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Local organic farm provides more than just good food
Meandering through the countryside on the scenic road to Jubilee Farm in Carnation, the Valley view couldn't be more spectacular. Snowcapped Cascades surround picturesque farmland, creating a serene and peaceful setting. Winding around the last gentle curve, roosters greet drivers in the middle of the road as the white Jubilee Farm barn comes into view.
Jubilee Farm is an organic farm owned by Erick and Wendy Haakenson. The farm sits on 250 acres, of which 35 acres are actively farmed. The Haakensons grow just about any type of produce you can imagine, using completely organic methods.
Consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits of organic produce and are seeking out healthier food for their families. The Haakensons feel that organic food not only tastes better, it has greater nutritional value.
"As organic farmers mineralize the soil, locally grown organic food becomes much more nutritious," Erick said. The Haakensons practice crop rotation, use composting methods and regularly send soil samples to a lab to be tested for proper balance.
"The whole key to fertilizing is feeding the soil," he said.
Eleven years ago, Jubilee Farm was the first farm in the area to offer a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to members of the community. According to Erick, CSA members are people who want to know where their food is coming from and support local farmers in their efforts to grow organically.
CSA members sign up in advance for "sessions" and receive a weekly box of organic produce from the farm. Sessions run just about all year, and at times boxes may included organic produce from other local sources as well.
The Haakensons do it all: planting, propagating, pruning, grafting, watering, weeding and harvesting.
Summer is the highlight and the farm becomes a destination for families. The Haakensons enjoy teaching children about where food comes from, how it grows and how to harvest it. A former preschool teacher, Wendy gets to keep in touch with many former students and their families who visit the farm.
Families harvest their own vegetables, pick fresh fruit, cut flowers, collect fresh eggs from the hens and learn about what's happening on the farm from "Farmer Erick." "People will come and spend the whole day here, picnicking, visiting and enjoying the farm," Wendy said.
The farm's work-share program offers a unique opportunity for CSA members to receive a weekly produce box in exchange for working on the farm. Work-share members commit to working four hours a week for a 20-week period during the summer season.
"We'll get members with high-powered, high-stress jobs who will gladly work four hours a week in exchange for their box of produce. They leave happy," Erick said. Wendy added, "We count on the extra help they provide on the farm."
Diana Piermattei was Jubilee Farm's first CSA member. A Redmond homemaker and part-time yoga teacher, she supported the farm from the beginning.
"I am certain that the food Erick grows here is more nutritious than what I can get in the store. Erick has an instrument [a refractometer] that measures nutrients in produce. Over the years the farm has been a peaceful retreat for me, a beautiful place in the country, and I leave feeling refreshed," Piermattei said.
The Haakensons are members of Sno-Valley Tilth, a local nonprofit organization committed to promoting organic food production practices in the area. Sno-Valley Tilth provides an opportunity for local growers to come together in a supportive environment, sharing and networking with each other. "It definitely fills a social need for us, too - meetings are potlucks and are fun," Wendy said.
Erick added that Sno-Valley Tilth has a listing of all the organic farms in the area. He said he encourages community members to check out the local farms and support farmers in their efforts.
"One hundred years ago, 90 percent of people were involved with farming. Today, that number is at 2 percent. Seventeen, 18 years ago, no one was farming out here in the Valley with the exception of a few dairies. It's great to see the local agricultural community growing," said Erick.
Erick wanted to be a farmer since childhood. After fishing for years in Alaska, he was able to fulfill his dream when he started Jubilee Farm. He and Wendy met through e-mail when she wrote to apply for a job three years ago. There was no job at the time, but Erick invited her to come out to the farm. Wendy volunteered and the rest is "herstory," as Erick likes to call it. Married for a year and a half, the two are still newlyweds.
The Haakensons couldn't be happier doing what they are doing, living their dream of working the land. Their commitment to the organic way of life is apparent in everything they do. Visitors are welcome to stop by the farm to learn more about the Haakenson's philosophy.
Jubilee Farm is located at 229 W. Snoqualmie River Road in Carnation. For more information, call (425) 222-4558 or visit their Web site at www.jubileefarm.org. For a complete listing of organic farms in the area, visit the Sno-Valley Tilth Web site at www.snovalleytilth.org.