Organized Chaos

That’s what farming is. It’s organizing and balancing the most unpredictable and least understood of phenomenons. Life.

Soil life, plant life, our lives. Why do we exist? Why are we here? Now and not a 100 years ago or 100 years in the future? How did a bizarre combo of star dust turn into the Earth and some fish creature crawled out of the soupy water and eventually we appeared? If you need to go to Church, Ceremony, Meditation after that paragraph, I feel ya.

I don’t know, this is just one of the many extensional crisis I encounter weekly. I don’t blame people for numbing out on all the chaos of the world. There’s a lot of horrible things happening, there’s also a lot of beautiful events and creatures. I just happened to put myself into a profession where I constantly butt up against these ideas of sustainability, stewardship, service, domestication, controlling and calculating future yields.

It’s the hardest thing to try to capitalize, calculate crop yields and control growing conditions of plants, animals and weather that will do what they want. I always return to the old adage of  “Best-laid plans”. I am constantly trying to build and reinforce the farms business foundations and that can lead to non-stop work and stress. Every time I tell myself that all I am doing is managing chaos and laying the best plans I can I get a nice deep breath in me and go for a walk. Farming has meant a LOT more time in front of the screen filling in spread sheets of contacts, crop plans, soil amendment calculators, finances, e-mails, etc. I’ve been creating so many bureaucratically documents, hashing out so many plans, attending so many events, taking so many classes! At least it all comes with a wonderful community!!!

I am jaw dropping, blow away and appreciative of the community I have meet since I became a farmer. I used to think I wasn’t a hugger… turns out I just never found myself surrounded by people who I wanted to hug, who made me feel comfortable with my complex mixed up emotions. I can get angry about fossil fuels and oil companies and I can drive my car, buy plastic silage tarps and keep trudging on. No one really knows how to best tackle the problems we face today in our world. But we make the best decisions, make the necessary compromises and I grow local, fresh, nutritious foods for you all while also paying rent and reconnecting with my Sinixt ancestors. I can’t express how grateful I am. I am sure I usually come off stressed, but honestly when I am out in the fields transplanting, seeding, weeding and I know exactly when the Junco’s come flying through the brassica beds, you know I am happy. I couldn’t think of anything better to do that to speak to those silly birds in Sinixt as I keep plugging along getting the work done with the best of intentions.

And that’s just it. I can’t fully change the system in which I live in my lifetime. But I can relearn a worldview that capitalism tried to snuff out. I can bring the best of intentions, to feed my community good food and look after land the best I can, and suddenly the mundane is sacred. Sometimes the sacred is pronounced and obvious, sometimes it’s the meditative state at which I weed or the presence in which I show up to a conversation, even logistics. I try to bring the ancestors with me everywhere, admire the world, wonder at the world and worry less about the future, stress out less about the logistics, and seek out less definitive answers. Because everything is still just as murky at the primordial soup. We just have hummingbirds to speak to and Nootka roses to smell (and eat!)

Lovingly,

Your Farmer Michelle

Winter Solstice Ambition

As busy and scattered as I feel this winter there is one obvious thread connecting all that I do. November was Indigenous Heritage Month and December is Write a Business Plan Month. I am combining the two for you! Because that big thread is running through all and everything I have been so busy doing. 

This winter I have had opportunities to hear from some of the most inspiring folks involved in the Native Food Sovereignty movement. They’ve helped me think more deeply about the vision and mission of Good Rain Farm and I want to share them with you!

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Poster above from the First Nations Development Institute, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Boardand Muckleshoot Tribe. Artist is Joe Seymour 

In early November I attended the Carbon Sink Convergence in San Diego and had the opportunity to meet inspiring farmers from across the nation and learn how others were reclaiming their various traditional food ways from specific places such as Vietnam, or the Philippines, to broadly Africa, Mexico, Middle East and all around Indian Country. It was a great privilege to spend time on the Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians Reservation hearing from Loren BirdRattler of the Blackfeet, Project Manager of the Tribes Agriculture Resource Management Plan  and A-dae Romero-Briones who is the Director of Programs for the Native Agriculture and Food Systems at the First Nations Development Institute.

Speaking at the Washington Tilth Conference  was Valerie Segrest of the Muckleshoot, the keynote speaker and Mary Lee Jones of the Yakama tribe opened the conference with a moving land acknowledgement. She taught us the Swan Dance that you can see in a video by clicking the link embedded in her name and also lead a workshop where she talked in depth about traditional food ways. I also met some awesome fellow Farmers some of who’ll be listed in my PNW Native Food Growers and Providers list below! 

