Food security and sustainability have found their way into each and every one of our lives during this time of COVID. Seed sales are soaring as many engage and re-engage in growing food for ourselves both as therapy and as a vital need. With no farmer’s markets this year, we risk losing touch with our essential farmers who grow gorgeous and delicious abundance for our tables, often inspiring us with their wisdom and helpful hints. This series of farmer profiles will help us stay in touch with our neighbors and friends in our community who work the soil to grow the food that heartily sustains us.
Faith, family, good work and community are life tenets of the Medeiros family.
Their farm was formerly known as Burton Hill Farm, so you may still see some Burton Hill labels as they transition to Stella Maris Farm.
Rebecca and Collin Medeiros met in second grade at Seattle’s Madrona elementary school. They were close friends and classmates until they suffered what Collin facetiously calls a “bad breakup in the seventh grade.” After college, they rekindled their relationship. Collin describes on their website that they began their family life as city slickers looking for a better way to live and to eat. After working on organic vegetable farms in Seattle and Northern California, goat and sheep farms in Portugal and the Azore Islands, in 2005 they chose Vashon Island to cultivate their own farm.
Collin’s lifelong interest in animals and Rebecca’s love of cheesemaking combined for the vision and practical work of bringing Burton Hill Farm to life. Young and naive to some of the challenges and joys of working their own farm, they did not know in the beginning they would also grow a big family and be led to the Catholic faith. From that Catholic faith and practice, the new name for the farm became Stella Maris Farm. Stella Maris refers to Mary, Star of the Sea — representing solid ground in the midst of chaos, and guiding the Medeiros family through the sea of life that now includes a COVID pandemic and racial injustice.
Seven children do indeed make a family farm! Collin says the children are active, willing participants in their farm life, beginning with feeding the ducks and playing with the baby animals, maturing into proficients in milking the goats and raising the pigs. Ursa, at age 17, is the primary milker. Amelia, 14, and Dominic, 12, share afternoon milking duties. Peter, at 9, likes to be chased by a mama goose protecting her goslings and Dominic likes to tame the meanest of the farm animals. Jamie, age 6, helps care for the geese, ducks, goats and pigs. Eva, who is 4 years old, is still a bit intimidated by the animals that are bigger than she. Noah’s job, at 4 months old, is to be an adorable and adored baby. All the kids said they really like their life on the farm.
Going to their farm stand at the top of their drive, you may pass as many as 57 goats grazing in the pasture or lounging under the trees chewing their ruminant-specific cud.
You probably will not see the 24 pigs snuffling around in an alder forest on the property, rooting up bits of delectables from the forest floor. Their diet is supplemented with whey from Rebecca’s cheesemaking process. As a fan of their pork products, I do declare the whey adds savory deliciousness to every bite of bacon, pork steak and sausage.
Stella Maris cheese offerings include classic sweet and tangy goat cheese chevre, goat feta, Florette (a French-style bloomy rind cheese), Capstone Tomme (a flavorful raw milk goat cheese) and two kinds of blue cheese — St. Benedict’s Blue and a smoked Beachfire Blue. Their farm-made quince marmalade pairs deliciously with all their cheeses.
In between tending children, animals and cheese, Rebecca makes 200 to 300 pounds of luscious goat milk soap to sell at the farm and the two markets they attend, Proctor Market in Tacoma and the West Seattle Market.
Sales of cheese, pork and soap have been brisk at their farm stand this year, although Collin and Rebecca miss the hub of community the Vashon Farmers Market provides.
Rebecca describes an invigorated sense of the importance of their work and they both believe in the endurance, resilience and adaptability of a small farm. While huge farms may be shutting down, the Stella Maris farm family keeps on doing what they do and feels the support and love of their Vashon community. Collin says during this particular time connections are being strengthened as customers shop at the farm, sometimes with a quick passing hello or the rare occasion when we catch Collin mid-stride on his way to the next task — an opportunity to say “we love what you are doing!”
Stella Maris Farm is located at 23419 107th Ave. S.W. The farmstand is open seven days a week, year-round, during daylight hours. Pork is currently sold out but will be available again later this summer. In the meantime, eat more cheese! Find out more about the farm at stellamarisfarm.com, Instagram (stellamarisfarm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternative payments accepted are Venmo, Zelle, VIGA Farm Bucks, Snap and Snap Match.
Karen Biondo is a farmer and chef who currently cooks home delivery lunch for the Vashon Senior Center. She is also a member of VIGA’s Food Access Partnership. She enthusiastically encourages everyone to try anything in the garden (and in life). She practices curiosity on a daily basis. Reach Biondo at email@example.com.