The roots of Let Us Farm, Cecelia Boulais and Steve Hallstrom’s veggie haven outside of Oakville, stretch back to an unexpected source: the state’s Growth Management Act of 1990. The avid gardeners and nature lovers living outside Carnation were incensed by what they saw as new rules that squeezed out small-scale farming in favor of industrial agriculture and suburban McMansion developments. So they decided to fight the policies by example.
The pair began small-acre farming on the Tolt River. Although they were working in the computer industry at the time, Boulais and Hallstrom had experienced farming in their childhoods—she grew up on a farm in rural South Dakota; he picked strawberries near his home in Vancouver, Wash. Ten years later, they established Let Us Farm—playfully named, of course, for what they grow, but also for the right to farm small—on 80 acres along the banks of the Chehalis River, so Boulais could “see the stars.”
On fields edged with conifers (planted with local wildlife in mind) and nourished by crop rotation rather than fertilizers, the couple grows butter lettuce, romaine, arugula and other greens with colorful names, such as “Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed,” that sell out week after week at the Columbia City and University District farmers markets.
While the farmers haven’t inspired a development rethink in King County, they continue the good fight, including advocating for Initiative 522 (which may be on the ballot in November), mandating labels for genetically modified foods in Washington supermarkets.
University District Farmers Market, Saturdays, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.; Columbia City Farmers Market, Wednesdays, 3–7 p.m. facebook.com/let.usfarm