Connecting good people to good food
By Alex Smith
Food is unique in its ability to bring together people of all backgrounds. There’s something about eating that helps us overlook differences and recognize that on a deep level, we’re all just humans moving from one meal to the next. This concept of food bringing people together was the spark that lit the flame in Roslyn McNicholl, owner of Rabbit Fields Farm.
You may already know Roslyn. You may have seen her every Saturday at the Bellingham Farmers Market, vegetables stacked high and nestled between her signature yellow curtains. You may have even spoken with her. If so, you’ve seen first-hand what she considers the most rewarding part of farming. “You get to be a defining moment in people’s relationship with food,” she explains to me. “You get to help create a relationship with food in them that they then share with others.”
This relationship with food takes a number of forms. Teaching customers about what’s in season, or introducing them to new foods is one facet. But the excitement about what she does runs much deeper. The joy of sharing recipes with customers is on par with the joy of making those same recipes for friends at a dinner party. Roslyn isn’t just someone who farms to make a living. She grows food because she loves it and wants to share it with people.
Roslyn works hard to instill the same passion in her employees. “Not every employee comes here with a love of food and farming. Everyone leaves here with a love of food, and most love farming… or at least have a better appreciation for it.”
Roslyn takes pride in helping people develop and grow as people, beyond just learning to grow food. It’s not the typical “family farm” – she didn’t inherit land and doesn’t have a partner to share the farm duties – but she considers her employees to be family. She shows them how fulfilling it can be to feel the soil between their fingers, get kissed by the sun, and then be able to harvest beautiful produce.
The produce itself is also unique! A glance at her farmers market booth turns up the usual suspects – radishes, lettuce, chives – but also some more unusual things like dandelion greens, mizuna, and sunflower sprouts that combine to make a spicy rustic salad. Her customers have a tremendous amount of trust, and don’t seem to even question whether dandelion greens are tasty (they are). This trust is something that has developed over time, and each leap of faith takes people further along the journey of connecting with what they eat.
But you don’t have to go to the farmers market to find this connection. Roslyn sells produce through the Community Food Co-op and Terra Organics. She also has one of the best CSAs in the area and works with Aslan Brewing, Lovitt, and Ciao Thyme to supply in-season produce to feature on their menus.
Entering her 11th season of farming, you might be surprised that she’s still going strong. Long hours, hard labor, and mental effort might wear down someone with less drive. But her passion and devotion to the lifestyle have kept her excited to get up and go to work every day. And she’s sharing this passion with a new generation of farmers. As a mentor in the Food to Bank On Program, she works directly with beginning farmers to pass on her wealth of knowledge and help them become as successful as she is.
The philosophy of Rabbit Fields farm is simple: one woman doing everything she can to share her joy and excitement about food with as many people as possible. This passion is contagious, and Roslyn is eager to guide people in their journey to discovering good food! Give her a chance and she’ll take you as far as you want. How far you want to go down the rabbit hole is up to you.