2021 has been another unpredictable year! We’ve worked hard, rolled with the punches, and come out on the other side full of intention and pride, if not also a tad exhausted! Our farm community has grown and we would love to take some time to reflect on the year’s accomplishments, which of course would never have happened without the enthusiasm and support of this community.
The four seasons in four photos.
We’d like to share some highlights:
Lum Farm is here to feed islanders. It is important to us that every islander has an opportunity to experience the goodness that is locally grown food!
The list of island restaurants and businesses that feature Lum Farm food is long: The Barnacle, Buck Bay Shellfish Farm, Chimayo, Girl Meets Dirt, Hogstone, Inn at Ship Bay, Island Hoppin’ Brewery, Kingfish Inn, Mijitas, Orcas Island Catering's Chef Steve Hardee, Orcas Island Distillery, Orcas Island Winery, Pasta Underground, Roots, Seabird Bakeshop and Sunday Supper Pop-up. We love supplying island chefs with high quality ingredients and hearing about their culinary creativity.
Brea Currey kept us fortified during the Farm Tour and Tree Sales with Seabird Bakeshop pop-ups at the farm. Her pastries often feature our cajeta, chevre and produce.
Our meats and cheeses were sold in 2021 through Island Market, Orcas Village Store, the Orcas Food Coop and our own farm stand. This year we made the difficult decision not to participate in the Orcas Farmers Market in town, as sales through our farm stand kept us plenty busy.
The Food Bank
We head straight to the Food Bank when the eggs start piling up!
One of the things we are most proud of is the amount of food we are able to supply the Orcas Food Bank. Amanda Sparks and her crew are doing a remarkable job of finding funding that focuses on local farms. This included the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), which bolstered food security during the Pandemic.
In 2021, we delivered to the Food Bank:
-Over 800 lbs. of meat
-More than 150 dozen eggs, many of which were donated by our monthly egg subscribers.
-62 stewing hens for their soup program.
We look forward to continuing this partnership, getting healthy protein on the tables of all island households regardless of income status. We offer deep appreciation for the ways in which the Food Bank has enabled this and for their support of local farms.
Food Bank soups are hearty and delicious!!!
Lum Farm Dairy
After spending 2020 obtaining our dairy license, we were able to hit the ground running this past year. Crystal Mossman officially became our full-time cheesemaker (“Cheese Whiz”, “ Dairy Queen” – the titles are endless!). In addition to chevre, tomme and feta cheeses, Crystal also developed new recipes. We unveiled “Bloomin’ Hazel” and have gouda poised to be ready for eating first thing this year!
Crystal Mossman is our "Dairy Queen"; the Blooming Hazel "babies" as they grow their yummy rind; and Hazel the goat acts like having a cheese named after her is no big deal.
Generally, the demand for our cheese proved larger than our production. During the Fall we were visited by David and Yesenia Major of Vermont Shepherd (David also happens to be Eric’s cousin). Vermont Shepherd is world famous for their dairy and cheeses, and they offered much guidance for ways in which we could grow and streamline our dairy operation.
So 2022 will be full of exciting growth for the dairy! This will include refurbishing systems, increasing our herd of sheep and goats for milking, and releasing new products. We have some surprises for you all just around the corner!
Loretta would like to sample the Tomme too, thank you very much.
The Farm Stand
The Lum Farm Stand has become a hub for the farm, hosting locals and tourists and creating an atmosphere of warmth and hospitality, even in tricky times. We continued our partnership with Bossy’s Feltworks, and also carried fresh and dried flower arrangements by Emmy Gran of Fabled Flora, cards and artwork by Lucy Troxel, hand-knit hats by Sidney Coffelt and ceramic ornaments by Crystal Mossman. Mandy added Lum Farm mugs, t-shirts and tote bags to the mix just in time for the holidays.
Toby takes his role as Shopdog very seriously.
Our wool products have come into their own a little more this year. Surprisingly, we completely sold out of sheepskins (a new batch is expected this month). Farm socks, made from our wool and knit by Northland Woolens of MN were a hugely popular item this holiday season. We are thrilled to have gorgeous skeins of yarn in stock at both the farm stand and the island’s fabulous new yarn store Salish Sea Yarn Co.
Shear the sheep, skirt the wool, spin the yarn, and knit the hat!
