By Karyn Williams, owner of Red Dog Farm
I didn’t grow up in a farming family. In fact, I grew up in the suburbs of Seattle. My great-grandparents were farmers, back in Missouri, during the Dust Bowl years. When they moved out west with my then-6-year-old grandmother, I suspect they wished for a non-farming life for their children and future generations, a life removed from the struggle and loss they associated with farming.
Almost 70 years later, in 1998, I found myself called to farming. And after seven years of earning a degree and working on other people’s operations, I set out to start my own organic vegetable farm. That first year, I leased some farm land and equipment, and tried my hand at being a business owner, with two acres in cultivation. I began crunching numbers and quickly discovered that I needed some up-front capital to get started. I gave Northwest Farm Credit Services (NWFCS) a call and reached David Poor in the Chehalis branch. Although I bumbled my way through my introduction and proposal, apparently he heard something in my words; he agreed to come out to meet me and see my operation.
Now, twelve years later, I am still working with NWFCS. With their help, I have purchased my own land, installed infrastructure and buildings, built a home, and grown my operation into a thriving business. NWFCS was instrumental every step of the way to helping me to achieve my goals. My annual operating line of credit with NWFCS has always been a security blanket of sorts – there when I need it, and available when I don’t. In addition, NWFCS helped me work with Farm Service Agency to purchase my land in 2011, they financed my home construction loan and mortgage in 2013, and this year they are financing my pack shed upgrade.
NWFCS has also offered incredible support and education along the way. As part of the AgVision program, they provided educational and technology vouchers, which allowed me to attend conferences and purchase a new computer. David Poor, Justin Beck, and other staff members in the Chehalis branch have essentially taught me Business 101, showing me how to develop cash flow budgets, plan for growth, and understand financial statements.
Today, my operation produces certified organic vegetables, berries, plant starts, and flowers for a variety of direct-market outlets. We have seventeen acres in production and we employ twelve full-time employees. The farm provides for me financially, without any outside income. As I enter into the second decade of my farm business, I am thankful for the support I’ve received over the past dozen years. I think my great-grandparents would have been proud of all I have achieved, and reassured that NWFCS was there to believe in me and finance my vision.
Karyn Williams is the owner and operator of Red Dog Farm in Chimacum, Washington. Her passion for agriculture began in 1998 when she moved to Spain to WWOOF. She has worked on vegetable farms, both cow and goat dairy farms, sheep farms, poultry operations, and a container plant nursery. She graduated from the Evergreen State College in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Agriculture.