Rowan White who is Mohawk, was the key note speaker at The Stone Barns Young Farmers Conference. Chef Nephi Craig who is White Mountain Apache/Navajo along with the Ndee Bikiyaa Farmer Frank lead a workshop titled the Western Apache Paradigm on Food. It was great to hear from those folks above and talk with farmers from the eastern seaboard. Exchanging ideas and challenging ways of thinking was extremely beneficial and look forward to ways that experience will seep into my farming and our farming community here. 

Having the opportunity to meet so many Indigenous Women as key notes, workshop leaders, speakers, thinkers and business owners. I am blown away, impressed, inspired and I am starting to see my place amongst them and within the Food Justice movement as a whole. They are traditional crafters and dancers, they are nutritionists, story tellers, seed keepers, teachers, people with prefixes, Chefs. I am the Farmer among them, alongside many others, tending the earth and distributing food. I may not be able to write amazing technical papers, or know all the stories to tell, or how to cook the food in amazing ways, I can’t tell you all the benefits of eating healthy local food. But I can and love to grow it!

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In between all these amazing events I have been listening to podcast by Indigenous Women, most notably The Toasted Sister and All My Relations. Attending a variety of workshops but most worth mentioning is the Tend, Gather, Grow workshop hosted by GRuB (Garden Raised Bounty) in Olympia where I met a mother, daughter duo of Sinixt Heritage! They loved what I could say in our Salish Language and were excited to connect me with other Sinixt/Colville folks here in Portland!

I don’t know if all those great people up there have a business plan, but they do all have a plan. These experiences and these people I have met in just a short 60 day window have inspired so much focus and intention into the what and hows of Good Rain Farm. My take away from 2019 is this, Just Do It, buckle down, bust it out, kick butt! After attending all these conferences and events, I know what I am doing. I know I can grow food really well. The goal in 2020 is to reduce distractions, focusing on growing great food I can be super proud of, that you enjoy, that’s the goal. So for the rest of 2019/2020 winter I am focusing on the Business plan. What will my days look like? Where will support labor come from? Logistics, crop plan, methods of ensuring I track my cars mileage, that I enter receipts into the excel sheet, all those little daily business needs are going to have a plan and I am going to stick to it, stay organized and allow myself to free up time from shoe box chaos to focus on growing food. 

With a stronger vision and mission, I am better able to focus on the part of Business planning that is researching the market, the agriculture industry on macro and micro scales, understanding my target market and working out marketing plans to reach y’all with the right produce, story and visions. How do I communicate with you about what I am doing that gives me a niche market within the wider industry? Amongst poking around various Chambers of Commerce, including Oregon Native American Chamber – a great resource for finding Native Owned Business to shop with throughout Oregon and SouthWest Washington; part of my research is reading and understanding the USDA Census of Agriculture. 

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What I found most interesting again was the prevalence of Native focused snapshots provided. I thought I would provide you with synthesis of what I have learned. Many of the above people support and have helped grow these statistics over the past 5 years. Between 2012 to 2017 the USDA has found a 10% increase in American Indian/Alaskan Native producers – this is in part due to how they’ve reworded questions (this alone led to a 7% increase throughout the census).  It is my assumption that Natives in general are increasingly self reporting at higher rates. As a group of people who have battled all sorts of harm we have chronically under reported ourselves choosing to identify with any other race than ‘Native’. I used to check the ‘White/Caucasian’ box myself due to all sorts of reasons, among them not believing I was ‘Native enough’.

The USDA has found that of all the Race and ethnicities Native producers were most likely to be young and female, that is, under 35 years of age (I am 33). 36% of the total farmers in the US reported being Female. Female farmers are most likely to live on the farm and be younger than their male counterparts, averaging 57 years of age. 8% of both male and female respondents are under the age of 35 for women that is up from 6% in 2012. There has been a 27% growth in female farmers throughout the whole US between 2012 and 2017. Oregon ranked as the 4th state with the most female farmers with Washington coming in at 7th. 19% of Female farmers have received Government Funds (Unsure if this is payouts, subsidies or contracts to schools etc.) compared to 26% of their male counterparts receiving similar government funding. In Washington farming has reduced by -4% over all, with the most farmers (34%) farming between 10-49 acres. 47% of Washington farmers are Valued by Sales at less than $2,500 worth of product. Female Farmers throughout the US are 50% likely to be similarly ranked at $2,500 value by sale, when you look at the numbers of primary income coming from Farm or Off Farm the numbers suggest that many work 2nd jobs.

