Down on the farm: visiting Helsing Junction

On Sunday, Man of La Muncha and I headed south to our CSA, Helsing Junction Farm, for their annual Day on the Farm. We've been members of this CSA for three years now, but until this weekend we haven't had the opportunity to actually visit the place where we get the majority of our summer veggies. Though we feel as if we know the Helsing Junction workers from their weekly newsletter, there's no substitution for meeting the people who are putting food on your table.

(Onions drying in the fields)

Rochester is just south and west of Olympia and is slightly more than an hour and a half from Seattle via car - about halfway between Seattle and Portland. When we pulled into the farm (helpfully marked by a hand-made sign), we were directed to a parking space behind the barn and greeted by one of the Helsing Junction workers, who instructed us to walk up to the barn, where we would find maps and other people eager to help point out features of the farm. Already, we felt welcomed.

The first things we saw upon leaving our car were boxes of beehives, with honeybees buzzing madly about and the name "Woogie Bee" stamped on the side. Our greeter informed us that they were summering on the farm, where they were able to find any number of flowering plants. While the bees were, in fact, quite busy, they were also very focused and didn't seem disturbed by the increasing number of people parking near their hives.


(Woogie Bee bee hives)

After watching the bees for a few minutes, we made our way to the barn, where we were introduced to Sue (pictured below), one of the owners of Helsing Junction Farm. We talked a bit about raspberries - the Helsing Junction raspberries on the near side of the field were remarkably orderly, standing up in straight lines, while our raspberries are more interested in taking over our back yard, then breaking loose to wreak havoc on Ballard. She suggested that plowing them under might help, but we would need to be vigilant to prevent a return. She also recommended against planting comfrey, which is apparently a dreadfully invasive herb. I suggested to Man of La Muncha that we just add comfrey, mint, and bamboo to our back yardfarmer-sue.jpg and see which invasive species wins. Sadly, he was not interested in turning our back yard into a plant version of "Survivor."

We got a map, and set out on our tour of the farm. Helsing Junction is fairly small - it only took us about 45 minutes to walk nearly the entirety of it, going slowly and studying the map to determine what crop we were looking at. We were surprised by the variety produced by the farm, and how much food is harvested. Our half box is a bounty of produce, each and every week. And it all comes from this little corner of the Independence Valley.

We made it as far as the corn before turning back, since the sprinklers were on and we didn't want to get wet. We headed back along the south side of the field, where Man of La Muncha spotted a carrot standing proudly at the edge of a row, its orange top poking up above the soil. We pulled it (harvesting is encouraged during the Day on the Farm), and continued on our way, stopping to cut some sunflowers as we walked.

As we neared the southeast corner of the field, close to where we'd parked, we saw a sign pointing us toward baby goats and pigs. We couldn't resist the urge to check out the local animals, and meandered up the rise. Upon cresting the small hill, we could tell that we'd been spotted by the excited snorts and bleats coming from the pen in front of us.

The pigs and kids were in a very large enclosure - we couldn't see the far side of it - but were clustered near to the gate, in anticipation of visitors bearing treats. The goats were climbing the fence hoping for snacks, while the pigs milled around below, occasionally knocking one of the kids off its perch. We searched for something to provide the animals with sustenance, and decided that we could sacrifice the top of our carrot. However, once the leafy top had been consumed, the sad bleating convinced us to sacrifice our entire carrot to the cause.


(Billy goats and boy piglets)

We spent a fair bit of time with the goats and pigs, finding a crabapple tree whose fruit proved to be quite popular, as did the blackberries that were growing nearby. When we were satisfied that everyone was well-fed, we headed back toward the barn.

Once there, we found chickens and the mother of the baby pigs. The chickens were in an open enclosure, with the chicks huddling near the adults, all of whom were well under cover. The sow sprawled in a corner of the barn, clearly not in a mood to do much more than listen to the bustle of people all around.


(Momma pig)

By this time, it was time for us to head back to Seattle, where we were expected at the inaugural delivery of our Crown S meat CSA. We bought t-shirts and some honey from the summering bees, and headed back towards the freeway, Mt. St. Helens dominating our view.

I said at the beginning of the post that we hadn't visited our CSA before, and also that there is no substitution for actually meeting the people who grow your food. Meeting the people who feed you is an integral part of a locavore lifestyle, and my only regret is that it took us three years to finally make it down to Rochester to visit the farm.

We'll be back next year.

Photos by Man of La Muncha

One Responseto “Down on the farm: visiting Helsing Junction”

  1. CSA's are a great way to connect with fresh local food and the folks who make fresh local food possible. If you're in the Hudson Valley (NY) area check out the Germantown CSA.
    They're on the web as well. See 'em at: