The Art of Growing

Meet Eastside farmer Michaele Blakely
Photo by Rachel Coward

Photo by Rachel Coward

Michaele Blakely doesn’t like the city. Her quiet farm in Carnation is a green oasis away from crowded highways and packed sidewalks. For more than 25 years she’s been running Growing Things Farm — a challenging business she’s come to love. Among her least favorite parts of farming is driving her van full of veggies down to the Ballard and U-District farmers markets in Seattle, but she makes the trip almost every week. For her, there’s nothing quite like handing over fresh produce she’s babied through the winter to an eager customer. For decades she’s seen mothers and fathers grow their families with food she’s grown herself. It’s a kind of gratification that keeps on sprouting.

A legacy of farming: My family was ranchers, and my grandparents were farmers. I got the combination of both things. When I was a child I always had a garden. For my 16th birthday I had a boyfriend; he gave me … a sprinkler. Because I would always water the garden in the evening before we would go out on a date, and he just got so tired of waiting.

Early mornings: I used to wake up at 4 o’clock every morning without fail (and) be out in the field by 5 a.m. when it’s light. When you’re up at 4 a.m. and you’re working all day long, you’re ready for bed at 6 p.m.

The proudest thing she’s grown: New farmers! Really! Up until this year the farm was a teaching farm as well as a growing farm. Just a myriad of interns would come through the farm.

The local community of farmers: We’re all very close. You know, everybody has their little disagreements at times, but everyone is very supportive of each other. It’s very much a community.

Female farmers are gaining respect: I don’t think it’s harder for women to farm nowadays. When I first started farming 30 years ago, things were changing as far as how women were treated … I mean, no one took me seriously. It’s like, “Really? You can do that? You sweet little thing, you.” Nowadays, women are really respected who are out there and farm. People are in awe. Iíve had men come up and say, “You’re my hero.”

Surrendering to the weather: Last year was very, very hard because of the drought. We werenít able to use water until June. By that time everything was dying. So we started over a lot because the water table was so low, and irrigating it didn’t help. And then we flooded in October and lost everything.

The effects of climate change: As climate change is changing the weather, we’ve got to be able to be quick on our feet.

Peaceful moments on the farm: On Tuesday, I don’t know what happened, but there was no sound, human sound. And I kept walking around thinking, “Is there a catastrophe that happened that I don’t know about?” Because there were no planes, there was no traffic. There was no one on the road … it was just amazing. It was so surreal to have no other sound but what was going on right here.

On the difficulty of farming: No (it’s not difficult). Well, yes and no. If you’ve got everything all together then no, it’s not. When you have limited resources and you’re trying to farm, then yes, it is. Especially in the Snoqualmie Valley.

The lost art of farming: It’s hard for me to comprehend now how many people do not have a connection anymore – to the soil or to growing. Because it used to just be innate; people just knew how to do it. And they did. From generation to generation to generation, it’s getting lost.

Growing for the community: It is so gratifying to come to the market and have somebody come and say, “Oh, thank God you’ve got eggs; your eggs are the best eggs in the world!” and knowing that they are really good and being able to hand it to them.

A gratification that’s passed on: There’s a great sense of peace that comes. Everything is right with the world because you’re out doing something that is not only gratifying for yourself, but is going to be gratifying for many, many, many, more.

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is the managing editor at 425 magazine. Email her.
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