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.
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 present in this valley.
THE STORY OF THE PEOPLE
Chimacum Creek is named after the Chimakum, a Native American people 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. 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 the mid-nineteenth century, treaties and conflict disbursed the Chimakum people and incoming settlers began to log and farm this valley.
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 purchased this farm 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. The Brown family raised several generations of family here and ran the dairy operation for almost 50 years. Due to the unexpected deaths of B.G. and his son Brad Brown within a short period, the family had to sell the herd. 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. 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. We fell in love with the lush, loam soils, the open expanse of fields, the view down the Valley to neighboring farms, the cradle of forest on either side, and the Olympic Mountains rising above the ridge on clear days. 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 FARM TROUGH TABLE
This table and these benches that you sit upon were 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 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, the Bread Lab and WSU Sustainable Seed Systems. 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 classic farm house on the site 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!
THE NAME 'FINNRIVER'
The name Finnriver 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.
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.