Down to the nitty gritty….work, work and more work!

So….what a lot of work! I’ve been thinking I need to update everybody on what’s going on with the farm, what we’ve gotten done, how things are evolving….and every day I seem to start with a list of “to-do’s” that simply end up 4x longer by the end of the day!  Acck!

Thank You Cards….

First a bit of housekeeping…We are SO thankful to everyone has donated, volunteered or contributed in some way to our “Growing Forward” campaign so far.  We have some beautiful Thank You cards (with the amazing Denis Hill image of the barn) we are gonna start sending out this week.  If you donated via the GoFundMe campaign, we do not receive mailing addresses via GoFundMe for donors.  We sent messages to everyone on the GoFundMe campaign to email us your address if you would like a card.  If you want one, and you don’t receive one in the next few weeks PLEASE let us know.  We WANT to get these into the hands of everyone who has helped, it’s just a bit of a “herding cats” challenge to make sure nobody has been overlooked!  Make sure to send you mailing address to this email: which we created to help organize all the responses we’ve had to the barn burning tragedy.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten THAT out of the way.  So, what HAS been going on??? Well gosh, what HASN’T been going on is perhaps a better question!  I admit this unusually cold, wet spring is sort of blessing for my state of mind since the fire.  Every time the sun comes out and it gets actual spring like I think “Oh no, we have SO much to do!”  Versus the cool, cold weather makes me think we’re not SO far behind.  It’s a bit of a mind trick, but hey, I take what I can these days!  Lol.

So what HAS been the game plan?  Well….after the initial first week of “what ARE we gonna do.”  We decided to jump back into the farming fray for the season.  And so, since the season is quickly approaching, that has become the priority.  We have been retooling our planting plans, knowing that since we are literally having to “recreate/re-acquire” all the tools and systems we need for growing, trying to do what we had PLANNED to grow this season is simply too ambitious.  We cut out about 7 acres of planting, and are gonna really slim down and concentrate on the things we know we can do best  and most efficiently, planting about 7 acres this year instead of 14 (some of this we had no choice on, for instance, we would have planted about 3.5 acres of dry beans, but we lost all that seed inventory in the fire and much too expensive to repurchase, or, in the case of Rockwell beans, simply not available).  Then we have started re-ordering everything.  And we need almost EVERYTHING!   Hoes, seed starting soil, seed flats, tools, seeding equipment, hoses, irrigation lines, row cover, fertilizer, pest and disease control products (organic of course), tractors, harvest knives, harvest lugs, boxes, and oh yeah seed!  Every time I think I’ve gotten in a bunch of orders for the stuff we need, I realize I still have to order a bunch MORE stuff.  And then of course, creating some sort of temporary shelter than we can do at least our washing and packing veggies process in.  Yesterday we got the plastic up on a temporary shelter that we will utilize as a covered packing shed (we will also add shade cloth for when it gets too warm).  And we’ve been working to get temporary power and of course, water, to the shed as well. And we will soon be receiving an insulated 40′ container we can use for a walk-in.  Plus of course all the things we need in there – tables, shelving, dunk tanks, sinks, salad spinners….! And then of course, we’ve been accomplishing actual harvest and growing tasks themselves.  We sent a full load of veggies to our chef/market clienteles two weeks ago and plan to run another harvest this upcoming week.  Oh and since the fire, we planted out over 7000 Walla Walla onion starts, about 2000 baby pac choi, and reseeded several 1000 seeds worth of leeks, tomatoes, peppers, celeriac and a few other things that were due (or past due).  So there is ALL this.  Just the “keep farming” work.

Add on top of that, of course, all the phone calls, paperwork and decisions involved in trying to get the info we need to our insurance company, credit checks to buy new tractors, PLUS all just the regular day to day tasks of running a business and managing a family like picking up the mail and taking out the garbage.  Phew.  It’s a lot.

And I have to say, the things you realize going through something like this, that I had never considered, are sort of mind boggling.  First of all….if it wasn’t for the sake of the GoFundMe campaign (now over $52,000!) plus an additional $17,000 donated to the local Peoples Bank Account here in Coupeville, I don’t see how we could be even CONSIDERING farming this year.  The thing about insurance, and thank goodness we did have at least SOME, is that while eventually we will hopefully get a check not only for the structure itself, but also for the value of the stuff IN the barn (both of which I hope to put into an account for rebuilding)….is that the insurance company doesn’t simply hand you that check the day after the fire!  I’m not sure WHEN we’ll get that money, but I know that without the money we have had donated to us right from the moment of the fire, I wouldn’t be able to have access to the cash we need RIGHT NOW to keep moving forward.  Even a “normal” farming spring is always incredibly cash poor.  As I have often said, I feel like I “vomit money” in the spring. Well this year, as one of my crew said, it’s more like “coming out both ends!” to be “farmer crude.”  Hope you don’t mind!  Haha.  So, THANK YOU to all that have donated or run a fund-raising campaign or event!  This is the REALITY of what the money has meant to us.  It means we CAN push forward and farm.  Right now!  This year!  And that is HUGE.

And then…there is the plan for what to do with the huge MESS where the barn was.  And of course, what WILL we eventually build?  Well this is ever-evolving but here is where we are at for the moment….

First the clean-up and salvage.  I’m hoping by the end of this next week, with the emergency of the temporary pack shed taken care of, we can start moving into the clean-up and salvage process.  The first thing we are gonna do it donate as much as we can into the local artist community. We have reached out to the Whidbey Island Arts Council and starting to organize how this will work.  I want as much as possible that would just be “junk/trash” that could be made into some beautiful and memorable in the hands of talented artist, be put back into the community.  Because, well, why NOT?  Yes, it will slow down the clean-up process a bit, but, I feel like we have to honor the barn as much as possible and this means taking what we can of her and re-using it.  So there’s that.

Once we get through that process, we have identified an organization that will come out with big equipment and cut up and haul off all the metal.   And then once that gets done, I’m hoping we can have a memorial ceremony for the barn, and invite ALL of you.  Not sure the timing on that, but I would imagine maybe sometime first of May. Stay tuned for more info.

And then of course…what WILL we build?  Honestly, I’m not sure yet.  A lot will depend on how much we get from insurance when we eventually get those checks, and how much can we realistically raise be it through insurance money, community donations, grants and the many other avenues I’m already starting to think about.  But my dream?  My dream is to build something that in 100 years MY grandkids and great grand kids (and yours!) can be proud of.  And can be just as much a beloved icon in our community as the grand old barn was herself.  We have a long ways go to get from dream stage, to reality…but…that’s the plan!  So, like we have always done one step at a time moving (hopefully) mostly forward.

And here’s to a beautiful and bounteous farming season.

Farmer Georgie

The Smith Family Barn

Willowood Farm




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