Program Coordinator: WSU Regional Small Farms Program
Meet Kellie Henwood, an outgoing problem solver who has to remind herself she doesn’t need to solve every problem, who serves as Program Coordinator for the WSU Regional Small Farms Program serving Kitsap, Jefferson and Clallam County. However she is the superhero who can bring the resources and stay in tune with the needs of small farmers, bringing solutions as often as possible.
When I talked with Kellie she proudly shared that she’d just done the counting to clarify that she is indeed a fifth generation Washingtonian. She grew up around Seattle, moving amongst diverse settings of urban, rural and suburban. For the past 9 years she has been living in the Port Townsend area and works out of the WSU Port Hadlock extension office.
She says, “I have always felt privileged because I grew up with a family who connected me to the outdoors through food, which included gathering oysters, hunting, fishing and camping. I have a deep connection to this place, the PNW, as a bioregion.” She is certain her roots to the outdoors shape her passion for farming.
Kellie was 17-years-old when she started getting into natural foods, nutrition and cooking. That led her to land her first farm job in Carnation, she was 18-years-old driving the big truck to Seattle to sell organic vegetables. She reflected on the powerful experience of being the face of a huge farm and how truly the best feeling was driving back to the farm after a long day in the city.
At that time she had accepted enrollment at Seattle University as a literature major. It didn’t take long before she realized she wanted to follow her passion for agriculture and she transferred to Evergreen State College where she joined the Sustainable Agriculture Program which included (and still does) an onsite farm. “It was a learning farm, it included the academics, science and a practicuum. It fully launched me into agriculture.” She graduated in 2008.
“When I went to college, I learned about food systems, the intertwining of community and food systems.”
After graduating, Kellie worked all over the region at vegetables farms, a goat dairy, an “old-school” homestead, a logging operation, in commercial fishing. She has continuously been involved in food systems. Prior to her role at WSU she had worked locally at Nash’s Organic Produce, Alpenfire Cidery and the Midori Farm.
An eye opening experience for her was in 2011 when she moved to Port Townsend and worked on a small-scale, family-owned fishing boat. This expanded her awareness of the important role that the fishermen play in our food system locally. “I got on some great boats where the fishermen had strong ecological values about honoring wild food. I still have that connection to fisheries through the small farms program.” She gleaned, “We are all part of the natural elements. We are a tiny piece in that puzzle.”
Inspiration comes to Kellie from the local farmers and the local fisherman. She comments on their resilience, how they choose to work with all the natural elements and to make of living off of it while they also work to stay in balance with it. She expressed deep admiration and reverence for this choice and commitment.
As for influencers, she says Gene Logsden and The Horsestrong Small Farmers Journals filled her up. There was a ‘small farmers swap meet’ she attended for a few years where “old timers” connected to the young farmers and told stories, shared farming experiences and helped carry the legacy of farming to the next generation. This made great impressions and it was a formative time for her.
Alive in Kellie right now is the realization that she has been in the position long enough, 9 years, that she feels the depth and strength of the network that she has built with the farmers. She feels a sense of accomplishment from the newsletter she has built for the local farm community and that she is a go-to person for that community. She reflected on her enjoyment of facilitating connections and the richness of these longstanding relationships.
About the job she says, “it keeps me on my toes!” And she goes on to share how she feels as if she is still in school because of the continuous learning. She shared her love for science and the science-based research approach that WSU brings to the needs of small farmers. She also shared her deep gratitude for her collegues and the network of resources they bring to the table.
She included a shout out to Clea Rome, WSU Extension Director, “Clea is amazing! We are extremely fortunate to have awesome local leadership.”
A core issue Kellie would like to see addressed is the challenge new farmers are faced with when trying to secure land for farming. She is on the Jefferson Land Trust board of directors as a representative for agriculture. She sees the how the access to land is a tremendous challenge that plays out for small farmers. She is keenly aware of this issue and is actively trying to build more programming to address it. She says, “We need more people who are championing and supporting agriculture in every way possible.”
WSU applauds Kellie Henwood and the fantastic work she is doing for the Small Farms Program.
You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org