What’s Happening at the Market: Family togetherness, delicious food

Sequim, it’s time to meet the Unruh Family!

Gabriel and Jennifer Unruh, with their five children — Alexandria, Olivia, Elliot, Claire and Liam — shape Jembe Farms, who bring their impassioned presence to the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market for the first time this season.

Utilizing organic growing practices, the Unruhs farm completely by hand, sans large machinery or equipment.

“We start with healthy, alive soil,” Jennifer says. “Soil is a huge step in creating healthy, vibrant plants. Having healthy, vibrant plants makes really nice food.”

Market guests have had the opportunity to take home Jembe Farm’s delicious lettuce, baby kale, Swiss chard, salad turnips and bunched beets. The Unruhs look forward to a season featuring a diverse array of mixed vegetables, including onions, carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

Jembe Farms expresses their gratitude to The Family Farm on Old Olympic Highway for graciously sharing their land where they work collaboratively.

Jennifer, Jembe Farms’ spirited matriarch, has a deep love for food.

“I love to cook and feed people; I guess in a lot of ways, it’s an extension of myself,” she says. “My journey has led me to understand the value of whole foods — number one, how delicious they are, and number two, how it’s not just empty calories.”

Whole foods really nourish your body. I’ve learned to really appreciate food in its natural form, or as close to it as possible. I love seeing what I can make with this beautiful produce.”

Jembe Farms provides a tasty option for those interested in eating the best the peninsula has to offer.

“With certain vegetables, you just have to try it straight from the garden,” Jennifer says. “Grocery store products just don’t come close to this.”

For Jennifer, it was a deep love for the lifestyle that led to the birth of Jembe Farms.

“I wanted access to healthy food for my family,” she says. “The most economical way to do it is to produce it ourselves.”

For Gabriel, a long history in various agricultural pursuits led to the genesis of his family’s current farm operation.

After spearheading a small market-garden operation in Texas, Gabriel sought a new place for his family to call home and to continue pursuing his interest in growing food.

As a faith-based family, the Unruhs felt a strong call to the Pacific Northwest.

“I think, from our background as Christians, that He was leading us this way and this was our direction to go,” Gabriel says. “For us, that was one of the real foundations of the move.”

We had never thought of moving to the Northwest, but as we began to look at it, it started to click that people value food here. It’d simply work better, the climate is better suited for growing food. That’s sort of how the wheels started to turn.”

“We fell in love with the place, totally,” says Jennifer.

The Unruhs have always prioritized spending time together as a family. Beginning their farm operation on the Olympic Peninsula has provided an opportunity for togetherness as the youngest Unruhs enjoy their summer break from school.

“There are so many things that our children really enjoy doing,” Gabriel says. “When we’re out there working as a team, it picks up everyone’s courage when we see what we can do together.”

Each family member has an important role to play with Jembe Farms. Olivia, 12, opts to spend her farm time with the fresh-cut flowers, while Claire, 7, loves shadowing her mom on a variety of farm tasks. Elliott, 10, enjoys anything mechanical but has taken a shine to one particular crop.

“Frequently, when we’re in the middle of other things, Elliott will ask, ‘Can I go weed my green beans?’” Jennifer says.

The tiniest Unruh, 2-and-a-half, does not care to miss out on the action on the farm.

“What’s shocking is to see what Liam learns! He can do a lot more than you think until you turn around and catch him in the middle of it,” Jennifer say, laughing. “He’s right there with us, constantly watching.”

Gabriel says the market garden has allowed the parent to continue to learn their children are”as people, what their interests are, what their strengths are,” Gabriel says.

“It seems to give them a sense of purpose over the summer when they’re home from school.”

The Unruhs are enthused to join the Sequim Market vendor lineup and to bring lovingly-grown produce to the community.

“The Farmers Market is important to us because it gives us an outlet,” Jennifer says. “We can grow the vegetables, but if we can’t sell them, that’s a no-go. The farmers market is a great opportunity to meet the community.

“The next best thing to being able to grow your own food is being able to buy food that was harvested the day before, from right down the road. People can come out and see your farm, they can listen to your philosophy.”

Adds Gabriel, “The aspect of knowing who grew your food is a really good thing. Knowing who grew it is better than just having an organic label.”

Market guests can meet Jembe Farms at the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. each Saturday through October.

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.

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