One Willow Farm was just a thought in the beginning of 2020. Nothing more than a doodle in a sketchbook and a really loose plan. Who knew that a world-wide pandemic would launch this little dream into reality? Certainly not us. Before we knew it the world shut down and we launched full force into starting a meat chicken operation here on Whidbey Island - something we did not anticipate. We weren’t completely unprepared. We both have roots in agriculture. Mark grew up on a pretty typical family farm in southeastern South Dakota where his family still grows corn and soybeans and raises some beef cattle. Just up the road, Melissa could be seen riding her horse on a small hobby farm.
After a 23-year career in the US Navy, we were accepted into the Armed to Farm course offered to Veterans through NCAT. We went to Bozeman in April of 2019 for this immersive learning experience. We came out of that course with lots of really good information and tools that we could use if we ever ventured into farming for ourselves. Fast forward a year and here we were facing a pandemic, growing meat chickens and asking questions like ‘Can we find a hatchery closer to home?’ and ‘How fast should we scale up?’ In our early conversations we knew that we could easily grow meat chickens, because we had done it a few times. But we also knew that we wanted to grow a better product than those first few batches we did for ourselves.
We knew three things. One, we wanted to raise our animals in an ethical, humane way, on pasture whenever possible. Two, we wanted to make sure we were taking care of the land in the process and not depleting it. Three, we wanted to be in service to our family, friends, neighbors, and island community. These three basic principles helped us to develop our little homestead and we are still growing and learning along the way. Here at One Willow Farm our mission is pretty simple - grow quality, nutritious food for our family, friends, neighbors, and surrounding community; and while we’re at it, leave the land better than we found it.