Amy Moreno-Sills has been a farmer and land conservation advocate for 20+ years. As owner and operator of Four Elements Farm in Pierce County, Amy is excited to help support the viability of farmers and farmland in that community through her coordination of the Farm to Farmer project at PCC Farmland Trust. Here’s Amy.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Indiana, but have lived in the Northwest for more than two decades. When I was 21 I transferred from Indiana University to study at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. After graduating, I began teaching at a Montessori preschool and did some work in the food service industry on the side. I had a lot of flexibility with my schedule, so when I saw an announcement for the Practice of Sustainable Agriculture program at the organic farm at Evergreen, I signed up. That introduction to farming changed the course of my life.
Has local food and farming always been of interest to you?
Local food and farming weren’t on my radar at all growing up. I didn’t know anyone who farmed and didn’t have a garden. I had never even heard the word kale until my mid-20s. After completing the Sustainable Agriculture program at Evergreen, I interned and later worked on farms in the Snoqualmie Valley. My husband Agustin and I met during that time. In 2009, Agustin, our daughter Gabriela and I relocated down to Orting in Pierce County to continue farming. By 2014, we were ready to start our own farm. We now own and operate Four Elements Farm, a certified Organic operation on 120 acres thanks in large part to the conservation work of PCC Farmland Trust.
Did you have experiences with farms in your family or growing up?
Apart from the miles and miles of corn fields I would see on the bus ride to school, I had no experience with farms growing up. My grandfather grew up as a sharecropper in Kentucky in the early 1900s, but mostly dismissed that part of his identity. My grandfather did however always have a huge garden that he enjoyed tending for hours each day. The last time we were together, he told me that he was sad he couldn’t take care of his garden anymore. I told him that I was going to school to learn to farm. That news brought a huge smile to his face.
Why do you believe in sustainable and organic practices?
With farmland disappearing at an alarming rate, I support all kinds of farming as opposed to no farming at all. That said, I am personally committed to sustainable and organic practices because to me, that is what makes sense. That’s how farming was done long before there was such a thing as certification, and it was done that way for a reason. Things like bringing health back to the soil with natural amendments, creating habitat for pollinators, and conserving water all make for a better planet, a better business, and a better end product for the community.
What is your hope for farming and food production in the state of Washington?
Land access is the biggest challenge that farmers face today. I am thrilled to be able to apply my resources, knowledge, and passion for farmland conservation to my role as coordinator of the Farm to Farmer project at PCC Farmland Trust. Many large landholders are aging. We need to get them the money that they deserve so that they can retire comfortably after so many years of hard work. At the same time, we need to set up new and existing farmers for success by making land more affordable and providing resources that connect individuals to each other. Land matching programs like Farm to Farmer and the conservation work of the Trust help make that possible.
What’s your favorite farm story?
On the 4th of July in 2007, I was climbing out of a farm truck and deeply sliced my shoulder on a jagged metal edge of a broken side view mirror. The cut was so bad that I couldn’t drive or move my arm much at all. I wasn’t worried about the injury, but what did concern me was that if I was to properly take care of the cut I would have to cancel my first date with the field manager, Agustin. So I did what any good farmer would do and covered the wound with a paper towel, held it together with duct tape, and completely ignored it for 24 hours. It turned out to be the best decision of my life. Agustin and I have been together ever since, and have two wonderful children, Gabriela, age 9, and Hector, age 5.
Anything else you want to share?
The Farm to Farmer program will launch in March 2018 in Pierce County to build upon our deep relationships in the community. All farmers and farm seekers interested in Pierce County farmland are encouraged to participate. Sign up for The Crop to stay up to date on our work, including this project.