When we arrived in Walla Walla at the beginning of July, we couldn't wait to get to the downtown Farmer's Market. We are lovers of and believers in local food and seek it out wherever we happen to be. Before our first market day, I did a little research online to determine whether there were any farmers at the market who used organic methods, and found a couple. One that stuck in my mind had a memorable name, Miles Away Farm. So, on our very first ride up to the market our first Saturday morning in town, I sought out the Miles Away Farm booth.
Jennifer Kleffner, the farm's owner, sells small quantities of vegetables, occasional fruit (the plums we got from her in early August are the best we've ever eaten), and aromatic soaps, lotions, and other toiletry items she crafts herself. On our first trip to her booth, she was friendly and helpful, and we came home with some delicious vegetables. We knew then that we'd found our "go to" farmer for our time here in Walla Walla.
As we continued to visit Jennifer's booth every Saturday morning (she also sells at Milton-Freewater's Wednesday evening market and Walla Walla's Thursday evening "twilight" market), she extended an invitation to come visit Miles Away Farm. We certainly couldn't refuse that!
At the time, though, it was really, really hot, with highs reaching over 100F, so we waited awhile, until late August, actually, before taking her up on the generous invitation. In the meantime, we continued enjoying her garden's bounty, including heirloom tomatoes, two varieties of kale, Swiss Chard, the aforementioned juicy, sweet plums, and a wonderfully refreshing bar of citrus-scented soap.
Here's just part of our haul from one morning at the market (greens were already in the fridge). How pretty they are -- and the taste was even better!
Finally we arranged to come visit the farm on a Tuesday afternoon. It was still on the hot side, but we were determined to get there before our time here in Walla Walla was up.
Turns out, Miles Away Farm was truly only a few miles away from the neighborhood where we're staying, so it was an easy bike ride. Before we knew it, we were pedaling down the long driveway.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by a gobbling group of turkeys, which I learned online is called a "rafter" of turkeys! Such funny birds, we enjoyed gobbling back to them.
Jennifer told us that she and her husband have owned Miles Away Farm for approximately three years, after moving here from the four corners area of Colorado. They purchased the farm primarily for the land and the fact that it was already fenced, a big time and money-saver. Even with fencing in, they've done lots of work and improvements since moving in. Jennifer lamented how much work they still want to do on the house, which is a manufactured home and not her "dream house", but for obvious reasons, that has taken a back seat to getting the farm up and running.
Although the farm is only around four acres in size, it is subdivided so that not only can she grow vegetables, fruit trees, and various perennials, Jennifer also raises a flock of sheep, one friendly goat named Fawn, ducks, the aforementioned turkeys, rabbits, and three dogs (who were banished to the house during our visit). I'm not quite sure how she does it, particularly since her husband works full-time, so the farm is really Jennifer's "baby". And she makes soaps and other toiletries as well! Truly amazing.
She apologized for the weeds around the farm, which we completely understand having had large yards and gardens in our past life in North Carolina as well. By mid-July, when the heat is stifling, weeds seem to sprout and grow inches overnight, and it's just too darn hot to deal with them when all you want to do is hang out in the shade (or air-conditioning), sipping a cold drink and moving as little as possible. And it's not like she's sitting around relaxing when she's not working in the garden -- she's busy crafting recipes, canning, making soap, and taking care of animals. And she even has time for the occasional Facebook update!
Any weeds to the contrary, the farm is charming, and we were duly impressed that Jennifer has been able to bring so many lovely veggies and fruits to market even during the heat and intense sunshine of the Walla Walla summer. This woman truly has energy and passion for what she does. I felt exhausted just looking around and imagining the work she does daily, not to mention preparing for and selling at three markets weekly.
Jennifer first took us into her perennial garden, where she showed us her newest farm addition, a very cool Harbor Freight greenhouse she and her husband put together--and reinforced greatly, she added. She had to shoo Mama Turkey and her four tiny babies out, lest they roast in the heat. Mama was not happy with this and protested loudly, but once all the adorable babies were out safely, she calmed down.
At the very back of the perennial area hides a raspberry patch. Jennifer offered to let us pick some to take with us, but we wanted to see the rest of the farm, so we settled on eating a few of the delicious berries right from the tangled brambles. Yum!
Next, we moved on to check out the American Blackbelly Sheep. These hair sheep do not have to be sheared and are raised mostly for meat purposes. Jennifer has the males (rams) and females (ewes) on separate pastures currently so she doesn't have to deal with more babies this time of year. I thought it was interesting that the males all hung together in a group and seemed to move about as one unit. When I remarked about it, Jennifer said it was that "safety in numbers" thing.
The single female goat, Fawn, stays with the male sheep. She came over and greeted us. What a cutie!
Next we walked down the long gravel drive to the main vegetable garden. Along the way, various fruit trees line the east side of the drive. Cherries and plums are all finished for the year, but this pear tree is loaded with fruit.
It was fun to see where the delicious vegetables we've been buying from Jennifer's booth at the farmer's market came from. She grows a large variety of crops, and while some are done for the year, many are still producing well. She just harvested her potatoes this past week, and I wish we'd taken a photo of the soil left behind -- it's the beautiful dark loam that all gardeners covet.
We just ate a nice bunch of Ruby Chard we purchased at Saturday's market last night, in fact!
Our next stop was across the field into the duck and turkey lot. The birds all seem to get along swimmingly. Speaking of swimming, the ducks enjoy a small raised pond under shade.
Jennifer said Angus the turkey is molting, which is why his tail feathers appear a bit incomplete.
Our next stop was a brief tour through the Quonset hut that Jennifer, her husband, and some friends helped erect on the farm. We didn't realize Jennifer also raised rabbits until we entered the hut. Is there anything she doesn't do?!
Last but not least, we checked out the lush hops Jennifer has grown along part of the fence. They had a delicious aroma and will likely make some yummy brew one day. She is considering making a soap with some of the crop, which sounds like a great idea as nice as they smelled. I remember there used to be a beer shampoo way back in my youth, so why not a hops soap?
Before we left, Jennifer ran into the house and brought out a jar of her homemade Plum-Cherry Jam for us, such a generous gesture. Barry has already dived into it and pronounced it delicious, and I will not be far behind!
Readers, if you are ever in the Walla Walla, WA or Milton-Freewater, OR area, you can (and should!) visit the Miles Away Farm farmers market booth. You will not be disappointed!
And check out Jennifer's excellent farm blog here. There are links on her blog with market hours and much more -- even recipes. I have already passed along her Awesome Easy Roasted Tomato Sauce recipe (to freeze, not can) to several folks, and it has been winning rave reviews from all who try it. One gardening friend in North Carolina, who has been making and canning sauce for years, said she'd never can again after making Jennifer's sauce. Wow!
Thanks so much for the farm tour and for sharing your "labor of love" with us, Jennifer! It was definitely one of the highlights of our time here in Walla Walla.
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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