Statistics are interesting and I always consider who is asking questions, how they are asking them and who they are directing them to. For me, the average age of farmers has barely moved over the last ten years, the majority of white men in farming is still overwhelming, and the inability of majority 10 acres and under farmers to make a living is disheartening (all the while land prices are going up out of reach of many). I do still feel and see a shift happening. There is more diversity in the agricultural industry, indeginous women are farming at higher rates than almost any other ethnicity, bringing with them reverence for the earth and all beings living upon her. The visibility and opportunities for all those who I mentioned at the beginning of this post to speak, teach and spread their worldview around is truly inspiring and I believe is an indication that folks are beginning to listen and that hearts and minds are changing. We can continue to move these statistics and the reality they are trying to inform you about together, as a community. 

Thanks to you as always for joining me in community to help push our world forward, to thrust a new year, a new dawn, with brighter and more just futures for us all. I deeply believe a more equitable world will produce a cleaner, healthier, safer, and smarter society, communities with unique traditions, characteristics and diets but also with common reverence and love for life above greed, money and the haves and have nots. More and diverse heads thinking about all that we do will open up so many new and clever solutions that our currently isolated institutions could never imagine. Cheers to a future of lively discussion, solution making, and community building – always around a table full of healthy, nutritious food!

Here is the list of PNW Native Food Business I promised!

Name of Business Where Type
Bison Coffee House Portland, Or Coffee Shop
Good Rain Farm Portland Metro Farm
Longhearing Farm Darrington, Wa Farm
Wapato Island Farm Sauvie Island, Or Farm
Birch Basket Seattle, Wa Catering & Private Chef
Indiginous Roots Farm Duvall, Wa Farm
Salmon King Catering Warm Springs, Or Fishery, Cannery & Catering
Snake Mountain Ranch Bellingham, Wa Ranch – Livestock
Herbnhood Roseberg, Or Botanical Products & Clothing
Clary Sage Herbarium Portland, Or Apothecary / Retail
Little Sun Farm Portland Metro Farm
Harsh Farm Bremerton, Wa Farm
Two Spirit Medicinals Portland, Or Medicinal
Muckleshoot Seafood Products Auburn, Wa Fishery
Sakari Farms Tumalo, Or Farm
She nah nam Seafood Olympia, Wa Fishery
Suquamish Seafood Poulsbo, Wa Fishery
Eagle Crossing Restaurant Warm Springs, Or Restaurant
Battleground Apothecary Battleground, Wa Apothecary
Off The Rez Seattle, Wa Food Truck

Lim̓lm̓t (Thank you in the Sinixt Language),

From your farmer,

Michelle Week

CSA Week #1: Wild Greens

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word weed lately, and what it was that my ancestors ate. Finding pre-contact information on the Sinixt peoples is very hard, authentic and correct information is even harder. Often when natives people did write information down or agreed to be recorded or observed they often changed some of the details, omitted information, did something the incorrect way. I’ve been told that even today first nations peoples won’t share certain details, so much has already been taken, now it’s more important than ever to keep these details to themselves and within the tribes and off the record. It’s an effort to preserve culture and tradition. It also means that sometimes we lose some of the ‘real’ knowledge when our elders die and all we have to go off of is the wrong way a European anthropologist managed to record.

It’s also an act that creates a hierarchy of those privy to the correct details and those who aren’t. I often find myself at the furthest outer ring of access to this information. I am unrecognized by my tribe and I am white passing, middle class, off-rez, urban Indian with a college education. I have privilege and that modern day privilege means that most natives don’t think I am deserving of cultural privilege. What I learn I gain from books and ‘Uncle Google’ as we call it at Wisdom of the Elders. I am not alone though, even those who grow up on the reservation don’t always have access to the same cultural and traditional information. And when your reservation is made up of 14 tribes and your grandmother didn’t know what tribe you were descendants from until 7 years ago and as recently as 2017 your tribe was considered extinct, well, the odds aren’t stacked in your favor. It’s a lot to untangle. With the support of my peers and the elders I’ve meet at Wisdom of the Elders, NAYA, etc. I’ve learned and been encouraged to jump in, go for it, and not worry so much about the ‘right’ way. I’ve come to understand that I am the human form of Chinook Jargon, and that I am as authentic and true as that language and that my cultural heritage is going to resemble some of those same mash-ups, mispronunciations and intentional mistakes. And that this is all ‘authentic’.

