When Shellie-Ann Kerns left her home in Jamaica to join her husband in Washington State, she wasn’t sure what to expect. They moved to his family farm in Gray’s Harbor and she immediately began imagining ways to make the land productive.
“Farming for me, it’s in my blood on my mother’s side, and from her great grandmother, all the way down. My father’s family is also agricultural,” she said. “It’s something that I understand how it works. Something that I’ve just always been passionate about. When I came here, it was winter. And I needed to plant something. I did some research and I saw that, ‘hey, you can plant garlic in the middle of winter.’”
Her first batch of garlic did so well that Kerns continued to plant garlic every winter. Now she’s taking her farming up a notch and making it a community affair.
For her, farming is about supporting her community on a basic level.
Decolonizing The Food System
“What’s really driving me is the ability to feed the community,” Kerns said. “I’m doing a community-supported agriculture program where people pay in advance for an entire summer’s worth of vegetables. So, every week I’ll make fresh deliveries of what’s in season.”
While Kerns has always been passionate about farming, the COVID-19 pandemic really emphasized the need for communities and families to have access to fresh, nutritious and affordable food.
“My mission is just decolonizing the food system. I’m trying to re-empower people, to grow their own food, and to be in control of their food. So, even though I’m a farmer, and I’m selling vegetables, I actively encourage everybody who can to grow their own food.”
She also regularly hosts Clubhouse rooms in which she advises amateur farmers how to get started with their home gardens. During the lockdowns, she also resigned from her day job at an airline and threw herself into running the farm full-time.
“In July, I formalized the decision, told a couple of friends about it and they wanted to help me clear land. And somebody said, ‘hey, you need a tractor.’ And then I realized, yeah, I do need a tractor. Maybe I should try crowdfunding,” she explains.
To raise the funds for the tractor, she launched a GoFundMe campaign. To date, the campaign has raised over $76,000 and continues to receive regular support.
Reaching Those In Need
“Part of the issue is, in Washington, there are quite a few small, organic farms, but they don’t seem to really be focusing on getting the food to the people that really need it most. So, a lot of those farms, they price their produce out of the reach of the average person,” Kerns said.
Kerns is trying to change this. She’s applied for grants to help subsidize her produce and she hopes to be able to offer EBT, SNAP and food stamp recipients reduced rates on her produce.
“I’m not just feeding the people in Seattle [who] have these well-paying tech jobs, but I’m feeding the people who just don’t know, necessarily whether they’re going to be able to fix their car or pay their rent,” Kerns concluded.
For more on Shellie-Ann Kerns, follow Bunkhouse Acres on Instagram.