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2023 - the Year in Review



(January 2024): As I begin the process of writing the Lum Farm Year in Review, I am sitting in the luxury of my cozy little house. After last week's frigid temperatures, we've woken to half a foot of snow (and counting). Eric and Amy love a good snow, and gave the farmhands the day off while they trundle around on tractors, tending the animals.


And so I (Mandy) look outside my window at the Winter Wonderland and reflect on the last 12 months. While the world outside looks sugar-coated, I'm not feeling tempted to sweeten the reality of the challenges of 2023. I'm going to be honest: 2023 was difficult. It was a year of broken things: tractors, trucks, freezers, refrigerators, and even a bone or two. Much of the progress that we'd hoped to gain during this year was hampered by long hours and energy spent doing damage control. It stretched us physically and emotionally.


Thankfully, the purpose of a Year in Review is also to celebrate the joys and victories, of which there also have been many: a wedding in our farm family, a perfect-fit of a new farmhand, working together as a team to support our island by feeding their bodies and souls.


Read on for a summary of what we were able to accomplish within the unwavering unit of our farm family and the enthusiastic support of our wider community. There's a lot to talk about, so pour yourself a cuppa and enjoy the roller coaster ride!


 

Looking Back at 2023


The Year in Livestock:


We all agree that Sweetie lives up to her name.


Pork

Sweetie the Gloucestershire Old Spot Sow tipped the scales again and had another litter of TWENTY piglets (with a hat-tip to our boar Ollie). She is a great mom and does her best, though with that number of piglets we do lose some despite all our best efforts. We were prepared for this after she had 20 in 2022.


Last summer, Sweetie and her "biglets" moved up to the Farm Walk area to the delight of all involved. She and Fanny the Mangalitsa enjoyed the sun and ate apples from visitors while the biglets wreaked entertaining havoc in the adjacent enclosure.


In the end (and including Annabelle the boarder pig), the farm was home to 25 pigs during the year, though we ended the year with 12 and farmstand freezers full of delicious high-quality heritage pork.


This little lamb rests while another mama labors in the background.


Sheep

In 2023 we had roughly 75 breeding ewes and a dozen rams. That made for about 120 lambs last spring. We have Blue Face Leicestershire, Jacob, Valais Blacknose/Hampshire and Dorset rams, and many of our sheep are mix breed. Three East Friesian sheep joined our milk line for our feta cheese.


In addition to selling lamb through our farmstand and to restaurants, sheepskins continue to be a treasured item at the farmstand. In 2023 we also offered blankets, yarn, dryer balls, Bossy’s Feltworks items, and roving, all from Lum Farm wool.


Raising sheep in the PNW requires vigilance to stay one step ahead of the potential parasitic and nutritional challenges. Throughout the year, Eric and Amy spend many evenings online researching causes and remedies. In 2023 our flock was affected by a mineral deficiency. This resulted in some health issues at lambing time, with some ewes underweight and short on milk, and yearling lambs with stunted growth.


We were able to address this by working with our vet, doing loads of research, some blood testing and changing our feeding protocols. Turns out our soils here (and therefore the hay we were feeding) is deficient in Cobalt, a necessary trace element that is critical for overall health. When exclusively feeding a grass fed diet, lack of Cobalt made a difference in the health of the flock. While we still raise our sheep on grass, we have imported some varieties of forage that we can't find here.


No matter the species, they love a fresh round bale of hay!


Goats

In all, we had roughly 35 does who gave birth to 75 kids. At the height of milking, we had 30 goats being milked twice a day


In addition to our Nubian dairy goats, we have a small herd of Boer does that have kids we raise for meat. For the majority of the year, we've kept a gregarious group of our best goat ambassadors up by the farmstand, as goats seem to be the gateway critter into learning about farming!


More details forthcoming in the section about our Dairy.



Beef

In 2023, Lum Farm raised 40 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 100% 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.


Beef was the number one protein that we were able to supply to the Food Bank, and ground beef continues to be one of the most popular items for our farmstand customers and restaurant accounts.