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When it comes to the word weeds I like to think my people are as tough as the weeds. And that this word, weed, is really just used to describe a plant in a location unsatisfactory to a human. Really, a lot of plants we call weeds are really rather useful, and if not to us to the other animals and plants surrounding us that we might rely on. So in this weeks first CSA share you’re gonna eat your green weeds. You’ll find that most of them are naturalized transplants from Europe. They aren’t ‘Native’ but I assure you, they are First Foods my ancestors ate. Some people might say, they ate those weeds because they were poor. And that might be partially true but I also think that the word weed has been used in such a derogatory way that in the past it helped distinguish social hierarchies and shame people into buying in to commercial vegetable varieties, distancing us from the land and sustenance living. Through it’s use, people were encouraged to spend money on specific types of foods and to stop foraging, stop teaching the next generation and to be more reliant on a economy, middle men, government all bent on making a profit, capitalism. I believe it was a method of disenfranchising folks.

I am here to decolonize this way of thinking, to challenge it through our diets, to explore this tangled web of history and how it shaped the very basic human need to eat. I hope you enjoy thinking about this, about what it took to develop strawberries from the tiny wild ones to the larger plump varieties we have access to today. We wouldn’t have those big plump ones without the little wild ones. Through eating, we are saving them, calling attention to them, saying we like them and want to preserve the older, more resilient and weedy strawberry variety. We don’t know when we’ll need those older genetics later, after cultivated strawberries succumb to a virus, pest or disease.

The four stages to prepping Burdock root, Wash well, Cut the tops off, Scrape backwards down the root removing hairs and outer skin, shred or cut Sasagaki, then soak in a cold water bath.

Part of the use of weed is also the unknown and fear that come with eating them. If you google some of these plants the authors will warn you against eating them altogether, or eating too much, or the wrong part. After digging into a variety of different weeds I have come to expect that my first search is going to result in a bunch of warnings before I find information support the use and consumption of these plants. Often these plants are widely used and even cultivated and domesticated for specific characteristics in other countries, such as Burdock Root in Japan. You can eat any burdock root, just some of it is gonna be tiny and hairy, or really bitter tasting, or just a lot of work for a little reward. Just like there is a white Camas that is totally safe to eat but since there is also a white flowered Death Camas the internet will just tell you to never eat ANY white Camas like flower and bulb. Which, I get it, better safe than sorry. But so safe that we are afraid of everything? There are several ways to test a plant to see if you are allergic to it. Rub a patch on your hand or wrist, if you get a reaction, don’t eat it. No reaction after 1 hr – 24hrs? Take a nibble, if your mouth gets kind itchy don’t move forward. No reaction, make a small meal, make a bigger meal, etc. until you just know you are good to go.

I get that I am crossing a capitalism and health industry line here. But just like peanut butter, strawberries, dairy, gluten, burdock root, just because I put it in your CSA box, if you are allergic don’t eat it and tell me so I can do my best to separate the foods you can eat from the foods you can’t. And the old adage, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, that’s what all preventable dietary diseases come from: too much pizza = heartburn, too much salt and my chest feels crushed, too much alcohol can shut down your liver. But the reverse is true, to little salt during a hot day and your body will lack electrolytes, sweating all the salt and other trace minerals out.

Chopping Plantain, Burdock leaves and cracking open walnuts with our nut cracker (channel lock pliers)

You are CSA members of Good Rain Farm, or readers of this blog. You are bold and smart and adventurous. I hope you try something new and are safe and have fun doing it. Thank you for joining me on the journey to uncover and explore what the first nations of the PNW, but really all our Ancestors ate and together we’ll fight back against the industrial machine our food system as become, gaining back some of our food sovereignty!

Your Farmer,

Michelle

The Season Has Begun

Whoa, is it Summer already?! Holy cow!

This post will be mostly about what I have been up to on the Farm and in life… which pretty much revolves around the Farm.

