Organic Farming In Puget Sound: The Good Earth Farm

Learn how one family found their own haven living on a farm in Washington state's Puget Sound, and how they are proving their land can be used for organic farming.

| May/June 1971

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    Finding a good soil mix can be key to sucessfully starting seeds, but you do not have to rely on commercial potting soil to do the job.
    Photo by Ann Nugent

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Gene and Charlotte LeRoy have found a haven on Guemes Island in Washington state's Puget Sound. The dirt road leading into their property from the highway tunnels through woods and the first sign of their homestead is the four-acre orchard. Over to the left stretches three acres of pasture . . . the LeRoy's 75-year-old, two-story wood house is visible beyond that . . . and four sloping acres where the vegetables grow lie still further on. Woods completely surround the clearing.

The LeRoys own 16 acres and make their living farming organically. They sell vegetables to friends on the island, in the nearby mainland town of Anacortes and to the Kagetsu Restaurant in Seattle's University district. Their produce is good: demand exceeded supply last year and the LeRoys are increasing their cultivation this season.

Organic Farming

To Gene and Charlotte, farming organically is a way of life and they've chosen to use their resources and ingenuity in a bold attempt to reclaim land that agronomists have labeled unsuitable for farming.

"Those governmental officials are always on a negative trip," Gene told us. "They're always good at telling you what NOT to do. They claimed that my soil is a glaciated type and, therefore, is too rocky and barren—compared to fertile river beds—to farm. That's a lot of bull."

The LeRoys prefer a more positive approach. They're quite pleased, for instance, that their land (no doubt partly due to those agronomists' warnings) has lain fallow for 30 years. That's good, they feel, because—as a result—the farm is almost entirely uncontaminated by the recent abusive use of pesticides, herbicides and commercial fertilizers.

Like all good organic farmers, Gene and Charlotte are more interested in building a good life than they are in making fast, easy profits. They regard working in the soil and growing seeds as a pleasure in itself and they don't mind adapting themselves to the peculiar conditions of their land. The LeRoys' four-acre vegetable patch slopes gently downhill, for instance, so they plow and plant the upper level while the lower section is still too wet to work. Later, the hot weather plants are seeded in the low land where they'll find moisture during the dry season. Gene insists that proper seed selection is essential and he never buys seeds that come from the east or south. "I use only seeds that friends give me or that I get from Tillinghasts's Seed Co. in LaConner, Washington," he says.

12/19/2007 2:30:37 AM

I have known Charlotte since 1975 when we were both members of an intentional agricultural (and spiritual) community in California. She and Gene were no longer together but she has always been absolutely committed to a life close to the earth, organic, and as self-sufficient as possible. By chance I ended up on Guemes Island myself in 1981 and have been there ever since, raising fruit trees, chickens, and my three children. I didn't know Charlotte was from there until many years after I moved there. Charlotte moved to the Skagit Valley not far from Guemes some years later, where she and her partner, Glenn, have been raising some of the best organic vegetables available. They have been selling at the local co-op and farmers markets and other outlets. Many people tried the country lifestyle back in the seventies when this original article was written but not all were able to make it work. I want to say that Charlotte is one who has made a lifetime of it, and has inspired and touched many people along the way, including myself.

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