The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Island couple opens store at Backwater Farm


November 22, 2018

Diana Zimmerman

Bruce and Desiree Craven opened a Farm Store at their Puget Island home, Backwater Farm. They are selling eggs, chicken, honey, bath salts and more, but there is also an art gallery upstairs. It's just a beginning for the creative, hardworking and busy couple, who have lots of dreams and plans.

Last Saturday, Bruce and Desiree Craven officially opened their Farm Store doors at Backwater Farm on Puget Island.

The Cravens are selling fresh eggs, jams, honey, bone broth, chicken, lavender oils and bath salts and more in their farm store, which takes up a small room on the first floor of one of the structures on their property. Upstairs, an open space has been converted to an art gallery, where Desiree is displaying and selling her photography, and the work of some of her friends.

Over time, the couple plans to add beef and produce to the farm store, and rotate artists in the gallery.

"Desiree has done all the heavy lifting. I just take her orders," Bruce teased on Saturday. "It's really warming that this day's business has been so supported. This is what has been missing."

"We knew we wanted to have a farm store," he added. "There are a lot of advantages that the farm store offers us, to reach customers quicker and have that short interface between customers and farm."

"Bruce and I are always pushing it," Desiree said. "Bruce wasn't a farmer when we moved here."

She's not joking. Both worked in the film industry, but met when they were neighbors. It took them awhile to realize they had a connection, intellectually and romantically. Bruce also managed a marine terminal in Portland, and Desiree has worked for famous photographers, gotten a law degree and worked as a paralegal as well.

"I like the everyday, all day element of farming," Bruce said. "It's just trying to get the balance being a new farmer, of getting the fundamental infrastructure that you gotta have. That needs to happen no matter what the weather is."

"Once that's done there may be an opportunity to get back in the boat and go fish," he laughed.

"Bruce always says when he wakes up, the farm tells you what you're doing that day," Desiree added. "We have our respective lists, but stuff happens."

"Like when the cows get out," Bruce joked.

Bruce discovered that eggs and chickens were a great way to get started as a novice farmer.

"Fred Stanley was kind of a guiding person for me," Bruce said, "so I got into beef. Now it's just trying to figure out how to keep all the balls in the air."

He compares it to his days managing the terminal in Portland where they exported soda ash.

"It was a busy terminal," Bruce said. "I like this because of that. I got to sit at a desk and suggest what people need to do. Here it's the same issues, but I'm the guy that hops on the tractor or I'm the guy that drops the oil pan. That part I like about it."

"I want to be able to sell eggs to Astoria Co-op," Bruce added. "I sell eggs here. I want to be able to sell beef and produce. So there is a little bit of maneuverability from the ebb and flow of what succeeds from one season or another. If our success comes, it will come from that diversity."

Desiree's creativity is in no way limited to her photography. There is evidence of it everywhere you look, including the jams they sell at the farm store.

"The funny thing when you grow foods, you have to find something to do with it," Desiree said. "It really started with the blueberries. Keeping them alive and out of the weeds was a huge project. Last summer I harvested 15 pounds. This year I harvested 41.5 pounds and got licensed in a commercial kitchen to make blueberry lime jam."

They have 30 acres full of blackberries, so she harvested blackberries and made more jam.

They have five beehives; they are planting lavender, and plan to have a nursery with plant starts next spring. Fig trees and plum trees have been planted. A hoop house contains all manner of produce.

"Its a slow build," Desiree said. "It's a lot of work because it's just the two of us. You better really love what you're doing. And we do."

The art gallery is currently filled with photographs taken by Desiree, paintings by Liz Workman of Skamokawa, fiber art by Elizabeth Nugent of Puget Island, and jewelry and macrame created by Jenn Clark, a friend from Portland.

The Farm Store is open on Saturdays from 12-4 p.m. and is located at 320 E. Birnie Slough Road.


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