nonprofits. At the end of each year, the group offers grants to the nonprofits of their choice. Each member gets one vote, and the group gives out about $10,000 each year.

NPN also sponsors bus tours of various nonprofits each year. This year, there will be a tour on the theme of early childhood and one on the environment, and likely one on vulnerable youth.

Community Cares Tours

From the Nonprofit Network: Come on a compelling half-day tour to learn more about local issues, and how you might help. We will begin with a 30,000 foot perspective from a local expert, then visit three or four distinctly different programs — all addressing a critical community topic. These are not fundraising events, but tours to deepen your understanding of an issue facing our neighbors, and how community organizations are responding. The first tour in 2013 will be focused on early childhood and will feature Support for Early Learning and Families, Innovative Services NW and Educational Opportunities for Children & Families. The cost of the tour is $25 per person. Registration is limited, and dates are to be determined.

“I feel like I support the people who do the tough stuff, who are on the front lines to make change.”

– Jeanne Kojis

Nonprofit Network Southwest Washington

nonprofitnetworkwa.org

360-735-7110

YWCA ad

Need fresh local produce? The hunt is over

County’s oldest CSA still strong and sustainable

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photos by jessica swanson

Hunters’ Greens appears to be the oldest CSA in Clark County. A community supported agriculture farm is one that allows membership in the form of a lump payment in order to sustain the whole growing season. Hunters’ Greens has continuously evolved since its inception as a CSA in 2001.

Jim and Diane Hunter live a simple life in Brush Prairie, where Jim does nearly all of the farming, until Diane is called in to manage the weeds when they get wicked in high season. They do not have any staff or interns. For $500 per season, which runs from June to October, customers get a variety of more than 20 vegetables and several tree fruits. Shareholders can pick up their produce at the farm, or opt for a drop off spot near Uptown Village in Vancouver.

Years ago, Jim encountered his first CSA on the East Coast, when he visited his brother who belonged to one. A few years later, Diane purchased a plot of land and Jim started his first farm on it, after having worked on farms during college, as well as the Pomeroy Living History Farm, where he and Diane met. Selling to the public started with a crop of carrots that went to HP workers who were looking to pool their money for fresh local produce. The farm, which was officially started in 1996, took about five years to get up and running and at its peak has had about 40 shareholders.

Diane’s passions are rescuing historic buildings and abandoned pets, so the couple’s acreage is dotted with both. Jim considers himself an activist, and uses farming as “a way to change the world.” His methods are truly sustainable, using as little nonorganic material as possible – the couple won’t put up a big plastic hoop house, for example, instead choosing to grow all their produce in the fresh air. The farm does not use any pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

No longer the only game in town, today Hunters’ Greens is competing (and cooperating) with many other entities, such as the dozen or so CSAs now well established in Clark County, several chain and independent retailers, and numerous farmers markets. But their produce can be found in Neighbor’s Market and Dulin’s Cafe on Main Street, and in the hands of some two dozen loyal customers. Hunters’ Greens has added a winter share for $125, an all-you-can-carry/preserve one-time pick-up of winter veggies.

A green life

Hunters’ Greens

Brush Prairie

www.huntersgreens.com

360-256-3788

This CSA farm accepts donations to subsidize shares for those who can’t afford one.