John and I arrived on Orcas Island at nearly 10:30 at night. The ferry from Vancouver Island only goes to San Juan, the namesake of the San Juan Islands chain above Washington State. From there, you must transfer to the local inter-island ferry to get to Orcas, and the 10 p.m. sailing was the last and only one available to us after our long journey from Tofino, B.C. which began early that September day.

Consequently, we didn’t actually see what Orcas Island was all about until the next morning when we awoke to discover the view from our cottage.

Orcas view

We chose to linger there for a while — for a very apparent reason — before finally pulling ourselves away to search out the town of Eastsound and grab some lunch. After stuffing ourselves with Dungeness crab cakes at a waterfront restaurant we paused for a quick photo op,

John on Orcas

and took off on foot for a closer look at the little town. Tucked in alongside coffee shops, restaurants, gift stores and the like were a couple of real estate agencies. At the first one, John turned to me and asked, “You want to go in and talk to an agent?”

Without hesitation I replied, “Yes. Yes I do.”

Until that spontaneous exchange, neither of us had ever expressed to the other that we might consider a move. Certainly, we hadn’t talked of selling our farm.

fall colors

Yet there we were, walking through the agency’s front door, asking the receptionist if we could meet with someone. The agent we spoke with gave us a detailed map of the island and pointed out the best areas for gardens or small farms. The next day we took off in our rental car and got to know the island a bit better.

And we fell in love with it.

Jo on hike

In all the years I’ve been writing the farm newsletter, I never anticipated this one. But people are starting to ask us when we’ll reopen the farm stands after our usual winter break, and although we’ve danced around the answer as best we could thus far, we can’t continue being evasive (and we’re both lousy liars). It’s time to just come out with it:

We’re permanently shutting down our two farm stands.

It’s not happening quite yet — we’ll keep the Jonestown stand open until the Saturday before Christmas, and will continue selling at our Austin stand every Wednesday (except over the holidays) as far into January as Mother Nature will allow. After that, however, we’ll no longer have the help of Dana, Mary, Stephen and Zac. It’ll just be John and me, and we’ll be busy readying our house and farm to put on the market.

Weird, isn’t it? Honestly, John and I were absolutely, 100 percent positive we would be here at this farm for the remainder of our lives. We’re no spring chickens, after all.


It’s not as if we’re still trying to figure out what we want to do for a living. We’re doing that now — except we’ve come to realize we’ve reached a point at which farming at this intensity is no longer what we wish to do. Like I said, we’re not getting any younger.

birthday John

And while we’re not looking to move into the Old Folk’s Home quite yet, we are wanting to slow down. We need to have time to relax a bit more — to perhaps get back out on the water and sail, or kayak, or even tool around an island lake on a paddleboat, dork-style — and we need to be able to do it more than only once a year.

me on a paddleboat

Although we’ll obviously sell our house and property to any interested buyer (and happily so), it would also be nice if our place were to end up with someone who wants to continue it as a farm. We’ll pass along everything we’ve learned about farming in this beautiful valley — and believe me, in 14 years we’ve learned a lot — along with all the infrastructure we’ve built in order to produce food to nourish ourselves and, most importantly, you.

We hope you understand our decision. We hope, too, that you’ll stick with us through these next few weeks at the farm stands. We’re not ready to say goodbye just yet.

* * *

With today’s dry north wind and what will most surely be a hard freeze Tuesday morning, harvest is a challenge! Leafy greens especially don’t like these conditions. We’ll do our best, though, and for Wednesday’s stand we hope to have:

Romanesco cauliflower and white cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce mix, Euro salad mix, spinach, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, kabocha squash, sweet white turnips, bulk purple and golden beets, bunches of chard, bunches of dinosaur kale, Brussels greens, bags of arugula, purple and green kohlrabi, watermelon radishes, green bell peppers, and anything else we can manage to gather together.


Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)