Open Farmstand

Dunbar Gardens farmstand

Dunbar Gardens farmstand

I opened the farmstand with a small selection of produce. The garden is producing lettuce, spinach, chard, basil, zucchini, sugar snap peas, baby boc choy, broccoli, nappa cabbage, artichokes right now. Our farmstand is a low key affair. Most of the customers are regulars. People help themselves. Most come because they enjoy the fresh picked quality.

Spike the farmstand greeter

Spike the farmstand greeter

Of course some folks come just to say hi to Spike. (Or at least they tell her that while they are buying some apples.) We’re always a good destination for customers to bring friends and family to admire Katherine’s willow baskets.

willow baskets at Dunbar Gardens

willow baskets at Dunbar Gardens

Current schedule: Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 10am to 6pm.

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Celebrate Skagit Art

Katherine Lewis willow basket

Katherine Lewis willow basket

Celebrate Skagit Art is an annual art show sponsored by Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland and coordinated by Skagit Artists Together. It is a great opportunity to appreciate the work of local artists who are inspired by the working landscapes of the Skagit Valley.  Part of the art sales will benefit the group’s work to protect agricultural lands here. The show is generously hosted by the La Conner Seaside Gallery. The artists opening reception is Saturday, July 18 from 6:30 – 8:30pm.

Katherine is submitting the basket in the photo which she has named “Furrow”. This basket is a tray 38 inches long by 11 inches wide. It has a rectangular frame base with scallomed on stakes and double French randing for the weaving. It  is woven with Skagit grown willow ,of course!  Unlike most of the artists participating, Katherine is not only inspired by but has been directly involved with agriculture for 27 years, 15 of them in the Skagit Valley.

The show opens the same weekend as the annual Skagit Artists Together Studio Tour. Katherine and Dunbar Gardens will be on the tour again this year Saturday & Sunday, July 18 & 19, 10am-6pm. More about this event closer to the dates.

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Farmers market

Katherine at the Mount Vernon Farmers' Market

Katherine at the Mount Vernon Farmers' Market

This Saturday is the start of our local farmers market. Katherine likes to set up a booth at the market a few times each year, especially the opening day. It’s an opportunity to see local friends and market her baskets and basketmaking classes. Besides she has invested in the markets success with her volunteer efforts as a past board member.She likes to bring her weaving set-up and some willows to work on a basket. Demonstrating her craft always generates interest in her baskets.

Our involvement with farmers markets goes back to 1983. We were twenty somethings working for an organic farm out near Sequim, Washington. We were getting a funky house to live in and food from the farm, but our only cash income had to be generated from a farmers market. Of course, we were given a small local market to attend by the guy we were working for. Sequim has a large retiree population so there were a lot of early risers on Saturday morning. We had to be set up for sales by 6:30 AM and by 9:30 we were usually the only ones left in the parking lot! These were the days before it was hip for the younger crowd with families to go to the farmers market.

Later in our “career”, when we had our own farm we went to one of the country’s historical market places – the Pike Place Market in Seattle. In the late ’80s and 90’s, organic produce was still relatively new to the market. Some of the vendors didn’t even believe we were growing such a wide selection of good looking vegetables and herbs. Katherine always put on a nice display in the small 8 foot table that growers were allotted. She even managed to get featured in an article in Sunset magazine in 1994 called “The farmers market frenzy”. Excerpting from the article: “This is the eighth year Katherine Lewis and Steven Lospalluto have sold produce at Pike Place Public Market in Seattle…They are part of a new breed that has chosen farming as a way of life…Today, Lospalluto picks corn and has the truck loaded by 5 A.M. Then Lewis makes two restaurant deliveries and arrives at the market by 7. She’s assigned to a spot she’s had often in the day stalls…With some help, Lewis lays out a display of squash blossoms, beans, celeriac, candystripe beets, zucchini, and other vegetables and herbs–about 20 kinds, from parsley to lemon verbena. Everything is organically grown…Lewis and Lospalluto have sold at weekend markets in Sequim and Puyallup, but prefer Pike Place, which has a week-long schedule (they’re there four times weekly, in season) and a clientele very interested in food.” (written by Jena MacPherson)

photo by Rex Rystedt from Sunset magazine

photo by Rex Rystedt from Sunset magazine

The photo is a scan from the Sunset article and taken in September of 1993. (Back then we marketed under the farm name Lombrici’s.) That’s Chris Allen on the right who worked some market days with Katherine (yes that’s Katherine on the left). Chris still lives in Seattle and works for Murdock and White in the specialty foods business.

But those long days! We haven’t sold produce at farmers’ market for about four years. These days we sell our vegetables, apples, and other garden goodies here on our small farm. It is a lot easier to pack up the willow baskets and necessary market booth stuff and head down to our local market. Besides, these days there is a growing number of farms heading to the farmers market with their farm fresh goods. But not too many willow basketmakers!

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Grant writing workshop

SAT grant writing workshop

SAT grant writing workshop

This past Sunday we went to a grant writing workshop sponsored by Skagit Artists Together. Katherine is  a member of SAT and had suggested awhile back a workshop on grant applications which she agreed to organize. Fortunately there is an outstanding organization called Artist Trust which is dedicated to supporting Washington State artists that offers workshops. Monica Miller, Director of Programs, agreed to come up to Skagit County to present a two hour program on building a strong grant application.

Monica Miller of Artist Trust

Monica Miller of Artist Trust

One of the reasons Katherine dragged me along was to take a few photos to include with an article for the SAT newsletter. But that didn’t work out too well.  I’ll blame it on the black walls and dark gallery space. Hopefully I can take better photos of Katherine’s work! One of the take home messages was the importance of the images submitted for any grant, or juried show for that matter. Grants administered by Artist Trust request ten images of an applicant’s work. These images are shown to the jurors two at a time for about four seconds during the first screening. Those first four images (two sets) are very important in capturing the interest of the people saying yea or nay. It is important to have a neutral background that doesn’t distract from the work, and to present a cohesive set of images that depict current work. While the images or work samples are most important in determining recipients, the panel’s perception of the artist’s ability to complete the grant project is also critical. It helps to have a concise project description with a catchy title. As to those artist statements that everyone struggles with, avoid the “artspeak”. Be simple, concise, and direct. Monica suggested an exercise of writing down twenty adjectives to describe your work; then picking out three of them to use that are desciptive and unique to your work. Artist Trust has a wealth of information for artists on funding, business, portfolio, marketing, legal, and more. Their website is a great resource.

The Conway Muse

The Conway Muse

The workshop was hosted at an eclectic arts venue and coffee shop called The Conway Muse in Conway in the south end of Skagit County. SAT holds its monthly meetings here. Check out their website for a calendar of events.

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