The Work

Despite the popular, often negative, representations of food consumption in the United States, the organic food industry has actually been growing at a rate of 25% per year since 2000. A proportionate increase in land farmed under certified organic management has been seen during the same period.

Sustainable farming in Washington State, in the United State’s Pacific Northwest, developed from those experimenting with alternative lifestyles in the 1970’s. A core group of people committed to growing food in a sustainable way and using organic methods grew quickly into a movement and by the mid 1980’s, farmers across the Washington State had collaborated to determine organic standards.

Today Washington State has nearly 800 certified organic farms with a dedicated team of inspectors who regulate organic standards. Organic acreage has increased eightfold in twenty years and the organic food industry is valued at over US $200 million per year in Washington State. Organic farms create sustainable employment and have positive repercussions for rural communities. The Washington State model has been replicated throughout the United States.

Anna Mia Davidson’s Stewards Of The Land documents both the farms and people who have been responsible for this resurgence in sustainable farming. The aspiration of those who have spearheaded this movement is to create a positive model for farming which works in harmony with the land, rather than exploiting it.

Anna’s painterly portraits capture quiet, simple moments while bearing witness to the positive changes enabled by this movement. Anna believes that agriculture is a common link shared between every nation on earth and a bond that marks our similarities. Despite cultural, educational, and familial differences, the farmers documented in this photo essay have a common thread that unites them with a movement extending far beyond their corner of the United States.

  • Uncultivated wild farmland in the Snoqualmie Valley in Washington State where many organic farms have been established since the 1980’s.
  • An old farm truck rests under a large chestnut tree at Jubilee Farm, near Carnation in Washington State. Jubilee is a 230 acre biodynamic farm, with only eight acres of actively cultivated land of fruits and vegetables, owned and operated by farmers Erik and Wendy Hawkensen since 1995.

    Jubilee aims to increase the land’s production through nutrient recycling of the composted manure from their herd of 70 cows.

  • Nature’s Last Stand Farm near Fall City in Washington State is a 25 acre organic farm established in 1999 by John Huschle. Having studied environmental biology he dedicated himself to farming as a way to give back to the environment.

    The family live in a yurt during the growing season and sell their produce alongside other organic farmers in mixed vegetable and fruit boxes.

  • ‘Farming allows me to gain a sense of belonging with the hundreds of thousands of other farmers around the world, I chose to do it organically because the thought of putting any kind of chemicals into the earth appals me. I come from a conservation background, so the idea of farming with the least amount of impact is my greatest concern.’
  • Julie, with a wheel hoe, at Growing Things Farm, a certified organic farm located in the scenic Snoqualmie Valley, Washington State. Since 1991 the farm’s emphasis has been to create as little negative impact as possible, raising their animals in a responsible manner. Much of the labour at the farm utilises old farm equipment, which is worked by hand.
  • Eden Huschle, aged 2, lives on Nature’s Last Stand Farm, Carnation, Washington State, where she has grown up around farm life and knows the fields like the back of her hand.
  • She picks and eats vegetables and fruit straight from her family’s fields and claims Walla Walla sweet onions to be her favourite.
  • Oliva has grown up on Frog Song Farm near Mount Vernon. Oliva’s parents, Nate O’Neil and Shannon Dignum, have been farming organically since 2001 on their 16 acres of certified organic land. They use dry farming techniques to retain and nourish their farm without irrigation and specialise in 20 different varieties of heirloom potatoes.
  • Cathryn is owner of the 20-acre Summer Run Farm in Carnation, Washington State, where she has co-created a collective of women farmers called ‘Farm Girl’. Instead of competing for the same produce dollars with other women farmers at market farm stands, they have chosen to work and grow together.
  • Shidu Farm is a small family farm in Puyallup Valley, Washington State, specialising in organic blueberries. The Shidu berry pickers have a rich farming history dating back several generations both in the US and India. The farm’s produce is sold mainly through local organic shops and farmers markets.
  • Koa Lee is a Hmong farmer who uses sustainable agricultural practices, particularly organic farming, to grow flowers for sale in markets in Washington State. There is a large Hmong farming community in the Pacific Northwest, who originally came to the USA in the 1970’s as refugees from the war in Laos.
  • Amy milking one of the 25 dairy cows at Sea Breeze Farm, established on Vashon Island, Washington State, in 2000. The farm is dedicated to a sustainable ethos, incorporating positive animal husbandry into daily farming practices. The farmers at Sea Breeze are passionate about grass.

    ‘We want our animals to live, love, breathe, frolic, eat, and when the time comes, die in it; grass is green’.

  • Adam with a harvest bucket at Oxbow Farm, a 25-acre mixed produce farm, located in the Snoqualmie Valley, Washington State.

    Their produce is grown with an emphasis on sustainability and environmental responsibility and is sold to restaurants, at farmers markets and to locals, who commit to buying fruit and vegetables on a weekly basis through the Community Supported Agriculture initiative.

  • Sarah Cassidy is co-founder of Oxbow Farm and now the Education Director. From the outset the farm has been committed to raising awareness of its organic methods. Since 2010 this has been formalised into a learning programme offering field trips to school groups, and summer camps and internships to young adults wishing to experience the farming life.
  • Tomato farmer Mike Monas at Pilchuk Tomato Farm.
  • Pilchuck is a small sustainable farm in Snohomish, Washington State.
  • The farm has been established since 1997 and sells tomatoes from the 2,000 plants grown in greenhouses, through farmers markets in Seattle.
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The Photographer

Anna Mia Davidson

Anna Mia Davidson is an American photographer based in Seattle, Washington. Photography has been Anna Mia’s passion for more than two decades, both as a tool to document the lives of diverse cultures and environmental issues as well as a medium for social change.

Anna works as a freelance photographer for many national and international publications as well as taking part in public arts projects. Anna’s photographs have been exhibited at a wide variety of galleries in the United States and Cuba and they feature in Zoelner Art Center’s permanent collection. Her work can also be seen in several book publications including: “American Character: A Photographic Journey”, “Fields That Dream: A Journey To The Roots Of Our Food” and “Local Vegetarian Cooking”.

After travelling to Cuba and discovering the world of sustainable farming, she turned her attention to documenting local organic farms in her own community in the Pacific Northwest, resulting in the exhibition Stewards Of The Land.

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FotoEnvironment 2012 - 2013