Each Day I wake up around 5:30 am. I head up to the Farm, feed & water all the critters and plants, collect eggs, open up the green house so that all the baby plants don’t over heat. On Tues, Weds & Thursdays I then head off to my paid internship with Wisdom of the Elders. My Stipend is something like $7.80/hr. It’s not much but I get to hang out with other aspiring Native American Farmers and learn all about Native Plants, when to take cuttings, when to collect seed, how to plant & propagate. But most importantly I am surrounded by community, learning my heritage, learning the stories of the People Eater, Elk and the Salmon Berry, of a Lover’s Quarrel that lead to the lack of Camas root growing in Okanogan Territory, of how Black Moss (looks like someones black braids) came to be food when Coyotes antics lead to the death of his youngest son. Learning, sharing, visiting with my Grandma, it’s worth every hour I spend with Wisdom’s Agricultural Business Incubator program crew.

Unfortunately as a result of the internship I Spend every morning and evening driving back and forth to Camas and Portland. I spend 10 hours a day for 4 days (Fri, Sat, Sun & Mon) working my tail off to get the work here on the Farm done so that I can feed those of you who are CSA members and those I hope to meet at the Farmer’s Markets.

The Farm isn’t immune to Murphy’s Law and I am yet to be in a position to successfully weather the downs. What can go wrong, has gone wrong.

If you recall the green house exploded, and I had to wait for enough CSA money to come in before I could afford to buy a new one, then I had to borrow a trailer from my Father and a Truck from my Step-dad and then I didn’t have the right ball hitch and the morning of the pick up I was at Home Depot at 6am buying one, then I had to be patient with the help and labor of my boyfriend Trevor, then we found out they sent me off with the wrong parts, then Trevor solved that problem, then my Grandmother and Mother helped me get the plastic installed and all this took place on the weekend days over three weeks after I had already be without a greenhouse for two months. My back-up baby plant nursery caused the babes to reach and I almost thought I had lost them all, but some how they have hung on.

I thought I killed all the herbs because I couldn’t get in the soil as early as I had hoped – turns out they are hardy plants and are bouncing back.

The chicken’s where laying eggs and roosting all over the barn and exploring further and further away during the day. I knew we were playing a dangerous game of Prey and Predator and an Easter Egg hunt that wouldn’t end until sometime this July when I am sure I’ll accidentally crack open a rotten egg.

And it rained, Oh, I love the rain, Sq̓it, I named my Farm for it after all. But I couldn’t till in the cover crop and start work on the soil. I waited for good weather and for CSA member money to again come in so that I could slowly stock pile the necessary soil amendments that would insure strong, nutritious and healthy veggies.

Then I started planting, and then I laid out the drip tape. Then I went to the pump to turn it on and it had a big old crack. We are now currently waiting for a replacement part and I am doing my best to water all the plants that are in the ground now and to get those plants in desperate need into the ground as fast as I can.

I think, I believe, I am working so hard to start our CSA on time this year. I want you to know that. I don’t currently pull a wage from the Farm, most all the money coming in is going right back into the business. I suppose as CSA members you know, you’ve read the disclaimer and you are ready for the ups and downs. I want to prepare you for a small CSA share beginning or even a late start. But know that in June when my internship ends the Farm will be my sole focus but until it can pay me $2k a month I cannot yet rely on it as my sole income and will be working 1, 2 even three days a week elsewhere. Your farmer’s gatta pay her rent, gas, insurance, debt and living costs just as you.

I greatly appreciate your patience and support as I complete this amazing internship experience, developing invaluable relationships and knowledge. I hope you look forward to learning, eating and hearing all the stories my ancestors managed to record enabling me to share them and the taste of them with you. I dream of a day where we gather under the Oaks, surrounded by Camas Lily and feast on Salmon berry pemmican (Vegan Acorn Flour Version?), roasted Camas Root and fresh spring foraged salads with a warm fire, comfortable chairs and I am up in front of you performing an Oral Story of the foods we are eating, who gave their lives to nourish ours.

All My Gratitude, Lim̓lm̓t,

Farmer Michelle and the Farm-ly

Field Conversations

Today was my last day at my work-trade/internship at Full Plate Farm. All winter I’ve been working ever other Tuesday helping harvest, wash and pack Winter CSA shares for folx. These last few weeks I switched to Mondays, a larger harvest crew works these days, and I really enjoyed meeting everyone I worked alongside.

