Book review: Growing a Farmer by Kurt Timmermeister

growing a farmer

A small self-sufficient farm was not Timmermeister’s goal twenty years ago when he bought the plot that would become Kurtwood Farms.  He was a successful Seattle chef with a growing restaurant (given that he specialized in pastries and kept bees on the roof, I can’t help but picture the Pie Hole from Pushing Daisies).  He bought the original 4 acres simply because as soon as he could afford a house he wanted to get the hell out of his studio apartment.  But even twenty years ago the price of Seattle real estate was astronomical, so despite the prosperity of his restaurant he was forced to look outside the Emerald City for his new home.

Timmermeister ended up buying a 500 SF house (built as a chicken coop in the 1950s) on 4 acres on Vashon Island for $100,000.  Apparently Vashon in the 1990s was not the super-gentrified fancy-pants Vashon I know now, because a bare 1/4-acre lot there these days would cost easily four times what Timmermeister paid for his initial acreage.  At the time of the purchase, Timmermeister, a lifetime resident of Seattle, could not drive and did not own a car, so he had the real estate agent meet him at the ferry dock. He recalls her starting her claptrap car with a screwdriver.  She’s probably driving a Lexus now.

Kurtwood Farms grew up organically around Timmermeister, initially almost without his noticing.  He bought the neighboring 8 acres when it came up for sale, but mostly out of land lust and not any specific plan to farm.  He began to plant what became an orchard, one tree at a time, with randomly selected varieties.  He bought a tractor because it was handy.  His first sheep were given to him by friends who changed their minds about sheep ranching.  Eventually, playing at farming led to real farming – replete with sheep, vegetable garden, beef, pigs, cows, and a raw-milk dairy.  As his love for the farm began to eclipse his one-time love for the restaurant, he sold the café and set out to make his living from the farm.

Today Timmermeister makes his living by selling the artisanal cheeses he makes from his Jersey cows’ milk and hosting weekly farm dinners at which city chefs make seasonal feasts from the farm’s bounty for paying visitors.

In the final pages of the book Timmermeister seems to speak directly to me – the administrator of a blog with the subtitle “Inching Toward Self-Sufficiency”* and also the author of a college essay in which my use of the word “asymptotically”** caused my instructor and I to lose all respect for each other in the first week of the class (long story).  He refers to the farm’s journey to self-sufficiency using the same calculus terminology of perpetually approaching without ever actually arriving.  He says he’s perfectly content with that.  I think I would be, too.

— Amanda

* This blog used to be called “Loveapples” and it was focused on self-sufficiency and homesteading.

** Remember all that graphing you did for no reason in algebra class?  Well, an asymptote is a graphing equation in which one of the numbers is divided in half for eternity – meaning that it will forever get closer to its goal of intersecting another line, but will never actually get there.


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