"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

The locally grown lifestyle

By on September 23, 2014 in Articles, Good food with 0 Comments

 

Organic farmer Chris Petry

Story and photos

by Brad Lane

You are what you eat, or so the old saying goes.

And if that is true, then Chris Petry of Oh Yeah! Farms in Leavenworth is fresh, local and organic.

And those words don’t only describe his way of life, but also the crops he grows on the farmland he plows nestled comfortably amongst the Cascade Mountains.

Much like the rest of us, Chris respects the relationship between the food we eat and how we feel, and he has taken it to the next level by starting his own local farm and participating in a Community Supported Agriculture system (CSA) that allows him to deliver his produce for a profit directly to his customers each week.

Ask him how he got here, wrist-deep in the dirt pulling out potatoes by hand, Chris laughs about the journey so far.

“What I got from looking into it was that you get to work with your hands and you get to work outside,” said Chris. “Plus you get awesome food from it.”

Born and raised in upstate New York, surrounded by farmlands but growing no vegetables himself, Chris moved away after high school and attended Penn State on a full-ride track scholarship. After graduating, and finding his athletic interests switching from running to mountain sports, Chris took the call of the Cascades and found a job as a mountain guide in Seattle.

Things were going well for a while, until the economy took a nosedive in 2008, and the mountain guiding position he was relying on to make rent suddenly came up dry. And it was from this temporary job replacement that Chris took advice from a friend to look into farming as a way to support himself.

“I sought out Craigslist and typed in ‘farming’ under jobs. Only one thing came up.”

Fortunately for Chris, he was the right fit for the job. Standing at six-foot, three-inches and a one-time high school track champion, and in other words a perfect fit for the hard work required on the farm, Chris claims he got his first farming gig at Nature’s Last Stand in Carnation, outside of Seattle, because he showed up on time for his interview.

From there, Chris commuted back and forth between farmland and Seattle, splitting his time between mountain guiding and agriculture. He made it work, but found that the slower pace of farm life was drawing him away from the hurry of the big city.

“I felt I was getting out of touch with community,” Chris said about his time in Seattle. “You could meet people at a bar, or in a place, but you didn’t meet at someone’s home and eat a cooked meal from their garden. You move out to the country and that’s what happens.”

And after putting up with the disconnect long enough, Chris began looking for greener pastures on the east side of the Cascades. But with so much farming community to choose from, Chris had a lot of options in terms of locations to go. Ultimately, it wasn’t just the fertile soil that drove his decision.

“I knew I wanted to move to Leavenworth, I wanted to be out here,” Chris said. “The skiing and climbing are great and I thought I might as well farm where I can do all of these things.”

With Leavenworth in mind for this mountain sport enthusiast, Chris was told to seek out Grant Gibbs of Gibbs’ organics, who is, as Chris described, the local organic guru. Grant Gibbs was a tough nut to crack however, but with enough persistence and determination, Chris found a small work-study position on the farm.

“I didn’t make enough money for two summers besides to eat and buy gas,” said Chris about his time spent with Gibb’s Organics. “But I slowly started acquiring farm equipment, and I figured I’d keep pushing things and look for bigger places.”

And Chris did just that, until 2012, when he plowed Oh Yeah! Farms for the first time at his current Ranger Road location.

And since 2012, Oh Yeah! Farms has not only been raising organic crops, but also raising awareness of the local food movement that’s sweeping the nation. “Food security is a big issue,” said Chris. “We don’t know where our food comes from, how it’s treated, and how it gets there unless we grow it ourselves.”

One way to know where your food does come from however, Chris elaborated as he organized the piles of potatoes at his feet, is to buy it directly from producers like himself. And while Chris believes that by doing just that, it’s good for your body, and it’s also good for business.

Being a profitable local producer is Chris’ goal. Along with working the land, he sells his produce at farmers markets — in Wenatchee, Leavenworth and two in Seattle —and ships weekly boxes of produce to regular customers.

All that harvesting and supplying translates to early mornings and long days for Chris, but the hard work seems to be paying off.

Through his tall personality and networking prowess, Chris has achieved a few breaks in the business, including free access to the farmland across the street from his house that belongs to a neighboring B&B.

But the bottom line for Chris’ financial security and independence is not the favors he receives, but the number of vegetables he manages to sell. And while the farming gig hasn’t made him a millionaire by any means, and he is currently making less than he did mountain guiding, the low-cost living of country life allows him to live comfortably, own the house he lives in, and financially support himself without the aid of other part-time jobs.

And with a smile on his face, Chris doesn’t seem to mind the dirt on his hands. “The most important thing I could be doing with my time and life right now is to be a farmer and grow my own food.”

And his enthusiasm for the farming lifestyle shines as he talks about the benefits of being a local farmer.

With a parcel of freshly dug potatoes between his hands, Chris reminisced about an afternoon earlier in the season where 10 of his friends came to the farm and spent time together harvesting the latest crop. By the evening they were all on his back porch, feet up, with the sun breaking below the horizon and enjoying a feast comprised entirely of food they picked themselves.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Chris said about his time spent on the farm with close friends. “I believe in spending and sharing time with your neighbors, and food is a vessel for that.”

And while this farming lifestyle may not have been what Chris imagined himself doing while growing up, like the vegetables on his farm, all he needed was a little sun and direction to grow.

And as a final piece of advice, as he scrubbed his potatoes over a large washing station, Chris spoke to anyone who wants to watch their dreams grow into a reality.

“Nothing is better than having the tenacity and feeling the excitement in following something you want to do.”

 

For more information on how to obtain Oh Yeah! produce; check out Oh-Yeah-Farms.com.

 

Brad Lane grew up in the great state of Iowa with an affinity for adventure, and now that he has been living out West for over a year working as a freelance writer, he can’t imagine life without mountains in sight.

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