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The Story of the Butterfly

By: Ruby Dombek

With the sun glistening off Mount Baker in the distance, it is difficult to imagine a more beautiful place to spend one’s day farming. Lis and Joaquin’s 8.5 acres in Everson, WA are some of the most picturesque I have ever seen. The pride and love they share for this land is obvious as they tell me their story.

Lis and Joaquin Lopez realized their dreams of starting an organic farm when they founded Mariposa Farm in 2014. Now with sales at 6 markets, they have made a name for themselves with their high quality produce and kindhearted nature. When asked about the origin of the name “Mariposa Farm,” Lis explains that she has always seen herself and her family in the story of the “mariposa,” or Monarch butterfly. She tells me how the butterflies travel between Canada and Mexico guided by nature. Lis and Joaquin moved to Washington 13 years ago after deciding to leave their home of Morelia, Mexico but they still make frequent trips back. Lis feels as if she follows the migratory path of the mariposa and has a special connection with its story. After moving to Washington, Lis worked at Growing Washington, a well-established organic farm in the east, for thirteen years and Joaquin for a construction company. Their combined experience has proven vital to their success thus far. Growing Washington has been an essential resource and Lis feels grateful for the strong connections she built there over her many years.

Mariposa Farm sells their product faithfully at the Bellingham Farmers Market, but an impressive 65% of their sales are being made at Seattle farmers markets. Lis and Joaquin
love selling at the markets, where they value the face to face customer interactions so highly. They like to educate community members while also integrating their feedback into future products. Joaquin says they provide cilantro with the roots fully intact because so many customers have requested the entire plant for its nutrients and flavor. Some of his loyal customers actually call ahead of time to make sure they do not forget to bring cilantro with roots attached! Above all, Lis and Joaquin want to continue to connect with and nurture the community that has welcomed and
supported them so wholeheartedly. One way they’ve been able to do so is by donating extra produce to the local food bank whenever available.

Although farmer’s markets are currently the center of their business, they plan to continually expand their wholesale offerings. Thanks to a
loan from the Community Food Co-op’s Farm Fund, Joaquin is now in the process of building a 40 by 60 foot building with cold storage that will enable them to achieve optimal freshness for their produce. This will also help the farm to provide a more competitive wholesale product in the future.

Looking back on their journey, Lis’s face brightens when she recounts how their most loyal customers dote over how the children have grown. They continually tell her “I remember when your little ones would be sleeping underneath your table early in the morning while you were setting up for the market”. The kids are now taking on a more active role on the farm and can be found helping out when not at school or soccer practice. Lis acknowledges the importance of educating kids about their environment and she hopes her children will learn the value of working with the land.

 

The kids have been an important factor in their choice to avoid all sprays and pesticides. Because they are often running around the fields and
snacking on fresh veggies, Lis and Joaquin are adamant about organic farming practices. Lis prefers her own all-natural method to encourage plant
growth- SINGING! Joaquin often hears her songs echoing throughout the fields as she works, and neighbors have asked, “Who are you talking to?”. “The plants!” she answers, naturally. She talks to them telling them how lovely they are, and encouraging them to “Cheer Up!” when they are looking less than perky on a hot day.

Although the farm has been a great success, it has not been easy. Last September while driving home from a Seattle Market, Lis and Joaquingot into a car accident. Joaquin was unhurt, but Lis is still recovering from neck and shoulder injuries that make her work exponentially more challenging. She remains energetic and excited to get outside, but often finds herself having to quit early. She is clearly strong-willed and will stop at nothing to get back to 100%. She says, “It doesn’t matter how hard it looks, this business is amazing.”

Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of the farm is how it has brought both sides of the family closer together, with everyone coming out to help on weekends. Lis and Joaquin are grateful for all of the support they have received. They are excited for what the future holds and hope to continue the business for many years to come. Joaquin says, “Farming runs in your blood because it’s a lot of hard work and takes a lot of time, a lot of dedication to be here. I hope that one day my son or my daughter can do what we do.”

 

Mariposa Farm

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