What’s Happening at the Market: Nourishing community with Beanstalk Farm

Nestled between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the mouth of the Dungeness River, Beanstalk Farm springs to life from fertile, alluvial soils. A small-scale, diversified farm operation specializing in mixed vegetables, berries, medicinal herbs and wildcrafting, Beanstalk Farm returns to the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market for its second season.

Kia Armstrong, a long-time farmer and herbalist, leads operations with her husband Cort and their two children, Nora and Spencer.

Armstrong says the operation is made possible by the contributions of two employees, Armstrong’s parents, and 10-12 families working in exchange for fresh produce.

“That’s one of the most exciting things about what we do,” Armstrong says. “We grow food in community together. The community of people who have built and supported our farm shows that it takes a village to keep it all moving forward.”

Known for her bright and abundant Saturday market displays, Armstrong specializes in growing a wide range of medicinal herbs and herb blends intended for creating tinctures — a solution of medicinal herbs steeped in an alcoholic solvent — or for preparing as infusions — a specialty tea prepared by soaking the medicinal herbs in hot water overnight so as to increase the potency of the medicinal properties.

“Drinking a cup or two per day of infusions can be very nourishing,” Armstrong says.

“They’re very, very gentle, you can’t overdo them. They’re good maintenance to work into your daily hydration routine with readily available vitamins and minerals.”

Armstrong takes care to showcase herbs that can be found growing wild to help market guests learn more about the medicinal capabilities of the plants that naturally surround them.

“If you have specific symptoms or ailments, you can really narrow into specific herbs to aid healing,” Armstrong says. “There are herbs that gently nourish our immune systems, support our lymphatic system, provide anti-inflammatory support, and boost our overall health and energy.”

Beanstalk Farms, whose Sequim Farmers & Artisans booth features a variety of fresh produce, incorporates low-till cultivation techniques, mulching and the growth of beneficial insect habitats. Submitted photo

Beanstalk Farms, whose Sequim Farmers & Artisans booth features a variety of fresh produce, incorporates low-till cultivation techniques, mulching and the growth of beneficial insect habitats. Submitted photo

Armstrong says reverence for the history of the land is at the heart of Beanstalk Farm operations.

“We recognize that our farm exists on the stolen lands of the Jamestown people; it’s a journey but we’re always seeking ways to turn that into meaningful action,” Armstrong says.

“We try to be caretakers of this space and this soil.”

Having managed Nash’s Organic Produce, a certified organic farm, for 15 years. Armstrong is well steeped in organic growing practices.

Beanstalk Farm incorporates low-till cultivation techniques, mulching and the growth of beneficial insect habitats. Armstrong shares that they intentionally allow sections of their beds and fields to grow wild or self-seed, allowing natural buffers and boundaries to arise.

“We don’t just plant things in straight lines and rows all the time,” Armstrong says. “We try to flex with what nature is doing.”

Armstrong shares that she appreciates the opportunity to share gardening, farming and wildcrafting knowledge through her work with Beanstalk Farm.

“One of the goals is to empower people to grow and wildcraft their own food,” Armstrong says. “I’m not interested in a purely transactional relationship with the community, where I will be the one who grows your food forever.

“I want people to have the skills and knowledge to grow food in their own backyard, porches, and patios.”

Armstrong calls it “dirt therapy.”

She says, “The tastes, flavors, and textures of fresh food and the meaningful work of growing it have been completely life-changing for me. I’ve seen, through my almost twenty years of farming, it changes countless lives.”

After nearly two decades of farming in the area, Armstrong says she’s recently seen a strong expansion in the landscape of locally available food with the increase in the number of small farms. She says she has begun to see consumer demand increase for local food.

Armstrong says that she believes the relationships built between shoppers and farmers are integral to the community’s holistic well-being going forward.

While Armstrong says she appreciates the increase in interest in the market and local food in the past several years, she believes there is more to be done by local shoppers.

Armstrong acknowledges that there has been less support for local farmers markets in the past.

“We are making up for lost time,” she says. “Things are great now, but we need to be even better. We have to keep the momentum growing.”

Armstrong says, “The farmers market season is a great time to double down in your support. Invite your neighbors to come with you, bring your family from out of town, and tell everyone at church and at work how excited you are to go to the farmers market.

“We have to keep fueling the local food economy with everything we have because the future health of our community hinges on our ability to grow a portion of our food.”

“At the central core of our farm is the belief that climate change is irreversible,” says Armstrong. “Because of our microclimate here in Sequim, we can grow fresh, amazing, nutrient-dense food year-round. It’s great that we have knowledgeable people in this area who can grow food and have some farmland left to do it.”

Armstrong’s sentiments are not unique amongst her fellow farmers at the market. She says that she feels surrounded by inspiration and hope.

“I’m super inspired by my fellow farmers at the market. I have so much gratitude for our community. It’s the connection points that are so inspiring and make every moment at the market worth doing. We might not be able to change the course of what’s happening, but we can love each other, the farmers growing our food, and the colors and tastes of the Sequim Valley – that can bring us immense joy, that’s our best adaptation strategy.”

Beanstalk Farm is at the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market every Saturday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. through October. Visit your community market at Sequim Civic Center Plaza at North Sequim Avenue and West Cedar Street.

Be sure to tune in on Thursday at 4 p.m. to KSQM 91.5 FM for the live radio “Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market Update.”

Emma Jane Garcia is the director of the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market.

Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market

Open: 9 a.m.-2 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