by Liz Crain, owner and operator of Leafhopper Farm
When I began my journey into nature connection, I worked with home-schoolers at a, outdoor school in southern Vermont. One of the first ceremonies in welcoming me to the community was receiving a nature name. Leafhopper was unfamiliar to me, but I was assured that the colorful little bug would be a perfect fit. I learned that a leafhopper feeds on grass milk, hopping great distanced from stem to stem with wonderful exuberance. They also come in very bright colors, offering incredible variety in their small form. I find that the insect world is sadly neglected, set aside for more relatable species like mammals or even reptiles and amphibians.
Dr. Edward O. Willson tells us to keep looking at the smaller aspects of nature to better understand what makes the world come alive more fully. Indeed, with the help of Leafhopper, I began looking deeper into the natural world, discovering how important insects are to the food chain and ecosystem. Bugs led me to mushrooms, likens, and more awareness about harsh chemicals and how sensitive the environment is to pollution.
When I first arrived on the land that is now our farm, a leafhopper landed on my hand as I drove into the property for the first time. I knew then that I was home, that my nature name was still deeply connected to my work, and that the farm would embrace the more obscure little insect to help promote awareness of the important small worlds that offer so much diversity to the greater picture.
On the symbol at the top of this page, you’ll find a leafhopper splayed in its leap across the field. Its body makes up a sprout and spiral, two powerful symbols of generation and growth. In the six legs of this little critter, you see Weiss creek flowing through and our beautiful bridge spanning the waters. Bridging is a theme at the farm, a place which connects human growth and habitation with nature and wildness. Our land’s location is at the edge of settled King County, outside Seattle. We are perched on the edge of the Cascade foothills, inviting visitors to look just past the sleepy town of Duvall, to the mountains beyond.
Founder- Liz Crain
Born Elizabeth Esco Crain in Oklahoma, 1982, Liz was an energetic child who loved being outside; from an old tractor tire sandbox, to the red rock canyons of scrub oak full of horned lizards and white tail deer. She grew up riding horses and shifting between suburban maternal family, to a rural paternal home with Grandma in the country. Elizabeth spent a lot of time in creeks, and one, Quail Creek, in Oklahoma City, was a place she learned to catch catfish with her hands and keep away from water moccasins in the summer.
In just a few decades, Liz Crain watched the natural world become a thing most people saw as “outside”. She became more and more outside herself, across the experience of humanness. In relating to the natural world of her childhood and adolescence, Elizabeth found the continued thread alongside the technological chord and began weaving a tapestry upon the landscape. A particular highlight of this experience came at the end of her teens as she arrived into legal adult hood having turned 18, and a year later, graduating from high school in 2001. That summer, she worked a second summer season in Central Park, tending the forest and water-scapes of the highly managed urban park.
That Fall, she began college in southern Vermont, her first day of class was 9/11, and during the first hour of her college education, she sat and watched The Towers fall in a city she had called home. It was a momentous turning point in history, for all Americans. The aftermath of that tragedy put many things of a young college student’s life in perspective, and Liz vowed to study people and culture, majoring in Sociology, a social science that might better help her understand how people loose site of the world community they live in.
Liz Crain came from Oklahoma roots, transplanted around the country, from Texas to New York City; then found her way west to explore new bio-regions and wilder landscapes. Washington State, and the greater Cascadian region of The Pacific Northwest, spoke to her as home. She wandered this landscape for a few years, even spending time on the dry east side of The Cascades. She participated in a 9 month immersion program at a local wilderness school to prime her survival and cultural understanding of the place she would eventually call home. Liz Crain is a lifelong naturalist and passionate outdoors-woman.
Today, the very landscape and all its finite resources are only shrinking, at rates now measurable; seen as alarmingly scarce in a future Ms. Crain will experience in her lifetime. She has watched horned lizards disappear from her childhood landscape and creeks cemented in, sealing off catfish holes and snake dens. At the same time, in school, an email was being explained, along with “www.”. The virtual world once written about only as fiction, swept humanity into the 21st century.
Leafhopper Farm began as a philosophy in mindfulness towards place: putting down roots, digging into community, the existence and practice of personal gifts; this learning is crucial for human survival. In the explosive inventiveness of technology over the past 30 years, Elizabeth has witnessed the birth of The Internet, and its impact on global communication, economical growth, and the physical infrastructure erected to support said industry; population booms beginning with post-war “Baby Boomers” and now cresting with “Millennials”.
Working with the natural world is how we succeed in this life, and pass something worth while on to future generations, whoever they are. As a planet, the vast majority of us are not following this philosophy, and that does not bode well for our humanity. Unlike virtual systems, the living systems of this planet are required for people to survive. Humans need sustenance, and so do machines, in the consumption of energy, no matter the form; all things must produce and consume to function. What are you taking, and what are you giving? This is what Liz asks herself every day as she lives on this earth, and when the response is a peeping chick, or lush lettuce leaf, she knows she’s using her gifts well.
Liz has developed Leafhopper Farm around community, with other people joining her in living on the land, adding rich voice and reflection to activity on the farm. She encourages WWOOFers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) to visit Leafhopper Farm and experience small systems of agriculture, which work in harmony with the natural world; improving wild and domestic together. In stewarding the land in this way, she offers a bridge to humanism; from technology to ecology. Being located outside Seattle, a tech capitol, Leafhopper Farm offers a direct link from one of the most technologically innovative urban-scapes in The United States, to one of the wilder parts of this country; The Pacific Northwest.
When Liz is not on Leafhopper Farm cultivating a rich ecosystem of forest, agriculture, and neighborhood; she’s enjoying other interests which include world travel, hunting and fishing (for food), mycology, ethno-botany, and other naturalist studies.