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Finnriver Orchard

Finnriver is excited to announce the relocation of our tasting room and event facilities to the Finnriver Orchard & Cider Garden, just south of the Chimacum Crossroads 4-way stop  (2.5 miles north of our current location).  The Finnriver Orchard is a historic former dairy farm that has been renovated to establish our organic farm and apple orchard, a working farm collaborative, our public tasting room, and a farm-based community gathering place for people of all ages.  In relocating to this historic farm and vibrant rural intersection, we have a wonderful opportunity to act upon our mission to reconnect people to the land that sustains us.

Finnriver's 6,000+ organic trees include over 20 varieties of heritage and traditional cider and perry varieties.  As the orchard continues to mature, we look forward to crafting ciders that share the beauty and bounty of this land, and offer a taste of the complexity and character of the fruit.

Finnriver has also partnered with local and regional farmers and organizations at the Orchard to establish the Chimacum FARM Collaborative and share ground, equipment, resources and values. The group is working together to grow a vibrant agricultural community though research, restoration and education.  Partners include the Organic Seed Alliance, North Olympic Salmon Coalition, Essential Blooms, WSU Jefferson County, and the WSU Bread Lab. Finnriver also partnered with the Port Townsend CoLab to convert the classic farm house on the site into a rural co-working center called the Farmhouse CoLab, providing a rural office location and meeting space. Individuals and groups can rent the library meeting room or learn about memberships at: http://farmhouse.colabnw.com

Over the next few years, Finnriver will begin to relocate our cidery production operations to the new location.  Worked as a dairy for over 100 years, this land has deep-rooted family history and abundant stories, as well as layers of rich loam soils. Finnriver and our partners are now honored to add layers to the story of this land. We are excited to share this new place with you all!

The Story of the Land

At Finnriver, our mission is to help reconnect people to the land that sustains us. We celebrate this ground and the people and stories that have come to life here through the generations. We offer this collection of history and images to honor the hearts and hands that have lived and worked this land.

Geology

Continental glaciers several thousand feet thick scoured this landscape over the last 100,000 years. Over time, episodes of ice, flood and erosion created the Chimacum valley. Then, as the land rebounded from losing the weight of the glaciers, Chimacum Creek found its present day outlet to Port Townsend Bay. Over the last thousand years, prairies and bogs thrived on the nutrients brought from the sea. Organic materials accumulated and decayed, forming peat soils and creating the fertile conditions now.

The Chimacum People

Chimacum Creek is named after the Chimakum, a Native American people known to themselves as Aqokúlo, who lived on the northeastern portion of the Olympic Peninsula through the mid-19th century and whose economy, culture and religion were based on salmon fishing. Their primary settlements were on Port Townsend Bay, on the Quimper Peninsula, and Port Ludlow Bay to the south. According to tradition, the Chimakum were a remnant of a Quileute band who had been carried away in their canoes by a great flood through a passageway in the Olympic Mountains and deposited on the other side of the peninsula. In 1855 the Twana and Chimakum, along with the Klallam, signed the Point No Point Treaty, which established a reservation at the mouth of the Skokomish River near the southern end of Hood Canal. One of the Chimakum signatories of the treaty was Chief Kulkakhan, also known as General Pierce. After this, most Chimakum people merged into the S’Klallam and Skokomish tribes, where their descendants still live today.

Settlers

From the early days of European settlement, in the early 1800s, much of the land in this area was operated for forestry and for agriculture, primarily dairy. William Bishop, Sr. was an early pioneer in the Chimacum Valley. He married, by Indian custom, a Snohomish Indian woman named Klastatute. They had three children and their son William Bishop, Jr. purchased this land in 1898, and went on to become a leading political figure and dairyman, with prize-winning Holstein cattle. Along with distinction in the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association “Hall of Fame,” Bishop was the first elected Native American to serve as a senator in the State of Washington and served multiple terms in the state House and Senate until his death in 1934. Senator Bishop married Madeline Ammeter in 1900 and they had three children. With the Senator’s passing, Mrs. Bishop managed the farm with her two sons until her own death in 1956, when the Bishop Dairy Farm was sold to B.G. and Gloria Brown.

The Chimacum Dairy

B.G. Brown was a young Marine from Kansas City who came to the Northwest during the Korean War when he was assigned to the Bangor and Indian Island bases. Gloria was raised in Port Orchard and Poulsbo. Her father worked in the shipyard in Bremerton but always kept milking cows. Gloria and Brownie dreamed of having their own dairy someday and first purchased the farm on Eaglemount (now Treekhawk Farms operated by their grandson Jason Olsen) and then moved the dairy operation to this farm in the center of Chimacum in 1956.