At the beginning of the year we were informed that the USDA would no longer allow beef harvest through IGFC without a squeeze chute with head restraint. This would not just affect our beef harvest but all the other farmers on Orcas. Thanks to the WSDA Infrastructure Grant we were able to purchase a new squeeze chute, which has allowed us to better tag, vaccinate and treat the cattle, while also allowing us to continue USDA beef harvest on Orcas.



Poultry & Eggs

We did not have a broiler program in 2023. With the continuation of Avian flu, and the fact that we were already stretched with chores, it was not a difficult decision. There are no broiler chicken producers in San Juan County, so there definitely were a few disappointed customers.


At the end of the season we do harvest a number of stewing hens (those aging out of the egg program). Our chicken processing area was also utilized by a few fellow farmers, with special thanks to Darryl Duke and Pi for teaching new "chicken tenders" the process. (You knew a terrible farm pun was bound to show up somewhere).



Eggs

What was our highest grossing item of the year?? EGGS. Here are some numbers. In 2023 we sold roughly 4,680 dozen eggs. That means that we hand-washed over 60,000 eggs (when you also count the dozens that we used for farm purposes or were unsalable). Or, to really put it in perspective, each egg is handled three times (180,000!) -- being collected, then washed, then packaged!


The farm is currently home to 300 layer hens. Last year we supplied eggs to Seabird Bakeshop, Ship Bay, Kingfish Inn, West Side Kitchen, our own ice cream and the Food Bank; over 40 egg subscribers pick up their eggs each week, and we often have plenty left for farmstand sales.


Mandy and Amy acting like Lucy and Ethel at the the egg conveyer belt.


This puts into perspective why an upgraded egg washing system was on our list for the WSDA Food Infrastructure Grant, and why we were so relieved when awarded funds to purchase the almighty "Powerscrub II". Ending 2023 on a victorious note, we powerscrubbed our first run of eggs through the new machine on New Year's Eve. Now THAT's a party.


We've got a blog post about our egg systems with many photos with circles (eggs) and arrows (progress!) if you'd care to read it: Operation Egg Upgrade Blog Post.


Eric sets up the chicken's winter quarters, known as the"Chicken Strip".


 

Island Partnerships


Island Restaurants

The focus on locally-grown and quality food has kept us in cahoots with many local chefs. Here’s a list of island restaurants and pop-ups that featured Lum Farm products in 2023:

The Barnacle, Buck Bay Shellfish Farm, Chimayo/Pasta Underground, Delmy's Tacos, Farm to Ferry, Gertie's, Houlme, Inn at Ship Bay, Island Hoppin’ Brewery, Kingfish Inn, Matia, Mijitas, Monti, New Leaf Cafe, Orcas Island Winery, Orcas Village Store, Roots, Seabird Bakeshop and West Side Kitchen.


Our meats, cheese and ice cream were sold in 2023 through Island Market, Orcas Village Store, Girl Meets Dirt, the Orcas Food Coop, the San Juan Islands Food Hub and our own farmstand.



Chef Amanda Zimlich takes a selfie with Tammy and kids.


The Food Bank

One of the things we are most proud of is the amount of food we are able to supply to the Orcas Food Bank. Executive Director Amanda Sparks and the Food Bank crew are doing a remarkable job of finding funding that focuses on local farms, for which we are extremely grateful.


In 2023, we delivered to the Food Bank:

- Over 1000 lbs. of meat (646 lbs. beef and 392 lbs. pork)

- Nearly 100 dozen eggs.


This was possible by grant funding for the Food Bank, individual donors and Lum Farm egg subscribers.


Amy and Mandy share a moment in the sun with Orcas Food Bank Executive Director Amanda Sparks.


The struggle for sufficient freezer space is real, and we host a trio of chest freezers for the Food Bank that we are able to replenish often. Huge thanks to Amanda and the Food Bank team for supporting local farms AND offering our community access to good food!


