Although on my maternal grandmother's side, my family came to America no later than 1630, my paternal grandfather was a much more recent arrival. A refugee from the Russian Revolution, he had been incarcerated in a Siberian prison camp. After escaping Russia through Manchuria then Japan, he hopped a freighter to the States and worked in a coal mine before becoming a professor. He met my grandmother at Washington State College (now Washington State University), one of the original "land grant" colleges (1) setup to train students for agriculture and industry.

Agriculture has been an important thread throughout my family. My grandfather majored in horticulture at the University of Kiev, and my grandmother was a third generation Washington wheat farmer whose family established their farm back in territory days. On my Dad's side, I only recently discovered we were potato farmers five generations back, that his father had 400 saguaro and other cacti in their Los Angeles backyard, that one great uncle was a chicken rancher while another had sheep and cattle. My compulsion to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers, to have chickens, to want to have other farm animals, feels primal, almost ground into my DNA. Founding my coastal Washington farm in 2017 may well be an expression of family ties of which I am only dimly aware.

There is family one is born into, then there is chosen family. In my case, I am fortunate to be able to say I would choose my birth family, if I had that choice; and my birth family loves and appreciates my chosen family. As my birth family has dwindled over time - never knew my paternal grandparents, then my maternal grandfather left us in 1976, followed by my youngest brother in 2001, then my maternal grandmother the same year, then my mom in 2009, then my husband in 2010, then my only other sibling late in 2017 -- it's been important to feather in chosen family for a season or longer as mutual needs fit into the flow and arc of life.


Deb Howard
Santa Cruz, CA and Long Beach, WA
Mobile: 408.204.2085
deborahannhoward AT

(1) Quoting from the WSU website: "The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 answered demand for practical education that was accessible to agricultural and industrial workers. The legislation granted federally controlled land to the states, which states could then sell to fund establishment of "land-grant" colleges.")