The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Beka Compton
The Times 

Small farms, big flavors

Summer flavors shine at local small farms


Noel Olson

Frig is one of many goats at Dusty Britches Farm in Waitsburg. Using her good sense of humor, she loves to say hi while people collect fresh produce.

The Touchet Valley is home to a handful of farm to table operations, like the Breathe Easy Farm, and Crooked Fences. Nestled on the edges of Dayton, farms like these provide fresh fruit, vegetables, baked goods, and more to residents.

The Breathe Easy Farm owner/operator Mindy Holmberg has big plans for her little slice of heaven, including a retail front and eventual farm-to-table suppers. Holmberg sells baked goods, like chocolate zucchini bread, preserves, various pickled vegetables, fresh produce, and antiques.

Holmberg uses the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model for her business. People can purchase a subscription for baskets loaded with produce. Once members have been served, produce is available to sell to the public.

The vegetables and fruits that Holmberg offers are all grown without the aid of chemical fertilizers and preventatives.

"I can't say I am organic, because I am not certified," Holmberg said. "But I don't spray the garden with chemicals."

Zucchini, peaches, green beans, cherries, raspberries, and lettuce are just a few of the fresh items that can be found at the Breathe Easy. Scones, cookies, and pies fill the bakery case, and at the front of the store, the old Star Schoolhouse facade stands over shelves lined with pickled vegetables, jams, and a large selection of Rey's Roast coffee.

"I'd like to, someday, host dinners right out here," Holmberg said, pointing to her large front lawn. "Our permit also allows us to build cabins, but we aren't there yet", Holmberg said she enjoys the peace and quiet of her property, and someday hopes to welcome visitors to experience the beauty of the area, with small cabin accommodations.

The Breathe Easy is complete with its flock of chickens and ducks and a small herd of sheep. The chickens provide the farm with plenty of eggs to go around. Holmberg said the livestock animals have been a hit with shoppers. It's especially hard to resist a cute lamb when you're enjoying raspberries or freshly baked bread.

The Breathe Easy is located at 100 Vernon Lane, a quick little turn on your way up to Bluewood and is open from 10 a.m. .- 4 p.m. on Saturdays, and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Be sure to follow The Breathe Easy Farm on Facebook, to keep up with the freshest produce and baked goods.

A little closer to Dayton, on South 5th Street, you'll find a small house with a crooked red fence. Hidden behind that fence is the sprawling garden that makes up the Crooked Fences, owned by Tom and Cindi Jon.

Crooked Fences offers all the regular produce for the area-zucchini, corn, onions, and more, but they sell some not-so-common ingredients as well, like celtuce. (Celtuce is a form of lettuce grown for its thick stem, which looks like broccoli, but tastes a bit like celery.) Many varieties of edible flowers can be found in patches throughout the garden, something that Cindi Jon says happened with her neighbor's help.

"We had no idea that there were so many edible flowers," Jon explained. "We have great neighbors around here." Jon lives next to Dorothy Croft, a former florist, and she said that Croft had played a significant role in expanding the garden.

Crooked Fences, like the Breathe Easy, also practices chemical-free gardening.

"We don't use any chemicals," Jon explained. "I am a cancer survivor, so I stay away from RoundUp."

Jon said that most of her business has been from word-of-mouth marketing, but she is looking forward to sharing with more of the community. She is also looking forward to offering some less-common vegetables in the future, honing in on what she called "off the beaten path plants." Jon wants to focus on reducing waste, so she only picks vegetables as needed. Be ready to spend a few extra minutes at Crooked Fences, because many of the fruits and vegetables are left on the vine until purchase, resulting in fresher produce and less waste.

"I don't like to have it sitting around," Jon said. "The vegetables are so much better when they are fresh."

The farm has been a work in progress. The couple purchased the property roughly four years ago, after moving back from Spokane, and have tamed three-foot-high weeds, built multiple garden areas, and are working on what will hopefully be a social area in the future. Jon's husband said that he got years' worth of work done since the pandemic started in March. One of the favorite areas is towards the back of the property and is dedicated solely to Halloween. The Jon's have plans to create a spooky scene for kids to explore, but it's so secretive that pictures weren't allowed.

Crooked Fences is located at 1401 S 5th St in Dayton. Stop by Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., or Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. The farm updates their Facebook page often, so be sure to follow them if you can, or give them a call at (509) 540-0554.

In Waitsburg, right across from Nancy's Dream Garden Center, you'll find Noel Olson's Dusty Britches Farm. The small farm offers free-range fresh eggs, baked goods, heirloom vegetables and handmade crafts. Between the flood, and other life events, Olson isn't sure how much she will be able to offer customers, but she does plan on having a couple of produce stand days this summer. Kale, lettuce, rhubarb and spinach are just a few things the Dusty Britches has available. If you're craving one of her famous scones, Olson bakes them at the Millstone Cafe and Bakery in Waitsburg.

Dusty Britches Farm is at 504 W. 2nd in Waitsburg. Follow the farm on Facebook or give them a call at (509) 205-4344 for produce, baked goods, and handmade crafts.

If you can't make it to the farm stands, don't worry. Blue Mountain Station acts as a year-round farmers market, selling organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs, as well as an artisan market.

Small, family-owned farm operations like Crooked Fences, The Breathe Easy, and Dusty Britches are great places to go if you're looking to whip up a beautiful green salad for a BBQ, or if you need zucchini bread for breakfast. Shop local, support local, and enjoy the freshness of a Touchet Valley summer!


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