I pull into Spring Frog Farm and Holistic Homestead in Everson and am immediately greeted by a row of sunflowers almost as bright as owner Gretchen Woody’s smile. We sit down in the grass—a small piece of her 15-¼-acre farm. She’s been running Spring Frog Farm for 15 years, though her farming journey began during her childhood in Georgia. “I saw a lot of monocrops and a lot of overhead spraying,” she says. “I lost family to stomach issues and cancer. As a young person it was very evident to me that what we put in our bodies affects our health.”
She was inspired to pursue an undergraduate degree she could design herself. At Fairhaven College in Bellingham, Gretchen studied holistic health and Ayurvedic medicine. “Learning how the elements influence our daily lives, bodies, and health applies to how we grow our food and how we eat, too.” Her thesis, “Holistic Homesteading and Sustainable Agriculture,” postulated that by restoring the health of our soil, we restore the health of our plants, animals, and humans.
Union with the elements is apparent as soon as one steps onto Gretchen’s land. “I do sustainable agriculture with the intentional use of earth, water, fire, air, etheric space, and nature spirit beings to keep a balanced ecosystem,” Gretchen explains. That ecosystem includes cherry and heirloom tomatoes, basil, zukes and cukes, squash, beans, “a plethora of potatoes,” and the “best crop of corn I’ve ever had.”
The high quality of this year’s corn is due in large part to the Community Food Co-op Farm Fund, which provides grants to support local and sustainable farmers. With her grant, Gretchen purchased a transplanter—and it’s been a game changer.
“With the transplanter, I can literally plant in three minutes what would take me an hour by myself,” she says. Having the transplanter has resolved a lot of overhead issues, and I get to enjoy what I do and not kill myself with bending and stooping and kneeling. I’m happier and my quality of life is so much better.”
Gretchen’s happiness radiates to all those who visit her farm. “The farm really comes alive when people show up and bring their families. I try to extend healing through food. I met an 89-year-old man once in Bellingham who looked really young, just bopping around town and the farmers market, and he said to me, ‘You know the secret to staying and feeling young? Eating fresh vegetables. Not the veggies sitting in the grocery store for two weeks; I’m talking fresh off the vine.’”
Spring Frog Farm visitors can experience some of that fresh-off-the-vine goodness for themselves. Gretchen offers strawberry and raspberry U-pick, where people can stop and spend time amongst good company and sun-warmed fruit. Come autumn, Gretchen also offers a U-pick pumpkin patch. In addition, she sells directly from her on-site farmstand. “Feeding my community fulfills my purpose,” Gretchen says with a wide grin.
Her community includes other farmers, as well. “We should all be networking and helping each other,” she says. “Terra Verde are friends of mine; we send people to each other’s U-picks. If I was out of bok choy or something at the market I’d send someone to them. We need to keep an open heart. We’re all here for the same intention of feeding our community.”
And Gretchen did just that when, recently, a couple and their teenage son came out to Spring Frog Farm. “I mean, he’s a teenage boy,” she says, laughing. “He kinda didn’t want to get out of the car. But as soon as he started picking berries with his mom, he got blasted with that sense of peace and serenity and said, ‘Mom, this is actually really nice.’”
Organic, sustainable agriculture is difficult work, but it’s made easier with the help of farmer friends, programs like the Co-op’s Farmer Fund, and high praise from angsty teens (a notoriously indifferent demographic). And the rewards are abundant. Gretchen gets to live her dream, simplify her life, and grow nourishing food. In fact, she is so passionate about her farm, she wrote a children’s book about it. The Rainbow and the Pot of Gold tells the story of a boy and a girl who discover that the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow is, in fact, a farm and the “secrets of the soil.” Rainbows often arc over the Cascadian foothills and land in the fields of Spring Frog Farm.
Gretchen sends me home with a pint of blueberries, a bouquet of sunflowers, a hug, and a deep sense of peace—a true pot of gold indeed.