This last Monday we had some really thoughtful and wonderful field conversations. At one point we talked about language. Who determines what is right or wrong? Who controls language? What is proper? It all got started when Annie was trying to remember the Native name for Mt. Adams. I responded, it’s Klickitat. St. Helens is also known as Loowit and Mt. Hood is Wy’East. Annie knew that the Chinook would have used these names.

Native Food Soveriengty

I will be speaking tomorrow night at the Slow Food SW Wa Social more around this topic and my personal journey into farming as a career path. These are slides from a presentation I gave at PSU.

I added, ‘and the Molala, Klickitat, and Wascos.’ ‘You know, the mountains have different names depending on where you stand and face them.’ This intrigued the harvest crew.

‘The Yakima and the Tahoma, the Cowlitz, all these tribes, they had their own version of Salishan language and different stories and names for all the mountains from their perspective.’ This got us going. One person on the crew had traveled Indonesia and SE Asia, they spoke about who different regions and even one town over there were different versions of the same language and religions. Matt talked about different ways his family said the same thing, I related, my grandmother says ‘Worshington’ instead of Washington. So then I mentioned how so many place, towns, streets have names that derive from Chinook Jargon. A very common mash up of English, French and all these different versions of Salish. It was like a really common form of Spanglish.

‘But you know, it’s all butchered jargon mash-ups’ I was saying, ‘I was once corrected on how to pronounce Salish once. I was caught off guard by that. I later YouTube’d a bunch of videos and there are several different Native speakers pronouncing it in many different ways. None of these names or words how we say them today are ‘authentic’. They have all changed with time.’

This all got us thinking about our ancestors, some one pipped up speaking in Shake-spearing English. It was a real conversation and it was an honest conversation, it was happy and yet it was sad. It reminded me about a book I had read about animal intelligence. How scientists applauded that ability of a Gorilla to respond to questions using Sign Language. How ultimately they determined the Gorilla was no smarter than a 4th grader. The spoke to how ridiculous and degrading that was, how speciest, human superiority and biased that was to reduce the Gorillas intelligence to a young person. The Gorilla was after all hearing English, translating it to Gorilla and replying in Sign Language. That Gorilla was a genius!! It’s unjust and unfair to question a captive Gorillas intelligence. first foods slide

It’s how I felt when the USDA employee at the Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Materials Center told me after my constant ‘Is this edible? Have you tried this? That’s Edible!’ ‘There’s a reason we bred plants’. 

That struck me hard. In the heart, in my head. No. My people never ‘bred’ plants to the extent that Europeans have bred plants or animals. The Pacific Northwest is a lush forest, rich in diversity, shelter, food, resources. The Natives of the Pacific Northwest never needed to control their foods to such an extreme extent. Yes we tended to plants, probably replanting and caring extra special to the tastiest patches. They definitely steward the land, practicing land management such as controlled burns and weeding and thinning. But there was no reason to twist a plant out of it’s comfort range, there was no reason to take a Wolf and make a Yorki out of it. There was so much food and resources here in the Pacific Northwest there was no reason to breed a plant for maximum production. There was so much here before settlers began arriving that twice as many people lived on this land than today. TODAY! There are less people living on this land than lived here in the past. And we have so little left of what was here. I tear up thinking about what happened. What went wrong?

I think about programs like WIC, Double Up Food Bucks, Food Stamps, the value of food. People can’t afford the extremely undervalued food we produce, how on earth will they afford nutritious, organic, local foods?! Especially if these programs are threatened with defunding?

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And how can it be that I am in an Agricultural Business Internship through Wisdom of the Elders with five other Natives and we are being taught by white, privileged, degree holding ‘professionals’ how to propagate, collect seed and care for our Native Plants. That we don’t know which plants are medicine, or food, or resource? The remnants of First Nations languages are on strip mall signs, used in middle school names, on bridges and we don’t know the land any more. I have struggled to learn my language, to learn Sinixt traditions, to learn what to eat and how, and I strive to share that with you all. It’s not always fun, to be honest, it hurts sometimes. By sharing and eating these foods, by using them, we’ll build respect and relationships with them. And ultimately that is the language of Animacy and reverence. Something Robin Wall Kimmer speaks to. It’s a language of acknowledging that a Gorilla might be a stronger, better linguist than myself. That a Tree might be wiser and more informed than we are. That rocks have been around for a real long time and can teach us so much about our history here on this land, if only we stop to listen.

