Wednesday, November 27, 2013
WINTHROP It was the combination of a husband-and-wife engineering team and an “obsessive young mother” factor that made Crown S Ranch evolve from a small family farm to a small farm with big ideas on sustainable, organic living.
Crown S Ranch, 7 Twin Lakes Road, produces a little bit of everything that would make a proper Thanksgiving feast.
In addition to growing their own vegetables and grains, owners Louis Sukovaty and Jennifer Argraves raise cows, pigs, lambs, chickens, and, of course, turkeys.
Argraves said each animal plays its role in keeping the 150-acre farm balanced and operating efficiently.
Thanksgiving’s favorite bird fits in perfectly with that broad approach to tending the land by reducing the number of flies and insects and being able to get up to 50 percent of its diet straight from the pasture.
Argraves said the whole philosophy of the farm is “living with nature, not trying to control it.”
Argraves said the idea for growing organic food came when her son was a toddler.
“Young mothers are obsessive,” she said. “All mothers are obsessive, but when you get older, you stop trying to control everything.”
She began looking at diseases — autism, diabetes, asthma — and allergies, wondering why people seemed more susceptible to various ailments.
“When I was a kid, no one had asthma. No one was allergic to anything,” she said. “I kind of started down this path of really looking more at food.”
As she made a push for healthier eating, Sukovaty took a deeper look at the farming angle.
“He’s really a maven for knowledge,” Argraves said.
Now, as the mother of two teenagers — 16-year-old Geza and 13-year-old Icel — she’s relaxed somewhat on her obsessive ways, but has gained a great deal of knowledge about sustainable farming.
They eventually worked their way up to having multiple different animals on the farm, and, as much as possible, keeping everything self-contained.
Argraves uses the phrase “closing the cycle” when she talks about sustainable farming methods.
The idea is that the animal does all the work with very little energy or outside influence involved.
It’s an opposite approach to the industrial farms, where chicks or calves are brought in from the outside, feed is brought in from the outside, and the use of heat lamps, pesticides and herbicides are prevalent.
“We don’t use any chemicals,” Argraves said. “Literally none. No herbicides, no pesticides, no fossil fuel fertilizers. Everything’s done passively and working with balance, rather than eradication.”
The same went for antibiotics.
“We’re not saying, ‘Never use the antibiotic,’” Argraves said. “We’re saying you never use it unless there really is an emergency.”
The result, in the case of turkeys, has been a bird that has been raised on the farm and has learned to survive on the flora and fauna of the area.
“They’re like Methow chicks.”
When Crown S has sold chicks to people in the area, they’ve “gotten rave reviews” for how hardy they are.
As for the farm itself, “there’s no big corporation making money,” Argraves said.
It’s a matter of members of the community benefiting from good food, good soil, clean air and clean water — “all the things that are worth more than money,” Argraves said.
Since World War II, industrialization had been on a steady rise in the country, but Argyres said she’s seeing a slow trend toward more farms going the organic and sustainable routes.
She said there’s no such thing as a bad farmer, but there is a lot of misinformation out there.
She said people would tell her, “Oh, you’re such a cute little farm, but you can’t feed the world.”
“But the thing is, why would you want to feed the world?” she said, pointing out that she can produce more on her farm than a similar-sized farm that produces just beef or pork, or doesn’t use the same level of sustainable methods.
Both had backgrounds in engineering, and Subovate, in particular, put his ability to build and create things to good use. Among his creations were a self-propelled, solar-powered chicken coop and a passive walk-through fly trap.
The couple had both been engineers for 10 years in Seattle before moving to the Sukovaty family farm in the Methow Valley in 1999.
Sukovaty had grown up in Winthrop, while Argraves was originally from Northern Idaho. They met while attending the University of Idaho.
Sukovaty’s parents started Crown S Ranch in 1968, with just a small operation. Even back then, the family had focused on natural, non-chemical methods.