Growing Colorful Food for Community
by Carol Banks Weber
Skylight Farms grows sustainable, seasonal, Instagram-worthy food for celebrated Seattle restaurants like The Herbfarm, and for the little old lady down the street, just trying to get by. Located in the Cathcart Valley of Snohomish, Jonathan and Petrina Fisher’s humble, but productive 20-acre farm has quite the reputation, and reach.
Together with six part-time employees, they tend the land, and in return, the land rewards them with stunning produce: colorful cauliflower, purple varieties of carrots, dragon beans, and kohlrabi, Persian cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and ginger, new this season.
The fun thing about owning a small farm is that you always get to experiment, Petrina says.
Don’t forget the eggs, from actual chickens.
We were inspired by the idea of incorporating animals into our production as a way to build the health of our soil.
I have long been opposed to the inhumane conditions that animals – chickens in particular – are subjected to in the name of producing cheap food. It’s always been important for me to understand the origin of my food and I can’t imagine raising chickens in a way that doesn’t allow them to just be chickens.” Their colorful, pasture-raised eggs provide for an impressive client list: “[Lauren Sophia Anderson of] Grain Artisan Bakery uses our eggs in her amazing pastries. Restaurants such as The Herbfarm, Stoneburner, Sunny Hill, and Porkchop & Co. also use our eggs regularly. A small pasta company called Mixtape Pasta started using our eggs as well. When we have the supply, we also stock a few local farmstands and CSAs. We sell our eggs (and veggies) at the Bellevue Farmers Market, as well as through our online webstore. We also started a drive-through farmstand at our farm on Saturday mornings, where we have a limited number of eggs.”
Because of COVID-19, Skylight Farms instituted more stringent sanitary protocols and launched an online store, open Saturday-Thursday. “It caught on quickly. One of the best things to come out of the pandemic has been meeting and seeing my customers every week at the farm. I always wondered if people would be willing to come to our farm to pick up their food. It’s been incredibly heart-warming to have people come from as far away as Mt. Vernon and Renton.”
They come, because small farms offer safer, healthier food, without the middleman or the scary unknowns. “Our produce is harvested just days or hours before the customer receives their orders. We’re also happy to talk your ear off about a vegetable that you’ve never tasted and introduce you to new flavors that you’ll never find at a supermarket. I try to make sure that my customers know how much they mean to us, because I know it would be a heck of a lot easier to just go to the nearest grocery store. For a lot of our customers, we’ve become more than just a place to pick up your veggies and eggs. Coming to the farm each week has turned into an experience that they value. They’ve gotten to know us as people.”
Running a farm, raising two young children, dealing with COVID’s ever-changing rules; none of it’s been easy. “Sometimes, I question whether it’s worthwhile. The days are long. I do fieldwork, work at the farmers market or make deliveries during the day and then cobble together dinner with my family, tuck the kids into bed, and do computer work for another couple of hours almost every day of the week. From June to October, I’m really, really tired. Luckily, the farming part slows down to a manageable pace from November to April.”
During that time, the Fishers try to extend the season with more hearty vegetables — cabbage, kale, spinach, and storage crops, plan for the next farmers market season, welcome “a new batch of baby chicks!” and generally just take a deep breath. ✦
17319 Elliott Rd., Snohomish firstname.lastname@example.org | skylightfarms