Kudos as well to Kaleidoscope Child Care Center, who secured a grant focusing on locally-sourced protein. We were able to supply Kaleidoscope with 427 lbs. of beef for their voracious preschoolers! Looking into the new year, we're excited about a new relationship with the public school as well.


Charlie mans the Land Bank booth during Farm Tour weekend.


The San Juan County Land Bank

While our Coffelt Farm Proposal was accepted by the SJC Land Bank in 2022, the papers weren't signed until this year. So it's worth mentioning, as we worked so hard to earn that 10 year lease, that we officially signed off on all paperwork in March of this year.


We were pleased to have the Land Bank host a booth during the Farm Tour, as folks should know about their commitment to preserving "in perpetuity areas in the county that have environmental, agricultural, aesthetic, cultural, scientific, historic, scenic or low-intensity recreational value and to protect existing and future sources of potable water." (San Juan County Land Bank Mandate).


We look forward to continued partnership with the SJCLB in keeping island agriculture on the map as a valued and indispensible resource.

Mandy finds herself in a bit of a squeeze with Cracker Jack and Brownie


Public Outreach

“If you have two loaves of bread, keep one to nourish the body, but sell the other to buy hyacinths for the soul.” (Heroditus).


We have always known that allowing the community a window into the farm is its own kind of sustenance. This knowledge, coupled with our love for education, finds us always on the lookout for ways to share farm life with Orcas Island and its visitors. Here were some highlights of 2023.


Judging by their interest, these kids will make great Lum Farmhands in 8-10 years!


From preschoolers to seniors, we welcomed many island residents to the farm. In addition to our island preschools, we worked with the Orcas Island Senior Center, Compass Health, and the Road Scholars program. Each group had many amazing questions that sparked honest and in-depth conversations about farming. We'd also like to note with gratitude the gift of a used golf cart, which made it possible for us to give tours to those with mobility challenges (Thank you Jennifer K!).


Baby goats produce giggles from all ages.


We continued our relationship with Orcas Island Parks and Recreation to host Brook Meinhardt and her Art Camp. We love watching Brook lead her kids into the trees, emerging a few hours later with fabulous art in tow! Another delightful partnership was with Katie Gaible and Salish Sea Yarn Co., who brought a lively group of knitters for knitting circles out in the pasture during the warmer months. We look forward to both art camps and knitting circles continuing in coming years.


We love the photos that Brook shares from her art camps!


Perhaps our largest undertaking this year was the return of Farm Camp. Amy Lum and Greta Fenn (Amy's niece and annual summer farmhand) hosted two weeks of a full-day camp for kids ages 6-12.


Human and critter friendships were forged at Farm Camp


Campers collected eggs, milked goats, sheared sheep and then crafted with wool, took a hay ride and frolicked with goats. From all reports, campers slept well each night. We know we did!


A note for 2024: While we loved leading farm camps and believe in offering this connection to kids, we bumped into the reality that adding a full-time camp to an already bustling (and short-handed) farm and dairy was more than we could sustainably maintain. We won't be holding camps in 2024, but will continue to explore ways to keep educating kids about farm and food.


When asked about what they enjoyed most with farm camp, a majority of the kids listed milking the goats.


 

The annual San Juan County Farm Tour occurred the first weekend of October. Lum Farm offered shearing demonstrations with Orcas Island Shearing, ice cream and cheese tasting, an extensive self guided walk, a tour of the dairy and the ever-popular petting zoo. Girl Meets Dirt and the San Juan County Land bank hosted their own booths at the farm, and Delmy fed everyone lunch. In the end the crowds were less than what they've been in prior years, but the sun was out and the tacos were delicious so we just weren't seeing too much of a problem!


Bean leaned into her important role as the "Free Hugs" goat.


Lastly, we were able to further our vision of setting up a seasonal petting zoo and farm walk for visitors. This summer we didn't have the staff to continue guided tours. In an effort to keep some sort of farm experience open to visitors, we opened a Petting Zoo on Saturdays, and set up a self-guided farm walk.


