Only one letter separates the words SOIL and SOUL. Since I live my life on a 33-acre organic family farm and artisan cidery in the rural Chimacum Valley on the Olympic Peninsula, the soil and my soul are deeply interrelated.

Our livelihood on the land which we call Finnriver emerges from the fertile combination of glacial minerals and marine sediment that flooded and formed this valley along with the decomposed organic matter that compressed over time into peat. It is dark, moist, mouth-watering ground. From these rich soils and the sandy loam on our hillsides, we grow a variety of berries, heirloom apples, and many vegetables. We also raise poultry, pigs, sheep, goats, and bees. The possibilities for me and for my family depend on the vitality of this ground.

At Finnriver, we are striving to create deep-rooted and fruitful connections to the land we farm, to our wild and human neighbors, and to our community as a whole. My husband Keith and I, along with the crew that works with us, are trying earnestly both to preserve the land for its own sake and to feed ourselves and our human communities well.

In this beautiful valley-bottom peat soil, we tend 2,000 beloved blueberry bushes, but just beyond the berry field flows a salmon creek. Along the creek there is a protected buffer, replanted with trees for riparian restoration, where we do not farm. In order for the salmon to thrive, they need a healthy stream and, because this section of the watershed was logged and plowed, the waters of Chimacum Creek have become clogged with invasive weeds. In the restoration areas, the replanted trees are now growing taller, shading out the invasive grasses and creating a healthier habitat– one that we hope will welcome the salmon back in greater numbers. As a designated Salmon Safe farm, we are glad in a deep way to share this land with creek and salmon.

We also recognize that the success of our farm relies in part on protecting and restoring intact and healthy watersheds upstream to ensure water quality and water flows downstream, a service that is essential to our livelihood as farmers. In order to grow healthy food, we need healthy elements: earth, air, water, soil. That is why we joined more than 20 other local farms in support ongoing of efforts by the Wild Olympics Campaign and organizations like Washington Wilderness Coalition to protect our intact forests and watersheds in the Olympic National Forest. For more than two years, the Wild Olympics Campaign has tirelessly reached out to local land owners, like me, and to recreation users, timber companies and local businesses, gathering feedback and making adjustments to a draft discussion map. We know that for the long term viability of our working land and our wild land, we must protect the Peninsula’s intact healthy water sources and take steps to restore the damaged ones we have lost.

We seek to be part of a vibrant farm culture here on the Peninsula and to keep the agrarian community alive and well. In the interest of long-term farmland viability, we worked with the Jefferson Land Trust to place conservation easements on Finnriver’s acreage, ensuring that this will remain sustainably working land in perpetuity. As a Washington State Certified Organic farm and an artisan cidery, we strive to practice sustainable agriculture and to grow and craft authentic food and beverages for our neighbors, local community and customers. Our farm goods and our handcrafted hard ciders and fruit wines are available at our tasting room, at regional farmer's markets (in our neck of the woods, and in Seattle) and at various regional retail outlets and watering holes. We welcome you to come visit us– to eat, drink and then walk the Soil and Salmon Trail that highlights conservation efforts on this land.

It is a soilful life, and we are honored to spend our days on this farm, sharing the bounty of the land and the aspirations of our hearts with our community. I noticed a while back that the words EARTH and HEART are anagrams, the same letters but in a different order. This delightful confluence of language offers a guiding principle for our farm and for our lives.

Crystie Kisler with her husband Keith own and operate Finnriver Farm in Chimacum, WA, You can learn more at their web site: