About nine years ago, Dennis and I trotted out of the big city and bought the farm. Boom! Except we weren’t dead yet and the farm more like came and bought us, but that’s another story.

Almost the first person we met out here in the Skagit Flats was our neighbor and large-scale organic leek farmer, Ray DeVries. Ray’s a tall, friendly guy with great big sideburns and you can definitely tell by looking at him that he’s a real farmer. He leans over the fence and asks, “Either of you two got an ag degree?”

“Urp, well… Dennis is a musician and I’m a landscaper and artist…” And I’m thinking, “We’re dreamers, what are we doing out here???”

His answer surprised both of us. “Good, that’s in your favor.”

Wow! That is definitely one of the most encouraging things anyone has ever said to me. His timing was impeccable. We had just signed our lives over to the bank for seven gorgeous acres of sandy farmland and an old house that needed a whole lot of work. No barn, no well, no tractor. The land had been in unkempt pasture for about twenty years so it was a snarled mess of quackgrass, blackberry and other weeds. We didn’t know how to farm, much less what to farm. We just knew that we wanted to treat this piece of land kindly and try to make a living from it, somehow, in good time.

Fear of the unknown has been our biggest obstacle. When we figured out we wanted to grow cut flowers, our neighbor Erin Benzakein urged us to join the ASCFG. And again came a huge boost of encouragement. Here was a warm, friendly group of experienced growers willing to answer about any question we had about flower growing. And we could see we weren’t the only hard-working folks facing obstacles. Things started to look possible. Heck, since we didn’t have to deal with cucumber beetles and softball-sized hail we could even probably figure out how to get a barn built…

The learning curve has been steep. Starting a farm from scratch takes hard work, no question. Neither one of us grew up on a farm, but the majority of our grandparents did. I’ve often thought how much easier it must have been to leave the farm for the city all those years ago than to make the return trip. It’s tempting to see loss or tragedy in how few growers there are compared to 100 years ago.

In another way, though, our neighbor Ray was right. Those of us who return to farming with philosophy and art degrees and enthusiasm plus a myriad of other life experiences bring fresh energy and new ideas, new ways of thinking about why and how to go about the business of farming. We’re a conduit to those in the city who long for a connection to their own agrarian roots. And that, of course, is a delightful marketing opportunity. Buy local! Support your local farmer!

Thank you for electing me. It is an exciting and fun prospect to be on the Board and I look forward to representing all of you Northwesterners. Thank you to Jeriann Sabin for being a terrific Regional Director. As I step into her shoes, please do not be shy about contacting me with your ideas, concerns and comments. Right now I could especially use your thoughts on where and when to hold the 2010 Regional Meeting.

One more thing, if you don’t yet use the ASCFG’s online Bulletin Board, you are missing perhaps the greatest resource the ASCFG offers. The search engine attached to the Bulletin Board is amazing. If you want to grow a new crop or an old crop in a new way, all you have to do is type in, say, “tulips” and up will come discussions dating back years from lots of different growers. You will learn spacing, varieties, growing and harvesting techniques, postharvest care, etc. Topics range from making your farmers’ market presentation snappy to how to manage a farm with young kids. And you can leave the resource richer than you found it by adding your own two bits. So for those of you in my Region who don’t yet use the Bulletin Board, if you feel daunted about getting started, call me at (206) 290-3154 before the spring growing season kicks in and I will help you.