This was our last 2018/2019 Harvest Crew Field conversation for the season. I think, it sent us off into the whirlwind of the 2019 Summer Season in a more grounded and aware state of being that’ll keep us steady in all the chaos. I hope we all carry a little more respect for the non-human, non-animate creatures in our world, water, dirt, rocks, trees, flowers, slime. They all breath and live, just differently than you and me. And that’s okay.

Lim̓lm̓t,

Thank you from your farmer,

Michelle Week

The Future is ours. It’s shaped now.

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I can’t begin to pick apart how interconnected Food is in our lives. Food is a large part of our cultures, traditions, moments of bonding. Food impacts our health, physical and mental. Food exists outside in the ecosystems impacting and being affected by Climate Change. Food is social justice, our society withholds it from some and over feeds others. Food does poorly in a capitalistic society, farmers are underpaid, farm workers are underpaid, we under value food. Food that along with air and water sustains us and all our other endeavors. Food is important.

I was recently told “No Money, No Mission.” It’s the truth within capitalism. Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA’s, is one way that the Farm insures it’s financial well being. Without your early season infusion of cash I cannot support the mission of this farm. On the farm we endeavor to offer clean, transparent, local produce to our community. We attempt to educate our community about what it takes to operate a farm, how our food system is shaped, and where we can all come together to build a more equitable, resilient food system through decolonizing and challenging our assumptions of what food is. How our diets impact others in our community, be them human, flora or fauna.

“With access to a farm, many are dazzled by the bounty and wonders of nature. I love to see grown people awed by the delicate beauty of a carrot seedling.” ~Robyn Van En

robynOne of the originators of the CSA model in the United States, Robyn, founded the first CSA Farm in Massachusetts in 1986 (I am almost as old as CSA’s! DOB 1987!) She travelled the states supporting and developing CSA Farms and later travelled the world in support of farmers seeking to build community sovereignty in the form of feeding their communities as well as financial freedom to do so. Her joy is my joy, I love welcoming folxs onto the Farm. I love sharing my passion, expertise and vision with you all.

CSA’s don’t happen without the support of our community. I couldn’t offer such good, clean, transparent food without y’alls support, especially financially. I’ve secured the land, I am putting in the labor, I’m learning a lot of new skills to grow food. I need your help in spreading the word, in helping to broaden this community, welcoming friends and family into the joys of knowing your farmer, eating fresh transparent food and visiting the birthplace of those foods! CSA’s aren’t for everyone, and ultimately I would like to offer a more flexible version for those who’d rather visit me at the Farmer’s Market and pick out the foods they eat. I am but one woman, however. So please, stay tuned! Additionally I am working on being able to accept Food Bucks and EBT (Food Stamps) just as soon as I wade through all the paperwork. I have also talked with the Clark County Food Bank in supporting the formation of a volunteer Glean Team who’ll visit area farms and harvest the extra yummy produce that’s still in the fields but maybe isn’t of quantity enough to justify labor costs to collect it. They’ll help distribute that extra produce amongst those who are experiencing difficulty in accessing good, whole, sustainably grown fresh foods.

If you haven’t joined Good Rain’s CSA yet, today is the day! is the day! You can learn more about our specific CSA CSA Membership here here. To those who have already joined, my deepest gratitude, thank you for believing in my vision, for supporting me through my growing pains. I cannot do this work without the support of the community. When you join a CSA you aren’t just supporting local business, your insuring that Good Rain Farm can feed our community in perpetual. That we save a little slice of agriculture land to grow local foods on. We create a place where growth and education in all forms can flourish, where connection to place becomes tangible. Edible! Today we make decisions that shape tomorrow, that shape the future we wish to be in. I hope you share in my vision of food resiliency, a world where food traditions of all kinds, but especially Native, thrive through living daily acts of necessity and honor.

Lim̓lm̓t,

Thank you from your farmer,

Michelle Week

Coyotes Best Swimmers (Salmon!)

salmonsafeThe Farm became Salmon Safe Certified on February 14th! I am so excited to share this news with you all! I was also very happy that the Clark Conservation District had a grant and was able to fund this certificate and will hopefully be supplying a slick sign and maybe help us out with furthering our soil and water conservation efforts! I had spoken with a person who had worked on other Farm certifications and projects required to meet the conditions of Salmon Safe. They were disappointed and felt that the certification wasn’t doing as much as it could to support Salmon, other wildlife and their habitats. I was struck by the list of acceptable chemical fertilizers and pesticides approved for use if you show your awareness of wind drift or water flow on the day of application. On Good Rain Farm, on x̌ast sq̓it, we don’t apply anything that’s not OMRI approved and only then if absolutely necessary. I want you all to know that the Farm didn’t need to complete any additional projects to meet the requirements and that’s due to how I have always viewed the world around me, how I will always treat the world I breath in, live in. It’s a testament to our farming philosophy that our certification was easy peezy!

