What's your connection to the land?
My Grandparents were orchardists in Southern Oregon, growing pears and apples. My Uncle is a dairy farmer in Oregon as well. My wife Julie has a grandmother in the Flathead region of Montana that owns, and lives on, a 100-acre wheat farm. We continue the tradition on our own 5 acres, growing cider apple trees and walnuts.
What actions have you taken as a steward that you're most proud of and/or that you feel have made the biggest difference?
Probably my years working at Snohomish County in the Farmland Protection program, working on laws, policies and code for the TDR and PDR (Transfer of Development and Purchase of Development Rights) programs. I also worked on Salmon issues with the tribes and local farmers.
I continue to support local farms by purchasing raw materials for my business - Skip Rock Distillers in Snohomish. We buy potatoes, berries, apples, walnuts, rye, wheat, rhubarb, honey and triticale from farmers in Whatcom, Skagit, and Snohomish counties. In 2014, we received first and second place nationally for our rye whiskey, with rye purchased from Eric Fritch. We are also the largest producer of Nocino in North America, made with local walnuts from the Ellingsen farm outside of Stanwood and other local sources. Nocino is a sticky dark brown liqueur originally from the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy.
What’s your hope for the next 75 years? And/or what advice do you have for those next 75 years?
My hope is that there will always be a place for larger scale agriculture, as consumers look for more unique food and beverages. Ag is continuing to evolve and so are consumers, they go hand-in-hand. Snohomish County could benefit from the local food movement, especially with an increase in small-scale operations that serve the niche market, like walnuts, honey, and other specialty items.
Anything else you want to share or feel is important?
"I value what our local farms produce and I try to bring out the best in those products".
Who are you?
- Name: Ryan Hembree, Skip Rock Distillers
- Where is home? Snohomish/Fobes Hill area
- Where are you from? Snohomish County, since I was 2 years old. My wife, Julie Mason, grew up on a small farm outside Snohomish.