The (free) Farm Walk was most definitely a hit, as we had many tourists come back repeatedly during their island visit. We also loved seeing local residents come to regularly check in with their favorite farm walk critters.


The Farm Walk guides visitors past goats, lambs, chickens, and a motley assortment of pigs. We definitely see this as a work in progress, and hope to continue to add more permanent fencing and educational information. The vision is there!


People come expecting to love the goats, and then they are surprised by how outgoing and enthusiastic our pigs are!


 

The Lum Farm Dairy

A full cheese fridge is a beautiful thing to behold.


It's hard to believe that the Lum Farm dairy opened in just 2020. Our goat's millk ice cream has only been in existence since 2022! Our dairy is a huge source of joy, pride, science, creativity, long days and teamwork.


First things first -- the dairy wouldn't be the dairy without our milk goats! At the height of milking season we were milking 30 goats twice a day, and 3 sheep once a day. We milked over the course of roughly 7 months. This next year we hope to grow those numbers to 40 goats and 6 sheep.


Snoopy took a while to get the hang of it.


Head Cheesemaker Crystal Mossman was joined by Rachel Lum to make all our staple products: chevre (both fresh and aged as "Bloomin' Hazels"), gouda, feta, ice cream and cajeta. They introduced Marinated Chevre to our cheese line. In the fall, we also offered a new ice cream flavor: Eggnog.


One of the biggest puzzles we faced this year was to really scrutinize the dairy and its infrastructure and systems. The problems were making themselves very clear: we did not have the refrigerated space for all the goats' milk, or a pasteurizer large enough to keep us from needing that refrigeration. We were losing product to mechanical failures (you can't cry over spilled milk, but you CAN cry over melted ice cream), and two out of two ice cream makers were suffering from repetitive stress injuries from hand packing ice cream. It was clear the current model was not sustainable.


Mandy illustrates how NOT to cry over spilt milk (don't worry, she was being dramatic for the photo opp).


There were some answers in hand -- we had procured funds for equipment and plan to renovate the dairy with the help of the WSDA Local Food Infrastructure grant. Frustratingly, the mechanical issues we were having with other machines and equipment were setting us back, and we simply didn't have the time to install our new dairy equipment. At any rate, we needed to wait until the milking season was over, which gives us a window between October and March to renovate. We are right in the middle of that window now, and exciting work is happening!


This coming season, rather than focusing on growth, we will work at learning all the new equipment and enjoying (hopefully!) the relief of keeping up with current demand with much more ease.


So much research and planning has gone into the dairy renovations that have just begun.


With mainland events already on the calendar for 2024, we're looking forward to sharing our cheese and the story of the hard work that goes into it! Speaking of, we had one blog post this year that told the story of "Bloomin' Hazels" -- our beautiful gooey aged chevre and the goat that inspired its name! Visit the Bloomin' Hazel blog post.


The Farm Stand

We strive to have our farmstand be a warm and welcoming hub for the farm, and we very much enjoy the regulars who have come to expect just that, perhaps with an extra pinch of farm chaos and hilarity.


During the Summer months, our teenage farmhands especially loved time at the farmstand helm. With folks showing up regardless of whether or not we had an open sign out, we decided to extend farmstand hours to include Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This meant that for the first time our farmstand was open five days a week, with online ordering available 24/7.


If you time it right, your host at the farmstand may have a little helper.


This year the farmstand featured the wool handiwork of Bossy’s Feltworks, Mandy Troxel, Sharon Douglas and Sidney Coffelt. We also carried the goods of other island (and beyond) food producers, including from the gardens at Buck Bay Farms and Wise Owl Wellness, Girl Meets Dirt, Matt's Fresh Fish out of San Juan Island, Brownfield Orchard and even Maple Syrup from Taft's Milk and Maple in Huntington, Vermont (run by a childhood friend of Amy's).


The farmstand illustrates all that can be produced on one farm!


