What’s new at the Market: Cultivation, creation of place-based food

Tucked away near Olympic National Park, beside the Elwha River with shining vistas of Mount Olympus, is Wildling Farm, a family-owned farmstead. The micro-farm, a little smaller than 5 acres, delivers a bright lineup of homemade provisions and fresh produce to the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market.

The heart of the business is Rachel Shyles, wildlife biologist and ecologist by trade. After six years in wildlife conservation and management, she opted to recenter her energy towards growing and creating food full time.

Shyles runs the operation with the support of her husband Dan, an astrophysicist turned full-time high school educator.

“And big-time science geek,” Rachel Shyles adds.

The pair’s formal training and professional experiences inform the methodology present at the core of Wildling Farm.

“As scientists with a deep reverence for nature, we look to it to inform our farming and business practices,” Shyles says. “We’re mimicking nature’s way of cultivating life through healthy ecological relationships and principles.”

The Shyles’ food production operation prioritizes no-till methods, sheet mulching, companion planting, nutrient cycling, and locally sourced soil amendments — frequently straight from their home kitchen!

“These are, of course, techniques humans have been using for thousands of years,” Shyles says. “It’s nothing new, but with the advent of industrial farming the world moved in the direction of overuse and over-consumption of resources with abandon.”

The philosophy extends to a full line of thoughtfully prepared food, all circling one concept: Local first. Always.

“It doesn’t make sense to ship in food from thousands of miles away when we have some of the most fertile ground here in our North Olympic Peninsula area,” Shyles says. “And some of the most passionate people for growing local food as well.”

Wildling Farm offers honey milk soap (Dungeness Valley Creamery milk, Washington sourced honey, and homegrown herbs), herb salts (North Pacific Ocean sea salt and homegrown rosemary or lavender), sourdough tortillas (family sourdough cultures and Russian heritage variety Finnriver Farm pastry flour), local blackberry pepper jams (available in mild and spicy), and spiced local apple butter.

Check out the homemade provisions and fresh produce offered up by Wildling Farm each Saturday at the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market. Photo by Emma Jane Garcia

Check out the homemade provisions and fresh produce offered up by Wildling Farm each Saturday at the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market. Photo by Emma Jane Garcia

“All of our products are born out of things that I like making for my family,” Shyles says. “I’m going to make them anyways. Why not make them for the community?”

Each product offers a highly curated experience, right down to the artwork on the labels, all designed by Shyles herself.

Shyles says she believes strengthening the local food system leads to a healthier community and a healthier planet: “From climate change to the increasing intensity of weather events, to income inequality – we feel passionately we can help by moving our food system into a more locally oriented arena,” she says.

Shyles notes that this is just the beginning, as Wildling Farm just celebrated its first anniversary in business in August.

“This is my dream,” Shyles says. “I’m finally able to be free and run crazy with it.

“Meeting all the people and enjoying their reactions to what we’re doing has been rewarding. Getting to know them and their stories. I see a lot of the same people every week. It’s good to catch up with them. It’s one of the few opportunities we have these days to connect with people.”

Wildling Farm is at the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market every Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. through October. Orders can also be placed on their online farm stand at wildling.farm.

Visit your community market at Sequim Civic Center Plaza at North Sequim Avenue and West Cedar Street.

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 Garcia is the Market Manager for the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market.