Courtney Thomas and Naive Melody Front Yard Farm offer edible, ‘weird stuff’ that one might not find in the grocery store. Photo by Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia

Courtney Thomas and Naive Melody Front Yard Farm offer edible, ‘weird stuff’ that one might not find in the grocery store. Photo by Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia

What’s Happening at the Market: Merging gardening, wellness on the farm

Courtney Thomas of Naive Melody Front Yard Farm is an entrepreneur, gardener and mother. This season she can be found at the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market with a vibrant display of edible plant starts ready to find their new homes in your backyard.

Thomas is the first to admit that the offerings in her booth can be a bit … kooky.

“I like the weird stuff,” says Thomas. “I focus on growing vegetable starts that you can’t get in the grocery store or maybe you didn’t even know existed. One of the best-sellers has been a cherry tomato that’s dark blue and has the same amount of antioxidants as blueberries.

“Soon I’ll have green beans that are red and can get up to three feet long, then there’s a cauliflower that’s purple but turns a lime green when you cook it.”

Thomas says she is particularly drawn to the stories behind her plants.

“I really like to make sure I’m educated about the varieties I grow,” she says. “I know where they’ve been pollinated, what farms the seed came from, and all the little particular tricks to get them to grow successfully.”

Thomas began gardening in her early 20s. Newly married and out on her own, she wanted to glean a deeper understanding of where food comes from.

Photo by Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia

Photo by Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia

“Only five percent of the food in your average supermarket comes from our general area; that’s kind of crazy,” she says.

“When you begin to see the present reality of our food system, you can’t help but want to do something about it.”

Naive Melody Front Yard Farm exists as a way to encourage people in Sequim to grow some of their own food. “Anyone gardening learns by trial, you might have some failures, but you also have those little successes that get you really excited,” says Thomas.

“Now I’ve been doing it for fifteen years and I feel like I’ve finally learned enough to focus on helping other people get started.”

Thomas is a community wellness advocate and is known by many in the community as an accomplished orthopedic massage practitioner of more than 12 years.

In 2020, Thomas’ business was forced to close in response to the pandemic.

“It was a big financial and emotional hit,” she says. “I loved owning my own practice, I loved the work that I did, I loved the connections with my clients. Suddenly one night, it was all gone. It was very jarring.”

As a mother of young children, Thomas says that finding childcare during the pandemic was a challenge.

“I really had to go back to my number one job of being a mom,” she says. “That was my top priority.”

The seed for Front Yard Farm was planted.

“This was something that I realized I could do during the week, at home with my family, and do the market one day a week,” Thomas says.

With a background that merges personal wellness and gardening, Thomas says she is passionate about the myriad of benefits gardening can provide.

“I think the act of gardening is so amazing for us as humans. There are so many studies about how healing it can be,” says Thomas. “Physically having dirt touch your skin produces hormones that improve your mood.”

“When it comes to mental health, there can be such a huge stigma. People don’t always like to talk about it,” says Thomas. “When that happens, we also don’t talk about the things we can do to feel healthier. For me, gardening is a healing treatment. It’s something that everybody can try.

“That’s what this business was about. I needed it for my own mental health. I needed to feel like I was contributing to my community, like I was expressing my passions and using my skills and strengths to help others.

I could’ve just kept gardening in my yard, having this romantic time with my apron and my flowers, but I needed to take it further. I wanted to help people, not only grow tomatoes but hopefully, feel better in their bodies and in their mind.”

Thomas says she’s excited to join the 2021 SFAM vendor lineup.

“If someone buys a tomato from me and then six weeks later go, ‘Oh, I’m having this problem,’ they can just come back to me and I can help them out,” Thomas says. “That’s one of my favorite things about the market, it’s an entire day where all I do is talk about gardening. I don’t get to do that the rest of the week.”

Thomas also says she believes farmers markets are an ideal environment to connect with local business owners.

“You have the opportunity to talk to the farmers or people who made your product directly,” she says.

“Making that connection is really important. You just don’t get that from going to a grocery store. Getting to meet the actual person and hear their story is so meaningful for everyone involved.”

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

Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market

Open: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 30

Location: Sequim Civic Center Plaza and Centennial Place, downtown Sequim

More info: manager@sequimmarket.com

On the web: sequimmarket.com

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