We had two significant growth spurts at the farmstand. The first was that Martha Lum and Mandy spent many hours revamping the online store. This involved hours of data entry, photo taking, and trouble-shooting. The result is a new ordering system that is easier to navigate, has automated notifications and generally has made our online sales avenue more streamlined.


The second growth spurt was adding sales through the San Juan Islands Food Hub, a service which enables San Juan County residents to buy food from island producers by coordinating sales and delivery. It's been great to utilize this resource and we encourage island residents to check it out.


Mandy worked with Donna at Orcas Island Sew N Sew to create Lum Farm swag, such as baseball caps, t-shirts, ice cream koozies and tote bags.


Our year in produce was limited, as we lost our greenhouse to the wind. Without the shelter or staff to whip the garden into shape, we focused on the produce that was already established -- apples, plums, pears and grapes. We did manage to plant snap peas, garlic and potatoes, which sell well when we have them!


The Saga of the Walk-In that Wouldn't Work

One of the biggest highlights of 2023 was the purchase and installation of a walk-in freezer, made possible by the aforementioned WSDA grant. We looked forward to it revolutionizing the storage and organization of our frozen goods. And it did, till it didn't.


Documentation of the freezer, emptied out again.


Thus began a roller coaster of repairs and repeated failings of the walk-in, which required us to completely empty the freezer back into our dilapidated chest freezers FOUR disheartening times. We'd get the freezer repaired and restocked (no small task!) when suddenly we'd see the temperature climbing again and have to haul everything back out. It was challenging both physically and emotionally.


The fourth time appeared to be the charm, however, as it's been working great for a number of months now, allowing us to turn our attention to installing the walk in cheese cave in the dairy (all fingers crossed).


Hay and Compost

The story of the 2023 Hay Season is not an overly fun one. Over the summer, San Juan County was officially declared to be in severe drought conditions.




Add to that an extra dose of mechanical issues via broken tractors and baling equipment. What does this mean for the farm? First off, it was a whole lot of frustrating work for Eric. The pastures are all still the same size -- it takes the same amount of time and fuel. But at the end of the season, there was much less hay of not great quality.


That said, this is what a poor year of hay looks like -- Eric baled 565,000 lbs. of hay -- that's 282.5 tons!


A Farmer Pun t-shirt AND a trailer full of hay? Win Win.


There are a number of island homesteads that buy feed hay from us for their animals -- we had to contact them and let them know that we could no longer offer them hay. We are currently purchasing feed hay for our own animals. Eric was able to get off island and buy hay for resale back on the island, but quantities (and time to make mainland trips) are limited.


Ironically, we DID have a bumper crop of marsh mulch this year. Eric harvested and baled 76 TONS of mulch bales from the 25 acre marsh here on the farm. Good thing, too, because islanders have discovered how useful it is. Many gardeners swear by marsh mulch for their gardens. This winter, with the frigid temps, we moved many a bale as folks prepared for single-digit temps. And while our critters don't prefer to eat it, they do love it for bedding, so we have plenty use for it on the farm.


Annabelle demonstrates the correct way to use hay as insulation.


It was also a frustrating year for Lum Farm compost. The biggest challenge was that we had no way to deliver it to customers, as the truck for the job was down a transmission. In competition with the repairs needed for the tractor and baler, there wasn't time to fix the truck, so compost never made it to the top of the to-do list.


The silver lining on that cloud was that we spread the compost we had into our own fields, supplementing the soil and aiding what will hopefully be a bumper crop next hay season.


Christmas Tree Sales

Huge thanks to Sheila Bolka for taking this sunset photo of Eric on the ferry with a load of trees.


The Christmas Tree Sales at the farm had another great year. At the end of the season, we sold 393 trees (in 2022 we sold ...392). At least 20 trees were either donated through the Orcas Island Resource Center and by opening up the trees for donation to islanders in the final days before Christmas. Any leftover trees were turned into goat treats!