Those concerns about the Salmon Safe certification? I hear them, I feel them, it’s how I feel about all certifications, labels, announcements, marketing. It’s why the Farm isn’t currently Organic Certified, we certainly meet or exceed all those qualifications, but the time- Oh! The time of keeping records, the time of hosting an inspector, the MONEY! Oh the cost to me, to you, to be certified Organic can be very impactful. Well, if I, or you, find a grant that pays for the certificate, let’s do it!

So if I am so skeptical of these kinds of certificates why did I host two farm visits and spend a day writing up a comprehensive Integrated Pest Management plan for the Farm? Because Salmon are important. They are important to so many tribes in the Pacific Northwest, Salmon are so very important to the ecosystem, the whole bio-region of Cascadia! I wanted to share a story about my people, it’s sort of our Origin story, it’s the creation story of the Columbia River, it highlights our world view, our way of life, our hope and trust. The Sinixt people, the Arrow Lakes Tribe have always occupied the territory that spans the Canadian/U.S. border in north Central Washington. The Arrow Lakes are important headwaters to the Columbia River.

This story is derived from a version of Marilyn James and you can read it on the Sinixtnation.org website. It’s Oral so hit Play!

PLACE RECORDING HERE PLEASE

As you heard, if Rain didn’t oddly fall in love with the grotesque, lying and cheating Coyote (Sin-ka-lip) the Arrow Lakes wouldn’t have formed and her blood wouldn’t have carved out the Columbia River’s path. I’m grateful that she found the strength (and anger) to hold Coyote to his promise though, without that conviction Salmon and so many other critters and plants wouldn’t be here with us today.

A salmon jumping up Kettle Falls- from sinixtnation.org

Unfortunately on July 5 1941 the Grand Coulee Damn was finished and the village that
members of my family are buried at was flooded. And the great, beautiful gift from Coyote, the Ilthkoyape or Falls of Boiling Baskets, “La Chaudiere” as the French fur traders called it, Kettle Falls was also flooded, drowned under Lake Roosevelt to this day. “Up until 1946, salmon and steelhead continued to appear at the base of the newly erected Grand Coulee Dam, trying to get upriver to spawn. After 1946, none was seen at the dam again. Our people have never been compensated for this tragic loss of our rich cultural heritage”- sinixtnation.org 

In the previous link you can read the creation story of the Kettle Falls. A town still stands there and my Grandmother and I have talked about taking a road trip to visit several locations and especially the cemetery at Kettle Falls. I think recently there has been more conversations around genetic memory. I’ve always felt that somewhere inside me were my ancestors calling me home, to the land. Much like Salmon have it in their DNA to return to their place of birth. I think there is this memory of the land in my genes, in all my cells, and I am becoming more comfortable and sure that this is truth, not romanticism, a reality inside me. Inside us all, and it’s just a matter of time.

Fishing at Kettle Falls

Sinixt people fishing from traditional platforms with baskets hung from long poles to catch jumping salmon in. – sinixtnation.org

This is why the Salmon Safe Certificate appealed to me, why I worked so hard on it, why I was more than happy to have the government pay for it. Salmon are important, the Sinixt, the bears, the land is starving now without the Salmon returning. On x̌ast sq̓it (Good Rain) Farm we do what we can to help, to spread the word, to be stewards of the land, to treat it with love, reverence and thanks, just as Farm Michelle’s ancestors have. But it makes me wonder if Coyote still loves Rain, the Sinixt hope that he’ll fulfill his promise and make everything right, but the Salmon no longer make their way back to Rain’s heart, bursting with love as proof that Coyote still thinks of her. Is our hope misplaced? Maybe, but shouldn’t we keep trying anyways? That’s another story for another day, Hummingbird has so much to teach us about perseverance and tenacity!

Lim̓lm̓t,

Thank you,

From your Farmer Michelle Week