Sprouting Simple Change Within Our Communities
by Stacy Lynn Gilbert
An interesting sign hangs at the trail head where nature enthusiasts often park their cars when visiting the Paradise Valley Conservation Area, a beautiful 793 acres of lush habitat located south of SR-522 on Paradise Lake Road, in Woodinville. The sign says Farmer Frog, and it adorns the entrance to a gravel road that leads to an old farm where new life is being cultivated within gardens and hoop houses surrounding the original farm buildings. Curious visitors might be greeted by the smiling face of livestock guardian dog, Fergus, or may run into a friendly volunteer covered in earth. The very lucky will get to meet Zsofia Pasztor, the executive director, board president and secretary of the nonprofit she founded with the help of her family and community in 2009.
During the recession of 2008, many families found it hard to make ends meet in such an uncertain economy. Olivia Park Elementary School, where Pasztor’s children were then attending school, noticed that there were many homeless families using the school as a refuge at night to sleep in their cars. The school approached the Pasztors, who are both seasoned horticulturalists, and asked them if there was something they could do to help feed these families in need. They started with an abandoned garden, and while removing imposing blackberry bushes and feisty weeds, they unearthed a broken yard ornament in the shape of a little green frog. Farmer Frog came into being to feed the needs of one small community, and has grown steadily into surrounding schools, neighborhoods and farms to answer the call of our Pacific Northwest community one vegetable at a time.
Farmer Frog uses a variety of resources, methods and technologies to grow food at their several different locations. Their gardens are wide ranging, from small school gardens to whole acres of land, using methods like aquaponics, conservation agriculture, hoop houses, intensive gardening, permaculture and wild farming to grow their produce. They specialize in taking underutilized sites and turning them into environmentally sound, food-producing farms and gardens that nurture children, whole communities and the surrounding natural habitat. One such location is Farmer Frog’s Paradise Farm, lying in the heart of the Paradise Valley Conservation Area.
The Washington Parks & Recreation Department has teamed up with Farmer Frog to help preserve the bones of the old Lloyd family farm. The Lloyd family originally homesteaded the property in 1887, and much of the land around the farm is being restored to its natural state to protect the wildlife found in the region. The Lloyd family asked that “the Lloyd Family Farmstead property be retained forever in its open space and historical condition and to prevent any use of the property that will significantly impair or interfere with the open space, wildlife habitat and historical values of the property.” Farmer Frog and the Parks & Recreation Department are ensuring that the Lloyd’s wishes are kept, and in the process are helping to bring back life and community to a beloved historical site that will serve future generations for years to come.
For more information, or to volunteer, please visit FarmerFrog.org.