Rich Austin and Lindsey Soha, holding Rhea, offer a variety of edibles at the Rhea Sunshine Farm booth at the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market. Photo by Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia

Rich Austin and Lindsey Soha, holding Rhea, offer a variety of edibles at the Rhea Sunshine Farm booth at the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market. Photo by Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia

What’s Happening at Market: Lighting the way with regenerative growing practices

  • Friday, September 17, 2021 2:39pm
  • Business

Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market regulars have likely noticed three new faces on Saturday mornings. They belong to Lindsey Soha, Rich Austin and daughter Rhea, who together create Rhea Sunshine Farm.

Rhea Sunshine Farm is a small-scale, regenerative agriculture farm that focuses on reducing harmful impact by practicing no-till methods and prioritizing soil health.

“We want to make the environment better rather than affecting it negatively, that way future generations can farm and have healthy soil,” Soha said.

“We’re interacting with the ecosystem in a symbiotic way. We’re making sure we’re not causing so much destruction that it can’t replenish itself,” she said.

“We keep giving to it and it’ll keep giving to us. Plants grow naturally. If you focus on keeping the ecosystem in balance, they’re going to thrive.”

With an extensive agriculture background, Soha focuses on growing the produce, which includes overseeing all planting, pest control, and harvest.

Austin is the primary force behind the farm’s infrastructure.

“Rich builds everything,” Soha said. “Our farm stand, the greenhouse, the chicken coop, and our room for growing microgreens. He also does the tractor work.”

“Basically, I’m the farmer and he’s the builder,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to have done any of this without him. He’s an essential part of this.”

‘It helps with the processing’

Soha grew up in Gardiner, and after graduating from Western Washington University she committed herself to time spent traveling.

Upon her return to Sequim, she was met by the tragedy of her brother’s death by suicide*. Seeking time away, Soha moved to Kauai, Hawaii, where she met Austin. There she began honing her skills as a farmworker.

Over time, Soha came to manage the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program at the Kīlauea Community Agricultural Center.

After several years in Hawaii, Soha moved back to the peninsula after father passed away in Sequim. She inherited her childhood home.

“I couldn’t get rid of it even though lots of people told me to sell it,” Soha said. “It is definitely a very special place because it’s where my brother and I grew up. There are just lots of memories.”

Soha and Austin decided to return to Sequim to begin their own farm operation.

“Doing something that I love to do and being close to the earth. I get to think about my brother and dad all the time. It helps with the processing,” Soha said.

“You have a lot of time to think when you’re in the garden. Being outside is so important for your mental health. I think it has helped a lot.”

I can’t imagine how it would feel dealing with hard stuff like this while waking up every day dreading going to work,” she said.

“We’re so happy and excited for the life we’re creating right now, it’s pretty cool. It’s really weird to be so happy when I also feel like I should be so sad, but I feel the best way to honor them and cherish them is to make my life worthwhile.”

Crew addition

Eight months ago, Soha and Austin welcomed the littlest farmer to their crew: baby Rhea.

“That’s why we named our farm Rhea Sunshine; Rhea is the ray of light our lives,” Soha said.

Rhea can be found smiling and playing as her parents sell produce at the Saturday market. Soha and Austin say they’re excited to join the SFAM vendor lineup.

“It’s Sequim! This is my hometown,” Soha said. “We want to be a part of and get to know our community. It’s a pretty amazing thing to go talk to the person who’s actually growing your food. I really love farmers markets.”

“People are supporting our family when they buy from us and we’re supporting a healthy lifestyle for them,” Soha said — just another occurrence of symbiosis from Rhea Sunshine Farm.

Rhea Sunshine Farm is at the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market every Saturday from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. each Saturday through October. Their farm stand is open at 1640 Gardiner Beach Road.

Visit your community market at Sequim City Hall Plaza at North Sequim Avenue and West Cedar Street, and at Centennial Place at the Sequim Avenue and Washington Street intersection.

Want more market updates? Be sure to tune in every Friday at 4 p.m. to KSQM 91.5 FM for the live radio “Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market Hour.”

* — If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, help is available. Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for 24/7, free and confidential support.

Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia is the Market Manager for the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market.

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