The holiday season has become a truly bustling time at the farm. We held the 3rd annual "Wooly Winter Pop Up" event with Bossy's Feltworks, and hosted wreath sales for Orcas Montessori school. That, in addition with supplying cheese for charcuterie boards, centerpiece roasts for special dinners, and eggs for holiday baking and we're kept hopping right up till the end of the year!


Our Farm Family Crew

Lum Farm bit off a little more than we could chew in 2023 with the amount of staff that we had. This meant that the folks that were here worked their tails off. We offer huge thanks to our teen farmhands: Greta, Damian, Lucy, Miette, Kalea, Noura, Luke, Jaxon and almost-a-teen Jasmine.


One of our favorites: Greta having a meeting with the management.


Special thanks to Maggie, who worked one more summer with us before moving to Bellingham post-college, and Shannon O'Donnell, who worked the chore circuit and made pies. Also thank you Martha, who is putting her newly earned degree in Agriculture and Food Business Economics to work with helpful guidance on the business end of things, as well as dropping into the farm stand to help out on weekends.


We also called on friends to help for special events such as "Baby Saturdays" or the Farm Tour. Huge thanks to those of you who stepped in to unwrap trees, man the gates and make sure no one chased the goats.


Thanks also to our neighbors who generously share their pasture with us for rotational grazing: Mary Jo at Lone Cow Farm, The Daoust family, the Eng family, the Hughes family, the Stoltz Kau family, and the Land Bank.


We ended the year with a solid year-round group in place: Crystal Mossman and Rachel Lum, who can crank out cheese AND chores; Kyle Jepson, the craftsman who has his hands full keeping up with all our renovations; Mandy, goat milker, farmstand manager and newsletter writer; Nico, our newest chore warrior who is fitting right in; and Amy and Eric, who do everything and are trying to learn how to take a moment or two off.



What's true is that we all do a little bit of everything... A day for one farmhand can entail milking the goats/making cheese, shoveling a whole lot of poop, harvesting peas, installing fence AND explaining goat antics to an inquisitive tourist family. You just never know. Farmers know how to pivot, if nothing else.


 

After all this talk of the challenges of 2023, we want to end on a celebratory note. With all the events that happened last year, perhaps the largest undertaking (especially for our cheesemaker) and the most joy-filled was the wedding of Crystal Mossmam and Tessa Ormenyi.



The view of the wedding reception through the sunflowers that Crystal and Tessa planted for the event.



Crystal and Tessa largely orchestrated their big day, but did have a few notes that were very much of the farm: the procession song sung by Mandy, hay rides to the ceremony provided by Eric, and club car chauffering by Greta, Damian and Lucy. And how many weddings boast a petting zoo?! Amy gave a lovely toast at the reception, noting the flowers that Crystal and Tessa grew for the event, exclaiming that we all can't wait to see what other beautiful things they grow in their lives together!


As a marker for wedding guests, Crystal and Tessa put a pride flag at the entrance to the farm. In the busy-ness of the season we never took it down, and then realized that we very much want to keep it flying as a welcoming gesture to all those who pass by. As every farmer knows - Diversity is an absolutely necessary aspect of raising a happy, healthy farm and community.



And then there's when we rainbow'ed up some sheep for June Pride Month -- but that's a whole other story!



In Closing, Gratitude!

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 love Sidney's presence in our day-to-day on the farm!


We are also grateful to the SJC Land Bank for supporting and encouraging local agriculture and land stewardship.


 

While looking back at this year, we can't express how much we've appreciated our community. Small notes of thanks at the end of an online order, offers to help in busy times, and generally an enthusiasm to include Lum Farm as a celebrated part of the island experience: we are bolstered by the connection that we feel with all of you! We offer so much gratitude and excitement for the times ahead!


With appreciation,

The Crew at Lum Farm


Caretaking the land and raising healthy animals is at the heart of all we do.



Lum Farm Mission Statement:
Lum Farm's mission is to raise happy, healthy animals through regenerative farming practices that improve our land and nourish our community with high-quality food, forage and education.



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