Brian grew up on a 50-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin, which he later owned and operated. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, he worked for Land O’ Lakes as a Livestock Production Specialist, the combined experiences provided Brian the opportunity to work with several different types of livestock and farming operations. However, its solitary work, and Brian wanted a more social environment, so he headed west to the Pacific Northwest in 1996 and landed on Bainbridge, where he took a job with the Kitsap Conservation District as a Financial Coordinator and Technical Resource Coordinator.
Growing up in Southern California, Penny loved animals and surrounded herself with as many pets as her parents would allow, she even entertained the idea of becoming a veterinarian, however, as she noted with a smile, “once I realized how much schooling that required, I changed my mind.” In 1995, she decided to get out of the hustle and bustle of California and moved to Bainbridge where she raised and homeschooled her six children. On January 1, 2022, Penny’s love of animals (and Brian) would become a day to remember…it was not only the start of a new year, but it was also the day they married and later that same day, signed the papers to purchase just over two acres of the Winney Farm property, and sublet the pasture.
The historic Winney Farm property dips down into a small valley between McDonald Avenue and Old Mill Road, with sweeping pastures, a hillside forest and old farm buildings, it’s a picturesque spot to say the least. The property was purchased by Nellie and Horace Winney in the mid-1940s, where they raised a small herd of cattle, a few pigs, as well as rabbits and chickens, and even some buffalo. Nellie also had a huge vegetable garden, and fruit and nut trees. Nellie continued to run the farm after Horace’s death, but when her health deteriorated, her children decided to sell the land in 2011. That’s where Steve Romein, a retired architect and his wife, Ty Cramer entered the picture.
Steve and Ty were interested in purchasing the land to preserve it for island-grown agriculture. They’d recently acquired a 6-acre farm property on New Sweden some months before—what is known today as Heyday Farm—with the intention of renovating the buildings and land so that it could be rented at a low cost to young farmers, they would do the same for Winney Farm. Steve and Ty would eventually renovate the old 1910 barn and lease the pasture land, he would also hire Brian to create the conservation farm plan for both properties, by providing technical information on pasture, manure, and livestock management. “My goal as Farm Manager is to grow food in an environmentally sustainable way and provide our community with healthy protein,” he notes in his bio.
I met with Brian out at the farm to learn more about their new adventure. We started with the farm store, which Brian and Penny decided to open when the previous Heyday Farm Store in Lynwood Center closed. Brian explained that the building was Horace Winney’s clock shop at one point, and a portrait of Nellie Winney hangs on the wall as you enter the building. Inside you’ll find a variety of baked delicacies, which are provided by Heyday Farm, as well as beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and lamb. All of the animals are pasture raised, and the eggs and animal products are free of hormones and antibiotics. The cows are grass fed and rotated throughout the various pastures to ensure access to fresh grass during the growing season. The pigs are raised through a paddock system, which allows them to be cycled onto fresh grass. The chickens (both broilers and egg laying) and the turkeys spend their early days in separate brooder houses, then are moved to the pasture, where they are rotated daily to fresh grass. Everything that grows on the farm is done organically and with care and compassion.
“Having a farm like this is truly a dream come true for me,” Penny told me. “People often comment that it must be so hard to raise animals to then butcher for meat. I am a meat eater and love to know that the meat that we provide is from animals that have been well raised, loved, cared for, and even named. I love each of our animals as they come through our farm and know that each life is honored.”
In addition to the farm store, which is self-serve and open to the public daily, they also have a CSA and sell at local farmers’ markets. Brian also noted that now is the time to order your holiday turkeys, you can visit their online ordering system here.
Behind the farm store, you’ll find Nellie Winney’s vegetable garden, which will soon get a wonderful upgrade, a 30-foot by 96-foot greenhouse, which will be funded via a USDA grant. Brian and Penny plan on expanding to include more produce (they already sell pumpkins) and the greenhouse will make a great addition. Next door to the farm store, is a larger structure with solar panels that help to power the farm and offset its carbon footprint and across from that is the large renovated barn.
We then headed up a pathway, passing another farm building and the old farmhouse, towards the 1909 Sears, Roebuck & Co. kit home, which sits on a 2-plus-acre property facing McDonald Avenue that Brian purchased in 2019. The property sports an orchard with old growth apple, pear, black walnut and hazelnut trees. Phoebe, their gregarious cat, joined us as we headed up to the top of the property where Penny’s “Share Hope” flower stand sits. The flowers, which Penny grows herself, are offered for free to anyone who comes by.
Last year, Penny and Brian held their first Fall Farm Festival, which was such a huge success, they decided to do it again this year. The festival included hayrides, kids’ activities, great food, live music, a pumpkin patch, farm tours and a beer garden. They also added a Summer Solstice Festival at the farm this past summer and participated in the first annual Kitsap Farm Tour in August.
However, there’s a lot more to farming than festivals and pumpkin patches. Both Brian and Penny work full-time outside of the farm. Brian’s day begins at 4:15am and he arrives at his office at the Kitsap Conservation District by 5:30am, he returns by early afternoon and begins completing daily farm chores such as feeding the animals, collecting and washing eggs, rotating steer onto new pastures and other farm maintenance. Penny is a personal assistant for a family on the island, and before she heads to work, she stocks the farm store, feeds the farm dog, alpacas, and sheep and usually cuts flowers and assembles them into bouquets for the “Share Hope” free flower stand.
As part of Brian’s job with the Kitsap Conservation District, he helps to educate new farmers on the ins and outs of farming, and loves to share his knowledge with anyone that’s interested in learning. Both Brian and Penny are happy to provide tours of the farm for individuals, families, and groups, you can stop by in the afternoons, or contact Brian directly to arrange a specific day and time. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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