POULSBO — Tillers of the soil living on a Foss Road farm that goes back to the turn of the 19th century are exploring new ways to market their food.
Erin and Roni Smith are the co-owners of the Smithshyre Farm. In late December 2013, they purchased the farm from Nancy Foss, the oldest daughter of the Foss family, who had the land since the 1930s.
The origins of the farm trace to a Swedish family, Frank and Clara Karlsson, who came to the property with apple seeds and cherry pits. The Karlssons maintained the land until the ’30s, when the Fosses initially rented the property. They purchased the 40 acres in the 1940s for $1,400. The Fosses ran cattle and were the community’s butchers, which meant they were exempt from the World War II draft due to the pertinence of the job.
Before the Smiths purchased the farm, Erin and Roni were huge outdoor enthusiasts. They had a friend in Lake Bay who was looking to move and convinced them to take over the small market garden and its brood of chickens.
“We tried it and started growing food and … thought this is totally awesome,” Roni Smith said. “The laying hens were pretty easy and we were growing eggs, so we decided we would try meat birds.”
Roni is from a farming family in North Dakota where her grandparents raised cattle and grain crops.
“I do remember butchering chickens with my family, so I knew we could do it,” Roni said with a laugh.
As the Smiths got more familiar with farming practices, they set out to buy a farm, finding one on Foss Road, where they have been raising pastured poultry ever since. The farm animals include meat birds, laying hens, turkeys, Nigerian dwarf goats and sheep.
The Smithshyre farm and many other farms in the area consider themselves non-certified organic. Translated, that means they follow all the organic practices without the hassle of filling out lots of paperwork. One way the Smiths have gotten ahead of the curve for business has been the use of an online farmer’s market called Kitsap Fresh, which they’ve been using for three years.
“This gives a second marketplace during the week for farmers to sell their goods and for people to buy goods because not everyone can go to the farmer’s market every weekend,” Roni said. “You got to sell food more than once a week.”
One of the newer additions to the farm is 16 baby goats born this year, with five of them set to leave this weekend. Of the 16 goats, five of them were born as quintuplets, which happens once in 1,000 births, according to the Smiths. They are keeping just the doe, which is a female goat.
“(The birth) was surprisingly fast,” Erin Smith said. “One or two kids needed a little help but nothing out of the ordinary.”
The Smiths have a lot on their plate but are making it work just fine with persistence and a positive approach.
“This farm had 20 years’ deferred maintenance when we took over and there was so much to do and there still is so much to do,” Roni said. “We’re always kind of changing our vision.”
For two people learning about farming on the fly, it’s surprising the things they are accomplishing in the community.
“Having never done any agriculture or run a business before, it’s a pretty steep learning curve,” Erin said. “The original vision was to make food for ourselves, share how food is grown in our community and to save farmland.”
Smithshyre Farm will hold a pastured poultry harvest July 8-10, when whole fresh chickens will be available for sale.
— Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.