After 31 years, Terry Carkner has retired from her namesake farm, Terry’s Berries, in the Puyallup River Valley. She and her husband Dick converted a 25-acre conventional raspberry farm into a diversified organic vegetable farm and started one of the first CSA farms in the state. At their recent conference, the Tilth Producers of Washington honored Terry with their “Farmer of the Year Award,” an award that recognizes innovations in organic farming, excellence in enhancing natural resources and biodiversity, soil stewardship, and inspiration to other farmers and community members.
Pillars of the local farmers markets, Terry made continuous innovations to her system over the years, finding ways to improve soil fertility, head off pest outbreaks, optimize labor efficiency, and arrive at the ideal marketing mix. Not only attentive to the needs of the land, Terry took great pride in the quality and taste of her produce. She was always curious to try out new ideas, carefully evaluating the results, and making changes for the next season. Terry was always ready to partner with university faculty on their organic research projects in the hopes of learning something new.
Terry is also an educator. A popular speaker at courses, workshops, and farm visits, she spent countless hours sharing her knowledge with her peers and the next generation of farmers. She made sure that her interns had the best possible learning experience, paying their way to Farm Walks, conferences, Cultivating Success courses, and Field Days. Terry and Dick also hosted a steady stream of school children on their farm, teaching them to press cider, play in the dirt, and eat new things.
For all of these reasons, it was inspiring to see Terry Carkner recognized as the Farmer of the Year. We will all miss eating the wonderful produce from River Road, but we have no doubt that happy plants will soon be sprouting like magic out of the dry, windswept plains of Ellensburg. We thank Terry and Dick for showing the world that carefully tended small farms can feed a lot of people, really well.