We primarily consider ourselves protein farmers, but do try to add some produce into the mix. Crystal and Tessa got the garden off to a good start, and then harvested what they could in the midst of water limitations. Eric planted snap and shell peas as a cover crop, which resulted in a nice little harvest in the Spring. We had a bumper crop of grapes. Cucumbers and Tomatoes did well, and we also sold plums and apples from the farm. Special thanks to Sidney for keeping us in summer squash (she couldn't believe it when we kept asking for them!). Fresh peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries and pears also graced the farm stand by way of Brownfield Orchards of Chelan, WA. We closed out the season with pears from Ed Suij of Smiling Dog Farm.
Hay and Compost
Eric's new bale-wrapper enabled him to make giant marshmallows of haylage.
We never know what the hay season will bring us! This year was not an easy one, with the drought stilting the growing season by about 30%. Eric cuts over 10,000 bales of hay in order to feed our own animals as well as supplying other island homesteads.
Unfortunately, this year there will not be enough hay to cover our own needs. We do still have loads of marsh mulch, which is a low-seed favorite for many an island gardener (and most recently used as insulation during this winter's cold snap). We are hoping for a better haying season in 2022, even if it means that we can’t find Eric for days at a time.
In composting news, Eric’s “black gold” is reaching legendary status. Disappointingly for island gardeners, we keep most of the compost on the farm, spreading it on the fields and gardens for soil and crop improvements. Along those lines, the triangular pens that you saw marching across the front field this summer housed our broiler chickens and helped to directly fertilize that whole field. We will choose a different field for this year’s chickens.
The weather of 2021 feels significant enough to write about. This year, terms like "atmospheric river" and "heat dome" entered our vocabulary. When this happens, the chores distill down to keeping all the animals fed and comfortable. Both extreme heat and cold mean extra water checks, either to re-fill or to break ice. The atmospheric river events didn't flood the farm, but we now refer to the marsh as Lake Coffelt.
The piggie pool was much used during this summer's heat dome.
How many critters DO we have???
Here are some livestock stats for 2021:
We have about 65 breeding ewes, and 3 rams. That made for about 100 lambs last spring.
70+ goat kids born to 35 goat mamas. 30 goats were in our milk line, along with 3 sheep.
We raised 30 hogs in small groups, rotating them for weed management and fertility. Pork was the main protein we were able to supply to the Food Bank.
We added one 500 lb. celebrity to the farm. Annabelle the Pig joined the crew as part of our self guided farm tour, wow-ing crowds with her ability to be enormous and lay around.
The farm is currently home to 300 layer hens, supplying eggs to six different island businesses, 48 weekly egg subscribers and an unknown amount of drop-in farm stand customers!
We raised, processed and sold 625 broilers, 25 ducks and 25 turkeys. The ducks were an experiment, and we predict we will be raising 0 ducks in 2022.
Lum Farm owns 28 heritage Dexter, Angus, Buelinga and Hereford cattle. Rotational grazing management and manure are a part of our soil improvement strategy. It takes up to 30 months for our cattle to grow to their desired potential as grass fed beef. We have cattle in all ages and stages, so as to provide a consistent supply of island raised beef for our customers.
The Island Grown Farmers Cooperative (IGFC)
Worker shortage and ferry inconsistencies made for some tricky times for the IGFC mobile slaughter unit, which in turn challenged island farmers. Farmers (and subsequently, farm patrons) saw an increase in prices as the cost of production increased. The IGFC is in the process of a substantial facility upgrade, which should ease some of the scheduling snarls in 2022.
Education on the Farm
The Salmonberry kids became pros at bottle-baby wrangling!
During the first half of the year we continued to host the 4th-6th graders of Salmonberry for “Farm Fridays.” Teacher Kari Van Gelder and her merry band of farmhands milked, fed, watered, collected, washed, harvested, and learned a whole lot of life skills! Thank you so much, Salmonberry! The chicken coop murals always make us smile!
Also in the spring, we invited Island preschools to come meet the babies. The families of Kaleidoscope, Forest School, Orcas Montessori, Salmonberry and Children’s House all came for some hands-on farm time, watching Amy milk Blueberry the goat, bottle-feeding the babies, and singing “Baa Baa Black Sheep” to the lambs.
With new confidence after vaccinations and COVID protocols, we felt ready to open the farm up to visitors via tours. Available to all was the self-guided farm walk with it’s rotating cast of characters, from Benny the calf (who woo’ed passers-by alongside Crow Valley Rd) to Annabelle the pig, an ever-changing gang of goats and newly hatched chicks.
We also began offering guided tours by appointment. These provided a more in-depth farm experience, with plenty of time for questions and stories. It is an incredibly sweet experience watching a child who has been singing and reading about farm animals all their life actually get to meet them for the very first time!
