Leafhopper Farm is nestled in the foothills of the Central Cascades in Western Washington.
The landscape is mostly south facing with gentle tiered slop down to Weiss Creek, a spring fed, salmon bearing stream, which flows through our local SnoValley Tilth farm land on its way to The Snoqualmie River.
This farm spent its first year, 2013, under careful observation. Water, sunlight, and soil was measured, mapped, and tracked. Permaculture design was slowly formulated by a professional in house resident, who has taught PDC classes. Having the designer living on site is a real treat and I would highly recommend this luxury, if you can, when designing, as there is nothing quite like spending time on the landscape you intend to work with.
Implementation began in the spring of 2014, with the start of a kitchen garden and later on in the summer, the earthworks projects.
The farm has another wonderful connection with some large earth works operators who brought in their machines to help scrape certain features into the landscape for maximization of water collection and cultivation on contour.
Severe drought in 2015 was an opportunity to test the land and its new water features. The pond never dried up, and our well held a strong flow. May such abundance continue! Again in 2017, the summer brought little rain and broke records with 56 days of drought. The farm has held with a strong well and good water catchment systems which delivered the heavy rains of winter (also record breaking) into the soil for our young plants.
Leafhopper Farm is also a proud participant in our local farm management plan led by King Conservation District <http://kingcd.org/>. We applied for a salmon bearing stream buffer grant to help us fence and plant our riparian zones along Weiss Creek through KCD and received a cost sharing grant. We also received a USDA grant in 2018 for the restoration of our stream buffer, including a replanting with native vegetation! The farm plans on expanding planting of native plants with a focus on food, medicinal, and material species. The development of native habitat bridges our human needs with those of the natural world (those needs are one and the same).
By year 5 of our little farm’s journey (2017), we’ve been listed in our local tilth’s farm guide. We’ve also now got a YouTube channel! Liz, the farm owner, shares insight into different systems at Leafhopper, as well as tricks and learning curves she’s experienced in her first five years of stewarding land.
Leafhopper Farm has made a conscious shift towards small demonstration permaculture techniques with a focus on single person holistically managed systems ranging from livestock to native plant restoration. The farm is moving away from commercial production, but plans to continue offering classes and tours on the landscape.
Naming the Farm
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.
Meanwhile, a strong Maternal influence spurred Liz to pursue education with passion. From early education in Montessori, to a private Episcopal day-school, Miss Crain was given a schizophrenic education of tactile outdoor activity and rigorous classroom auditory lecture, with a sprinkle of constructed play. Liz realizes that, at the time, this privilege and lifestyle was a gift; something fought for by her ancestors, and she is grateful for their vision and guidance. She is also the first in her family to have gone to boarding school, then continue on to college outside her home state. She is a third generation college graduate, which does speak to the privilege her family earned through the generations.
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”.
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.
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. That summer, she worked a second summer season in Central Park, tending the forest and water-scapes of the highly managed urban park.
Elizabeth Crain’s job title was “Soil Lab Intern”, though she spent most of her summer involved in a water feature restoration project going on at two pond sites within the 750 acre park. Here again, her catfish catching skills came in handy, as she explained to a crowed of fellow Central Park employees how to avoid the spines of these bottom feeding fish when catching them. That summer, in 2001, Ms. Crain helped move wildlife and crucial plant species out of the ponds, which were being dredged as part of the water restoration project. Elizabeth reflected on that experience: seeing one of the most urban parks on earth full of life; recognizing that wildness exists everywhere, and that it is up to us as stewards of these places, to see the wilderness as an ally.
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.
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.
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. Ms. Crain is happily partnered with another passionate naturalist who shares with her a love of wildness and Washington State.