Sunday, March 28, 2021

Grow it Like You Mean it

Bunkhouse Acres, the 20-acre sustainable farm heading into its first year of full-time production, and brainchild of Shellie-Ann Kerns is gearing up for a robust Summer season, and she'd like our help...
Before we dig in, I have to tell you, this project is close to my heart.  The Bunkhouse Acres homestead is nestled into the Middle Satsop Valley region of Grays Harbor County, smack next to my hometown, and I couldn't be more excited for Shellie-Ann to bring her generational, and individually honed knowledge and expertise to breathe new life into an area that hasn't always had it so easy, particularly since the prosperity of the booming timber industry slowed to a near halt by the end of the previous century.

Once upon a time, thriving communities sprang up around raucous and wildly successful logging camps all over the territory.  However, by 1986 the last company-owned logging camp (Grisdale) in the whole of the lower 48 states closed, and even though things had been in a noticeable decline beforehand, it wasn't really until closer to 1990 when the communities started feeling the pinch.  The drying up of the timber industry coupled with some of the towns' refusal to embrace growth in new ways had things looking pretty bleak by the time I left nine years later, when it seemed like the only option was to get scholarships, and get out.  And so, that's quite honestly what a lot of us did.  I mean, when the most coveted positions are locked down by all of the small-town-dynasties that leaves only service jobs, and while I have absolutely nothing against them (it's no secret I was raised by a laborer), a drowning community can only support so many hair dressers, plumbers, and electricians, etc. before over-saturation becomes a very real problem. Long story short, there simply wasn't an economy to sustain our numbers post-graduation, and most of us didn't have the resources to create, or develop new industries out of thin air, plus, this was a pre-broadband / everyone has a side-hustle era that had the added frustration of city council members actively fighting every step toward progress, all the while wondering why the youngsters either lacked motivation, or wouldn't stick around.   
Gen X was saddled with the "slacker" title pretty early on, but can it be any great surprise that kids who've had their hands tied behind their backs aren't exactly excited to play a rousing game of dodge ball with you?
Why am I telling you all of this?  Well, here we are twenty-something years, and a global pandemic later, and ... Things ain't great.  The wealth gap has become a full fledged chasm, and in a time where more and more of the very basics are being threatened, the pandemic upended everything.  Supply chains were thrown into chaos, and many of us watched store shelves dwindle to empty, as farmers were forced to throw out, and destroy crops.  Meanwhile people are going hungry.  One thing became glaringly obvious, the already fragile system was (and still is) dancing dangerously close to the edge of shattering.  I mean, in my day, if the local economy couldn't sustain folks who could support themselves, it definitely doesn't have what it takes to support those who can't, and certainly not for any extended period of time.  That's where people like Shellie-Ann Kerns come in.

As a transplant to the area, herself, she's in a unique position, thanks to her worldview and experiences beyond the county line, to bring new and creative solutions to problems folks in the area are facing.  The beautiful part is that she can do most of them on her own property well outside of city limits, having much less red tape to deal with, which many of the local downtown businesses must contend.  So, what exactly is she trying to do?  
Simply put: Feed people. 

From her own website, "My goal is to help communities provide for themselves, but sometimes you need to give a hungry man a fish; the lesson can come later."  Slowly getting to know Shellie-Ann with the help of her writings, and social media posts, I feel like she is the absolute embodiment of be the change you wish to see in the world.  She isn't waiting around for someone else to fill the gaps, and she isn't waiting for the perfect conditions either.  She's a woman of action, and while she can't do it all (and shouldn't be expected to), she knows that she can do something.  And sometimes it's that kind of self awareness, and confidence that will inspire others to get on board as well, if not with your particular project, perhaps some other program, system, or invention will be birthed for the greater good.  Like my mother always says, "You never know what's around the next corner..." but also, you never really know what you might be doing at any given moment that is quietly encouraging others to do what they've been called to bring about, and who that may end up helping in the long run.  I think this is where I'm supposed to say something about ripples in a pond, but it's true!  We're all part of something bigger than ourselves just by virtue of being alive on this rock together, and how you move in this world has an effect on every thing, and every one around you.

Back to Bunkhouse Acres ... Where exactly do we all fit into this?  I'm glad you asked!  We can help Shellie-Ann scale her operation up, and make some of the less-than-perfect conditions she's up against, a little more surmountable by donating directly to her GoFundMe campaign, or even shopping her Amazon Wishlist.  We are currently heading into prime planting time for many areas of the Pacific Northwest, and right now the farm's fields are being cleared, the soil amended, and some crops are already being transplanted, so there couldn't be a more perfect moment, than now, to push the farm to its fundraising goal (and beyond?) in order to ensure they have a proper start, and a truly dynamic growing season!

(insert infomercial voice)
But wait ... There's more!

This isn't some stranger's vanity project.  Shellie-Ann's vision for what is possible has really touched me, and what she's already managed to accomplish has more than impressed me.  She cares.  That is no small thing, and thanks to previous donations, she's already been able to purchase a tractor, and install a new greenhouse.  She's also officially quit her day job to pour all of her efforts into the farm, introduced a June to October CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription unlike any other in the area where not only is the price on a sliding scale, but individuals can purchase shares for themselves, and / or they can purchase, and donate subscriptions to a local low-income, Black, indigenous or persons of color family.  Bunkhouse Acres has also been approved to accept EBT payments, and has applied for programs to help benefits go further with matching funds.  Other forms of payment include swapping farm work for CSA shares as well.  But that's not all, this WSU Master Gardener is passionate about education, whether it's how to grow food, or shining a light on "how food systems built on the backs of marginalized people are harmful and unsustainable," and raising awareness for exploited workers, or teaching from the demonstration kitchen she hopes to get up and running, she is a wealth of knowledge, and eager to share!  Beyond that, with funds raised, she's also looking forward to digging, and installing her own well on the property, setting up an irrigation system, acquiring a delivery van, and hiring a full-time farmhand this year. 

Personally, I couldn't want Bunkhouse Acres to be more of a success than if it was my own farm.  I know the area well, and I know how badly they need this; not just the farm, or the vegetables, or the donations she makes to local food banks, but the life-force, and energy Shellie-Ann brings to this enterprise.  From what I can tell, she's more than a farmer, she's a true cultivator who improves everything she puts her hands on, and I think we could all stand to learn from her.  Please consider joining me in donating, and helping Bunkhouse Acres reach its fullest potential.  As always, if you are unable to donate, do not underestimate the power of your voice.  Sharing the campaign, and making noise for a good cause is just as important as any dollar amount put forward.


Read more here:'s still looking forward to drilling, and installing a well on her property, and being able to hire full-time help