"A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared."
The Story of Finnriver
Before we found Finnriver, we were searching far and wide for a place to set down roots and grow a life together. Life on the land was in Keith's blood and in Crystie's wildest dreams. While she was riding subways in a big city back east as a girl, he grew up riding tractors in the wheat fields of eastern Washington. Keith knows the names of four generations of his ancestors who lived with the cycles of seed, soil, work, and weather. Henry and Anna, his great-grandparents, carried their farming heritage from the Volga River region of Russia to the Columbia River basin of Washington, where branches of the Kisler family continue to farm today.
When our search for land and livelihood brought us to the Olympic Peninsula, we discovered the historical seaport town of Port Townsend, full of boats, beauty, art and creative, conscientious people. We settled down, befriended some folks and two of them, skilled farmers Kate Dean and Will O'Donnell, became our business partners in 2004. Together, our two families purchased a blueberry farm in Chimacum's Center Valley from Elijah and Kay Christian, who have since become our mentors and neighbors. It was Lige and Kay who began the stream restoration work on the land, dug the wells, put up the barn and planted all 2,000 blueberry plants.
We re-named the farm Finnriver, after our children, and got to work. Summers bountiful with blueberries and Falls full of squash. Wet winters ripe with schemes and Springs sprouting seedlings. When the Dean-O'Donnells moved on to pursue other ventures, we encountered the financial challenge of keeping the farm intact as well as the practical one of needing more hands in the ground to get it all done. Working together with Jefferson Land Trust and the Jefferson Landworks Collaborative, we took local low-interest loans from generous farm allies, agreed to place protective conservation easements on the farm, and developed a plan to embark on Cider and Grain production. We also put out the call to find another pair of farmers to help us make it all grow and we heartily welcomed Janet Aubin, a county native, and her partner Jeff Horwath, who now operate the Finnriver market garden and berry fields.
These days, Keith grows organic grain here and across the county and manages the Finnriver milling endeavors. We have partnered with Eric Jorgensen and family to revive the craft of artisan ciders and wines and to operate Finnriver Cidery. Crystie works to connect people to the farm through outreach and events, while our sons, River and Coulter, specialize in berry tasting and tractor climbing. Our fine crew also includes Marketing and Production assistant Stephanie Moore and Jim Bovino, our main man in Seattle, handling sales and distribution across the water.
We are grateful to live in a neighborhood community that includes the Gordon family, who run an overnight rental here, the Huckleberry House. We're also joined each season by berry pickers and farm volunteers, with whom we share the ample bounty of this land and the healthy necessity of labor. As a community we search for salmon in the stream, gather eggs, prune the trees, guard against eagles, pick berries and celebrate the seasons and the harvest.
It is our great joy to grow both food and community at Finnriver.