Growing Forward Willowood Farm's first harvest after the fire - By David Stern

"such a beauty as she is going down" - Alix Roos

Last Monday night, the 6th of March 2017 is an evening that will not soon be forgotten by residents of Ebey's Prairie. This was the night that the Smith Barn, built 1880, burned to the ground in an amazing display of light, heat, and power. Explosions could be heard coming from the barn as fuel tanks reached ignition. With each boom the yipping of the coyotes nearby got louder. It didn't take more than 30 minutes before the barn was leveled and along with it the heart of Willowood Farm's produce business.

"It looks like a bomb went off" - Farmer Georgie

Within hours a fundraising website had been established in the Smith family name and support from the community began flowing. At the time of this writing, $44,800 has been donated to help keep Willowood Farm alive. But before any plans can be made to rebuild, the crops that are in the fields have to be harvested.

The volunteers, farm crew, and Peanut getting to work
Pulling hundreds of pounds of root veggies
this work is hard and rewarding
New totes ready for their first use
Harvest Manager Paul hauling the first crops out of the field
Digging forks and boots are essential tools of the farmer
John Burks of Kettle's Edge Farm washing parsnips
Laid out on new washing racks ready to be cleaned and packed
The newest piece of the Smith Barn
13 totes full and ready to be washed and packed

When the call went out for volunteers to help with a harvest on Thursday, three days after the fire, the community jumped at the chance to help. Eight volunteers pulled 610lbs of parsnips and carrots from the field. Kettle’s Edge and Rosehip Farm loaned crew and equipment, and the crop is being stored in the nearby Sherman Farm Squash House. The produce will be sold to restaurants next week. While the future of Willowood Farm of Ebey’s Prairie is still unknown, the uplifting support of the community has inspired hope.

Alanah (center) digs her fork into the earth and pulls up parsnips.
Paul checking out a new bed ready to be planted
Alanah (left) smiles as the some the worry and stress begins to fall away into the mud
Beautiful yellow carrots

Farmer Georgie and her family are so grateful for all the support of the Coupeville and beyond. The stories of how Willowood has touched people's lives in various ways have been overwhelming. The 4th generation family farm has endured a huge blow, and has the scars to prove it. The recovery from this will take time and the new structure might not be exactly what the community is used to. However, it is our job to support this family and farm, as they have supported this Island for the last 100+ years.

Once this is washed, it is ready to be used by Seattle's top chefs

There are many ways you can help support Willowood Farm and the Smith family as they decide how they want to move forward. Click the buttons below to learn more about how you can help financially, or how to donate time and supplies that are needed to get the food out of the ground and begin seeding new beds.

You can make direct donations to the “Smith Family Benefit Account” hosted by People’s Bank in Coupeville. Make the check out to “Smith Family Benefit Account” and drop it off at the bank or mail it to: People’s Bank 107 S Main St., #101 Coupeville, WA 98239

Copyright 2017 - Whidbey Custom Photography. No commercial use without permission. Social media sharing is encouraged. Photographer David Stern.

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