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Farm Q&A: Gretchen Norman Woody, of Spring Frog at the Holistic Homestead

Apr 7th, 2015 | Category: Community

This month we profile local farmer Gretchen Norman Woody, of Spring Frog at the Holistic Homestead. Farming several acres in Whatcom County over the last 10 years, Woody grows many types of produce, offers a CSA, u-pick strawberry fields, is a vendor at the Bellingham Farmers Market each Saturday, and more. She shares her farm’s vision and thoughts on life.

 

Now in your 11th growing season, can you share how your farm started and what/who inspired you? How has your farm grown over the years? 

I was born and raised in South Georgia and grew up surrounded by agriculture. As a very young child, I made comments to my Popa about the large mono-crops and pesticides spread by airplane dusters, and how the conditions of the land did not look very happy or healthy. It was evident to me that the life in the soil is what matters most. My hope for the future is to restore the life in the soil and the health of our planet. I began living towards this goal from that point on.

Gretchen Norman Woody COURTESY PHOTO

Gretchen Norman Woody COURTESY PHOTO

I moved to Bellingham in 1998 and transferred to Fairhaven College at Western Washington University. I graduated in 2005 with my BA Degree entitled Holistic Homesteading and Sustainable Agriculture. During this time, I had to withdraw myself from school to take time for adventure that eventually led me on the right path.

I began farming in 1999 and worked for five years for other well established farms. These farms are Cedarville Farm, Windy Meadows Nursery, and Broadleaf Farm. During my first off season from farming, I travelled to California for special training to get licensed from the Mendocino School of Holistic Massage and Healing Arts.

I began my farm, the Holistic Homestead in 2005. It was created with the vision and intention of healing the earth and feeding people healthy food to sustain our local community. It has been exciting to me to watch so many more new farmers light up with the inspiration to help support a solid foundation for our community through their farming efforts.

In 2012, I began a new business that is now called Grown Local Alliance Distribution Service, LLC. It brings me great joy to work closely with other like minded farmers to service large accounts in Whatcom and Skagit Counties for Haggen Grocery and Markets Grocery. Our small group of organic farmers is as follows: Spring Frog at the Holistic Homestead, Broadleaf Farm, Terra Verde Farm, Spring Time Farm, Moondance, Growing Washington, Cascadia Mushrooms, and Growing Gardens. Look for our Registered Trademark label this year in major stores, Certified Grown Local is Non-GMO and Non-GE by the Grown Local Global, LLC.

 

What do you feel are the greatest joys in farming?

Sunflowers sprouts.

Sunflowers sprouts.

The greatest joys of farming are not only being outside, hands in the soil, sun on my skin, the physical workout for my body, and obtaining a piece of mind. It is also when customers make a point to say they truly feel whole and nourished from eating the fresh produce. When I hear them say, “I can feel the love in the food that you grow,” it fills my spirit with joy.

 

What are you offering this season, and where can buyers find your products? What are your favorites to grow and sell? 

My specialty crops that I have expanded over the years include a whole new product line of packaged cut and washed salad greens, such as: sunflower sprouts, arugula, spicy mix, lettuce mix, baby romaine, spinach, and kale. I also host a large organic strawberry u-pick for the month of June. Other items that I love growing are heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, colorful mixed potatoes and fingerlings, and rainbow carrots. Many of these crops can be found at the Bellingham Food Co-ops, Good’s Nursery and Produce, the Bellingham Farmers Markets, and direct farm sales.

 

What role does your son have on the farm? How does he inspire you?

Gretchen's son, Godrik, who helps out on the farm.

Gretchen’s son, Godrik, who helps out on the farm.

In the present moment, my 5 ½ year old son helps me in the greenhouses to prepare for the season. Godrik Woody loves to help his momma by watering plants, spreading manure, and feeding chickens. I am literally working my buns off to get this season started! But my best little farm boy is right there rooting me along and has the most positive and excited attitude. He reminds me of why it is that I love performing the most arduous and physically challenging occupation on this planet. It brings pure joy!

 

Favorite sandwich?

While we are watering the tomato starts, I daydream about having one of my favorite open-faced sandwiches made of sliced heirloom tomatoes over basil, sweet onion, and toasted mozzarella on sourdough bread, topped with sea salt, cracked pepper, and balsamic vinegar reduction.

 

Favorite time of year? Favorite coffee? Tea?

I love the Spring! It is my favorite time of the year. I get up early and have local coffee, make licorice/peppermint tea, and cook up fresh farm eggs and potatoes with all the fixin’s.

 

Favorite farm song/theme song?

I compose songs to sing to my plants that are inspired at any given moment of the day. Even a song as simple as, “Grow, grow, grow! Grow big tomato!”

 

Favorite breeds?

My hens of many breeds also show they like attention twice a day as they lay a plethora of brown, tan, pink, white, blue, and green eggs. The breeds I like are Araucanas/Americanas, Pearl-White Leghorn, Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, Black Star, and Red Star. My loyal customers arrange well ahead of time to receive these rich orange and delectable tasting eggs. I love my customers and I know they appreciate the hard work I do to help put good food on their table. It truly takes the support of community members to make a farm successful.

 

Favorite piece of equipment?

The other thing that helps make a farm successful is having access to the right equipment. My most loved piece of equipment is my spring tooth harrow. It does the best job of weeding, cultivating, and energizing the tilth of soil. I love finding the right piece of equipment for a specific job. It makes all the difference in the performance of any sustainable farming practice.

 

Any words of wisdom to share?  

I think of what my Popa says to me, “Work smarter, not harder.”

These words of wisdom help me ask myself questions like, “How am I going to bag this much salad greens for 13 grocery stores?” Ah ha! I need to ask my loving man and farmer friends to help me customize and fabricate this type of equipment. After working in this type of business for more than 15 years, I have come to realize that it takes the specific set of tools, the focus of one’s good intentions, the right set of friends and community members, and the network of supportive farmers to grow a sustainable farm business. Farm On!

–Grow Northwest

Published in the April 2015 issue of Grow Northwest 

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