Kragnes Family Farms
A Deeply Rooted Farm, In Full Bloom
By Alex Smith
A sense of place is a powerful thing. Feeling a connection to the land and surroundings provides an intangible feeling of comfort and belonging. When Ben and Tyne first visited Whatcom County, this feeling was immediate. After meeting at the 10,000 lakes festival in Minnesota, the couple began farming on a small scale in Minnesota while also traveling as reps for a ski company.
When they made a trip to visit Koma Kulshan and the North Cascades, they were awestruck. The fertile soils, the gorgeous scenery, and the access to mountains offered a call that many of us have received. They found a property and made an offer that was unlikely to be accepted. After multiple offers from potential developers were withdrawn, they suddenly had their offer accepted and had to make a decision. They chose to move to the gorgeous property just East of Maple Falls.
Flashing forward to present day and just after their 12 year anniversary, they now own and operate a mixed operation farm. They grow vegetables and flowers, raise chickens, and make hand crafted products like soaps. It’s truly an oasis in an area where nutritious food is hard to find. As I spoke with them in the shade on a warm day, customers from the East County area arrived to pick up their CSA boxes. “We want to make quality organic food more accessible and affordable,” said Tyne. The customers were all eager to receive their bounty, and there was a tangible sense of connection as she greeted each of them.
The vegetables are only part of the future plans, though. Ben will continue to manage that part of production because, in his words, “it’s the only thing I know how to do.” He continues, “also, our grocery bill is very low.” A fifth generation farmer, he has learned many lessons from his father, who will be retiring after this season.
But Tyne hopes to advance other aspects of the business. One key area is growing and selling more flowers. “You can have a horrible morning when you wake up, but flowers will make the day much more pleasant,” she says.
In addition to selling individual bouquets and selling to local florists, she hopes to provide flowers for weddings and events. Walking through the rows of vibrant dahlias and strawflowers, it’s hard to argue with her claim that flowers will improve your day. With the sun getting lower in the sky, it was certainly calming to be among such beauty.
Beyond flowers, Tyne has also been crafting soaps. The soaps started as a craft project after not being satisfied with other options. But now they have to hoard a personal stash because it’s so popular with customers. Her soaps are generally made from natural oils but they have also rendered the fat from a locally (and legally) harvested bear to make new products. The soaps are fragrant and have a firm but silky texture. They leave a slightly tingly, revitalized feeling after using them.
It’s amazing to see such a diversity of products coming from one farm. What is also inspiring is seeing the practices that Tyne and Ben use. They only use organically-approved products. They also practice conscientious tillage. Rather than the typical methods of cultivating deeply, they use more frequent, shallower methods. This helps to preserve the complex network of beneficial mycelium that makes for happy, healthy plants. They use drip irrigation to conserve water. They have even improvised a pest management program to eliminate invasive starlings and encourage other bird species that eat the white cabbage moths.
When taken altogether, these accomplishments are nothing short of amazing. A farm operating in a sustainable manner is always impressive. But growing for a community that is by all standards a food desert is even better. And bringing joy through flowers and soaps just provides much more vibrancy to a community and a sense of belonging to the community.