Life on the farm

Jo Grace Buck enjoys growing vegetables such as corn, tomatoes, peas, carrots and beets, with her husband Roy (not pictured). In all, there are more than 50 varieties of produce grown at their Ever Green Farm, in Washougal. “We want to learn and give options to people,” Jo Grace said. “We try varieties and see what works — what grows in this environment.”

A Washougal couple has lovingly transformed a property that once housed racehorses into a farm that grows a variety of vegetables and other produce.

Roy and Jo Grace Buck purchased 7.5 acres 14 years ago. With one-half acre currently under cultivation, they hope to eventually increase that to around four acres.

The Bucks started to farm locally last year, by growing radishes, carrots, potatoes and squash.

They also grew seven kinds of lettuce, three types of chard and two types of cabbage.

“It was such a great learning experience,” Jo Grace said.

Peas and beets were added this year. “Brandywine,” “New Girl” and roma tomatoes are available, as well as Mexican and pineapple tomatillos, broccoli and herbs such as sage, oregano and thyme.

The chard is colorful, with leaves in shades of red, yellow and orange.

“I like to grow things that are pretty,” Jo Grace said. “Kids see multicolored carrots, and they are excited [to eat vegetables].”

Roy said he knew nothing about gardening and farming before he and Jo Grace started Ever Green Farm.

“It has been great for challenging me to learn new things and to continue to observe and learn as time goes on,” he said “Because we are small and cannot afford to hire folks to work for us, it is a physically demanding activity. I’ve lost more than 20 pounds in the last 18 months or so.

“The fun of any small business is having the freedom to make all of the decisions and live with the results, without having to worry about what my ‘boss’ thinks,” Roy added.

They use an electric fence, in an effort to keep deer away from the vegetables. Last year, voles — rodents that live in mole tunnels — ate some potatoes at the farm. Rabbits nibbled on a few plants when they got into the “hoop house,” where vegetable starts are located.

Other challenges, according to Jo Grace, include remembering to take breaks.

“Last year, we did not really stop,” she said. “This year, we will take a couple of weeks off.

“You always have projects,” Jo Grace added. “There is a lot to do.”

Roy retired from Hewlett-Packard in 2005. He then returned as a consultant before leaving in April 2011. Roy now reads books such as “Soil Science Simplified” and articles about marketing and deer exclusion fences.

Jo Grace is a Master Gardener, through training with the Washington State University Clark County Extension office, in Vancouver. In addition to raising four children, she has held jobs in the areas of social services and bookkeeping.

Jo Grace finds farming to be very satisfying.

“I always wanted to have a farm,” she said. “I guess I’m living my dream.”

Ever Green Farm is located at 1015 S.E. 352nd Ave. For information about purchasing produce from the farm, call 335-8709 or email evergreenfarmwa@gmail.com.