We were curious how an organic farm is run here in the Pacific Northwest, so we asked Andrew Stout, founder and general manager of Full Circle Farm, a few questions.
How did you become interested in farming?
I started farming with my wife Wendy and my good friend John in the mid 90’s. We all felt drawn to the noble occupation of growing good honest food for our community in an environmentally responsible way. We were only a few years out of college and were looking for a meaningful career that challenged us mentally and physically while allowing our entrepreneurial spirit to thrive. If farming didn’t work out, I wanted to be a teacher. As it turned out I have the privilege of doing both – educating young and old, about the merits of organic farming, the importance of good food, the satisfaction of a hard day’s work and best of all the delights of a delicious shared meal.
How did you become interested in organics and sustainability?
Growing up in the upper Midwest, I spent a lot of time outdoors camping, canoeing, and picking wild blueberries with my grandmother. My family all shared in the duties to grow a robust vegetable garden, and we raised chickens on our friends dairy farm. I worked for my grandfather after school in 5th and 6th grade, tending to his gardens to which he devoted his retirement years and learning by his side the ways of a Master Gardener. By the time I was in college, I was firmly resolute on respecting our planet and focused on leaving it better than I found it.
When we started Full Circle Farm, it was never an option to be conventional. Learning about soil health, the web of life and how important our watersheds are for all species, pushed us further to go the extra effort and look at stewardship with a long view. We are merely caretakers of the land and the actions we take will be beneficial for generations to come. We have put hundreds of acres into farmland preservation for perpetuity and further restricted actions on our land to require organic practices forever. We have planted over 50,000 native trees and shrubs to protect our waterways and are proudly certified Salmon Safe.
What do you grow on the farm and who works there?
We grow a wide variety of produce which follow the seasons. Currently, we have a nice assortment of root crop beets, carrots, turnips, celery root and sun chokes in addition to cabbage, leeks and winter squash. Our summer veggies are favorites like beans, broccoli, lettuce, cucumbers, celery, and zucchini. We have fun with smaller plantings of radicchio, parsley, spinach, baby bok choi and blueberries. Our number one crop is kale of which we grow over 150,000 plants each year and harvest it nearly year round.
Each season we have many hardworking farmers who help us tend the soil, plant and harvest the crops, fight the weeds and make our local farm run. The farmers who work at Full Circle come from all over and bring many skills and a great work ethic. We have several families who work and stay on the farm during the busy months and return to Mexico in slow times. Emily, our Assistant Manager, was a cheese maker in California, Ziggy, our Equipment and Facilities Manager, grew up 10 miles from the farm. Fidencio, our superstar Field Lead, has no equal in the kale field. However, finding and keeping a stable workforce is our biggest concern and is very difficult in the boom times Seattle is experiencing now.
How did you get the idea for home delivery?
Full Circle began as a direct to consumer farm. In our early days we sold to many talented chefs and had stands at over 20 Farmers Markets. We also had a robust CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which serviced the greater Puget Sound. As our CSA grew we invested in the technology required to manage all the logistics of this complex operation. This in turn allowed us to further expand into new regions. Early on we made a choice to develop a supply chain from a trusted network of farms who specialized in certain crops, rather than for us to try to grow everything in the seed catalog. This allowed us to become better farmers for the crops our land and microclimate was best suited for and offer our members the best from our partner farms. Our partnership with Farm Fresh To You further expanded our network to the best growers in California and allows us to offer unique varieties when local suppliers are dormant. By providing our members with the highest quality produce possible year round, it was natural for us to add artisan whole food offerings like bread. The final step was to bring it directly to your door. We wanted to make it simple for our members to Live the Good Food Life!
OK, how can people connect and signup? How does it work?
Getting deliveries of delicious nutritious produce and artisan groceries couldn’t be easier. Go to fullcircle.com and follow the simple steps to select the box size that fits your family and the schedule that fits your lifestyle. Each week we curate the best produce at the peak of flavor and send you an text to remind you to customize your order. Get what you want, add more items and shop for other wonderful whole food options. We even have permanent exemptions for those with allergies or picky eaters. Deliveries are made overnight to reduce traffic congestion and saving you a tedious trip to the store. Our members share stories and photos on facebook @FullCircleFarms and Instagram @fullcirclefarms and everyone raves about the delightful recipes we have on our website.
Can you give us a glimpse of the future?
Strong regional food identity is here to stay. No longer is it acceptable for our food to be over processed and void of nutrients. We see a future where everyone has access to Good Clean Fair Food. At Full Circle, we love what we do and look forward to each new season. Come visit our farm to see how and where your food is grown. In the words of Wendel Berry, “Eating is an agricultural act”. We hope you will allow us to be a part of your table.