This is the first in a regular series of profiles of VIGA member farmers, producers and craftspeople. If there is a particular business or individual you’d like to see profiled, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
On this wet, cold March day, walking by the Village Green, it’s hard to imagine that in just a few weeks, the grey drizzle will be superseded by a vibrant, colorful, noisy community hub – regardless of the weather. On Saturday, April 2, the Vashon Farmer’s Market will be back! One of the driving forces behind the bounty of the first weeks and months of the market is Pacific Potager. Owner Michelle Crawford has been selling at the Vashon Farmer’s Market for 20 years years. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more diverse selection of starts. Greens? 80 varieties! Tomatoes? 50 kinds! 60 kinds of squash! You get the picture. Michelle and her crew are a wealth of information when it comes to selecting the right edible start for your particular taste. Hundreds upon hundred of starts are laid out on tables, accompanied by laminated information sheets highlighting the taste and character of each type of plant. Keep in mind that if you don’t see the start you’re looking for, it probably isn’t time to plant it. Crawford uses her own experience growing to inform what she sells when. Though it may be tempting to get those tomatoes in the ground in the grey slog of March, it’s just not time.
Crawford has been growing on Vashon and advising fellow gardeners for over 20 years. She still seeds each plant by hand. Every plant you see at the market or her roadside stand started in her well-lit kitchen, surrounded by piles of seed packets, catalogs, and evidence of a home full of busy kids. Crawford is a single mother of six. Her two eldest are young adults living on their own, the other four are tweens and teens with schedules to be managed and sports and aerial practice requiring no small amount of driving and coordinating. In May and August, her busiest months, she gets a boost from her parents who come from Texas to lend a hand parenting while Crawford works seven days a week, innumerable hours bringing her starts and fresh vegetables to market.
We asked Crawford what she’d be doing if not farming. She said she didn’t know, “If I wasn’t doing this, I think I’d be wanting to. I’m just so grateful that I get to do this.” She loves both the food production and the nursery components of her business. And she is deeply appreciative of the role she plays in helping people grow their own food. She sees the same customers year after year buying the same variety of starts; in that way, she’s able to support island growers desire to eat well and has a particular vantage point into people’s growing habits and tastes. “Because we’re an island, people eat together. You know who grows your food. We have a culture around food.” While not every Vashon farmer is USDA certified organic (a process both lengthy and too costly for many small farms), she sees organic practices as the norm. She talks of the unique advantages of island farming, and the responsibility of caring for the soil and the water.
There is still room for surprise, and she clearly finds much joy in what she does.”Some things you grow are just so beautiful. I love that feeling of bountifulness!”
Crawford sells starts (and vegetables later in the season) at her stand just north of the Tahlequah ferry on Vashon Highway (across from SW 280th St.). Early starts for spring include greens, onions, and peas. Pacific Potager’s roadside stand is open now!