In addition to tours, we hosted a number of community events. Carefully choosing what felt safe in the midst of the pandemic, we hosted pop-ups, a concert, and of course the whirlwind that is the Christmas tree sale. The SJC Farm Tour caught us a little off-guard, bringing us literally hundreds of visitors in search of goat snuggles, cheese tasting and farm-stand perusing. (Special thanks to Bill Perry for coming to our rescue in the midst of a serious parking crisis).
On a gorgeous early fall afternoon, we hosted Raising Hazel, an acoustic trio including our own Mandy Troxel.
The crowd-control issues of the farm tour helped us to be better prepared for our annual Tree Sale. As the only option for buying a Christmas tree on-island, we ordered 460 trees from Alpine Meadows Tree Farm, and sold the very last one on Dec. 24th!
It was a joyful, fulfilling, and tiring task, helping islanders continue their holiday traditions. The success of the tree sale also enabled us to make donations to Children’s House, Kaleidoscope, Orcas Montessori, the Santa Tree, the Orcas PTSA, and the Orcas Community Resource Center. A more in-depth recap of the tree sales can be found here.
Our Farm Crew
The summer of 2021 was the season of teens! The farm was awash in teenagers, which brought some serious spunk to the works. We offered (and received) lots of love, ice cream, laughter and heaps of hard work from an amazing gaggle of teenagers: Damian, Greta, Jaxon, Lauren, Lucy, Luke, Martha, Nisha, Rachel and Soren. Some of whom were officially on the payroll, and some of whom thought they might just visit and then were immediately added to the chore chart.
Our farm teens were ready for anything!
In addition to these teenage superheroes, we have a beloved crew of some seriously hard-workers: Heavy lifter Benson Laurie and his ever faithful sidekick Bea, Kyle Jepson mower and builder of coops and accessories, cheesemaker and chore warrior Crystal Mossman, and our newest addition, goat-milker and goat-obsessor Amie Stevens. Mandy Troxel continues as the singing goatherd, farm stand manager and marketing maven (including writing year reviews). Amy and Eric do Everything. Seriously. The list is just too long.
We also have been serendipitously growing a lovely crew of farm volunteers. Without a formal volunteer program in place, we have been fortunate with the right people showing up at the right time.
Our “chicken crew” is a loyal and cheerful group who work from May through October on chicken processing days: Ed, Darryl and Pi, Mary Jo and Nico.
In addition to our chicken crew, we are indebted to the good work and humor of Kari and Margot, Tessa (with Finnigan and Fiona adding to the canine mutiny), Charly and Rosie, Jonathan, Renee and Kalea, Jen and Jasmine, and Amara and Carrie.
It's always a chicken party when the big bins of grain show up!
We have formed other positive partnerships within the community -- just ask our chickens, who LOVE it when the Brewery or Orcas Island Distillery come round with spent grains. Our cows feasted on windfall apples from the orchards of Indralaya. Buckets and barrels of spent fruit came from Boathouse Cider Works and Girl Meets Dirt.
Win-win situations abound when island landowners allow us to graze our animals on their fields: special thanks to the Hughes family, Lone Cow Farm, the Stolz-Kau Family, the Daoust family, and the Land Bank/Fowlers Pond.
Lum Farm, Coffelt Farm Preserve, and the Land Bank
We are continually grateful for the presence of Sidney Coffelt, and to her and Vern Coffelt’s legacy of ensuring that this special part of Crow Valley continues to feed its community.
We are also grateful to the SJC Land Bank for supporting and encouraging local agriculture and land stewardship. This year Land Bank Commissioners re-assessed their commitment to island agriculture, and completed a Draft Agricultural Program Objectives and Policy. With this in place, they are also zeroing in on making long-term decisions regarding how best to keep the 185 acre Coffelt Preserve in active agriculture.
Lum Farm continues in our short-term lease of Coffelt Preserve, which extends through the end of 2022. At their January meeting, the Land Bank Commissioners hope to decide on a request for proposals (RFP) for a long term lease. A decision will be made regarding granting the long term lease by the end of the year.
It’s no secret how much we love being a part of the rich history of this farm, and we plan to submit a proposal. We are deeply, deeply grateful for the kind words of the community members who have reached out to the Land Bank in support of Lum Farm. It is immensely encouraging and motivating to know that our hard work is felt by our community. We want you to feel a part of this special place, and are so glad when you do.