Meet the Modern Farmer: Julie Johnston - Modern Farmer

Meet the Modern Farmer: Julie Johnston

"We thought if we could make it farming here, we'd be living the dream.”

Johnston (harvesting squash blossoms) and her husband, Blake, sell their produce, pork, beef, and chicken at two farmers markets and as CSA shares.

“We thought if we could make it farming here, we’d be living the dream,” recalls Julie Johnston of her decision, with husband Blake, to put down roots on bucolic Lopez Island (population 2,500) in 2008. Of course, the island’s 360-degree ocean views come with more than a few difficulties: rough coastal winds, poor soil, feed and fertilizer that must be ferried in – not to mention a transient consumer base of summer folk.

The upside of isolation? A local, year-round economy that’s borderline barter-system. The Johnstons pay the lease on their 50 acres with food: “Annually, our rent costs a CSA share, half a pig, a quarter cow, and 20 chickens,” Julie says. Two summers ago, an anonymous donor contributed a new tractor. “Community generosity changed everything for us,” she adds. “If you put yourself out there, it’s amazing how people support you.”

Yes, Julie admits, there are days – say, after wireworms decimated her newly transplanted kale, broccoli, and cabbage plugs – when she’s “fantasized about normal jobs I could get in town.” But she and Blake aren’t giving up on Helen’s Farm (named for her grandmother and his great-grandmother) anytime soon. “Every year, I get a little more confident that what we’re doing is going to work out,” she says. “The only thing I’ve ever felt viscerally sure I want to do is farm.”

1
Leave a Reply

1 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
1 Comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Johanna Hargus

This story is from 2015. How about an update on these farmers?

Related
Farm Favorites
Read the latest reviews on our favorite products.
Immigrants Feed America

Immigrants Feed America t-shirts are back – find them at the Modern Farmers Market

Things We Love: AKUA Kelp Jerky

If you told me there was a jerky snack made out of kelp - yes,... (more)

Things We Love: CleverMade Snapbasket Cooler

It can keep up to 50 cans chilled for up to 36 hours and collapses... (more)

Things We Love: Republic of Tea Daily Greens Single Sips

It's like green juice: but way easier.

More shopping