In addition to his career as a dairyman, Brownie served as County Commission for 20 years, where he advocated for the agricultural interests of Jefferson County with vision and true civic spirit. Gloria Brown operated the Chimacum Cafe and cooked there for many years, offering her classic cafe dinner of soup, salad and ice cream. The Browns had four children: Debbie, Barry, Brad and Jodi, who worked on the farm and at the cafe. Many family members lived on or nearby the farm and the Brown family ran the dairy operation for almost 50 years. From the four children, there were seven grandchildren and there are now over seventeen great-grandchildren...and counting! The farm house and farm were a hub of family activities and holiday life for decades. Over time, pieces of the property were sold to the Fire Hall, the Post Office and the Chimacum Schools. Due to the unexpected deaths of B.G. and his son Brad Brown within a short period, and the economic struggles of the small dairy industry, the family had to sell the herd and the dairy closed in 2002. Members of the family still live and farm nearby and are keeping the stories and memories alive.

In 2009 the Jefferson Land Trust launched a ‘working lands’ initiative to preserve farmland in this region and made an agreement with Gloria Brown to place a conservation easement on these 50 acres, ensuring that the farm, prime soils and salmon-bearing creek would be protected forever.

From Dairy To Orchard

We started farming in the Chimacum Valley in 2004, having purchased a 33 acre organic blueberry farm from Lige & Kay Christian. When it came time to re-name the land, we turned to the two little boys digging in the dirt at our feet. Put their names together and you get ‘Finnriver,’ a celebration of family farming and a tribute to the salmon-bearing stream that flows through our fields and orchards.

We were focused on growing organic fruit, vegetables and grains, and searching for a small farm model that would support our families, serve the community and sustain the land. Then one day our neighbor Lige brought over a bottle of hard cider he’d fermented from the apples out back. It was a delightful, dry, effervescent discovery and Finnriver Cidery was born as partnership with neighbors Crystie and Keith Kisler and Eric Jorgensen. We sold our first hard cider in 2010 and were honored to be on the forefront of the Pacific Northwest hard cider revival.

In 2012, Finnriver began leasing the 50 acres here at the former Chimacum Dairy, just 3 miles up the road from our original location, to plant organic cider apple trees. Working with visionary local investors, we made a plan to renovate and re-purpose this historic dairy into the Finnriver Orchard and to find partners to help showcase how organic agriculture, rural economy and ecological restoration could all thrive together.

The Trough Table

The long table and benches under the Cider Garden Pavillion was created from reclaimed barn wood on the farm and, if you look closely, you’ll see that the concrete structure below was a feeding trough for dairy cows. The trough would have been filled with silage (fermented, high-moisture grass or other green fodder) and offered additional nutrition to the herd. As we considered how best to use the spaces on this farm, we wanted to respect the hard-working history of the structures here and honor the significant heritage of dairy in this green valley.

Using re-purposed boards from the old hay barn, we brought the trough back to life so
you could fill your hearts, and perhaps
your bellies, with the beauty of this land.

The Name ‘Finnriver’

When it came time to name the farm, we turned to the two little boys digging in the dirt at our feet. Put their names together and you get ‘Finnriver,’ which celebrates our commitment to family farming and also pays tribute to Chimacum Creek, a restored salmon stream that flows through these fields and orchards.

The name was also inspired by this old Irish legend:

As a young lad, Finn MacCool went to live with a wise old poet who had spent seven years trying to catch the sacred Salmon of Wisdom, which lived in a pool on the river. It was foretold that whoever ate this salmon would gain all the knowledge in the world. Eventually the master caught the great fish, and told the boy to cook it for him, but to take care not to eat it. While cooking the fish young Finn burned his thumb and instinctively put the finger in his mouth. Finn thus gained the salmon’s wisdom and used it to lead his people and bring peace to the land.

Chimacum FARM Collaborative

Finnriver has now partnered with local and regional farmers and organizations here at the Orchard to establish the Chimacum FARM Collaborative and to share ground, equipment, resources and values. The group is working together to grow a vibrant agricultural community though research, restoration and education. Partners include the Organic Seed Alliance, North Olympic Salmon Coalition, Essential Blooms, WSU Jefferson County, and the WSU Bread Lab. You can learn more about this collaborative and the vital work of these partners on a self-guided farm walk (maps are available at the kiosk). Finnriver also partnered with the Port Townsend CoLab to convert the historic farm house into a rural co-working center called the Farmhouse CoLab, providing a rural office location and meeting space. Feel free to ask us questions to learn more about any of these farm activities!

Serving the Land

Our mission at Finnriver is to create a rooted life on the land and to reconnect people to the earth that sustains us. We seek to share the bounty and beauty of the land through exceptionally crafted ciders and we are committed to fermenting a vision of good land, renewed rural community and a vibrant food culture. Our fields & orchard are Certified Organic; our farmland is protected forever by the Jefferson Land Trust; and we are working to restore salmon-bearing Chimacum Creek. Finnriver is also a Certified B Corp, joining the global movement to make business a force for good, to conduct our work as if people and place matter, and to ‘B’ the change we seek in the world.

Worked as a dairy for over 100 years, this farm has deep-rooted family history and abundant stories, as well as layers of rich loam soils. Finnriver and our partners are now honored to add layers to the story of this land. We’re glad you are here to share it with us!