A FIRST GENERATION WHEAT FARM

This week we’re featuring the town of Harrington, Washington (pop. 424) and sharing some of the stories of rural revival happening here! Today’s guest blog post is from Katie Steward of Steward Farms, Inc., where Katie and her husband Josh are first generation wheat farmers. Welcome, Katie!

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It all started with a dream and a letter.

My name is Katie Steward and my husband Josh and I are first generation wheat farmers in Harrington, Washington. We are so thankful we get to raise our kids on a family farm and live the rural life; we wouldn’t want it any other way! Josh and I are both small-town born and raised (me in Harrington and Josh in the next town over of Odessa) and we wanted to raise our kids in a small town, too. We feel so blessed that our family is able to enjoy all the benefits of being raised rural.

How did we get here?

While Josh always dreamed of one day owning and operating a farm, there was one problem: neither he nor I had a family farm to come back to. Josh’s dad worked as a farm manager locally, and that’s where he realized his love of farming. In 2006, during our junior year of college at Washington State University (Go Cougs!), we heard through the small-town grapevine that a farmer named Jim in Harrington was getting ready to retire and didn’t know yet what he wanted to do with his farm. At this time Josh and I were dating and I remember sitting with him in his college apartment discussing what to do with the information we had just received. Finally, Josh decided he was just going to write Jim a letter and I remember him saying, “What’s the worst he can say? No?” I remember this line so vividly because I was and still am a very shy, quiet person and I couldn’t imagine just writing someone a letter out of the blue! After a day or so Josh heard back from Jim. Long story short, he wasn’t ready to retire just yet but he would keep us in mind when the time came. It wasn’t a no, so we were satisfied with that.

Josh and I graduated college and got married in the spring of 2008. Josh took a job close to home as a salesman for the local Case IH dealership. We bought a small house in town and fell into a comfortable routine of working and saving our money to build a dream house in the country one day. In 2010, we found out we were going to welcome a baby boy to our little family that September and life was good. In the summer of 2010, Josh got a call from Jim. Jim was ready to retire and was curious if we were still interested in farming. Needless to say, we most definitely were! I remember going over numbers all that fall and winter, making spreadsheets, and thanking the Good Lord that we had stashed money away for a new house because that money was now going to be spent on farm machinery. And on top of all that, we were figuring out how to be new parents to our sweet baby boy we named Jack.

We moved to a house outside of Harrington and established Steward Farms, Inc. in February of 2011. That first year of farming Josh kept his day job in sales to help out with the costs associated with taking on a farm and worked the land when he got home, a lot of times into the middle of the night. Because of his hard work I was able to stay home and care for Jack. Looking back, we wonder how we did it, with being new parents and working crazy hours, but at the time it was just what needed to be done to accomplish our goals and our dream.

Our first harvest in 2012. Harrington golf course in the background.

Our first harvest in 2012. Harrington golf course in the background.

Our baby Gracie Louise since we don’t have a family picture with her yet!

Our baby Gracie Louise since we don’t have a family picture with her yet!

Family picture from two years ago.

Family picture from two years ago.

Harvest this year with our new-to-us John Deere s680 with a 40 foot header.

Harvest this year with our new-to-us John Deere s680 with a 40 foot header.

Since then, we have added another lease and more acres to the farm as well as two little girls to our family. Sadie Lynn was born in 2013 and most recently, Gracie Louise in 2018. We hired on Josh’s dad in 2015 since an extra pair of hands were needed with the added acres. His farm knowledge and mechanical skills have been invaluable to our operation. We have saved up enough money to build our dream home we had been planning on so long ago and broke ground on it this week, which we are ecstatic about since we are finally going to be on the farm. We take a lot of pride in growing the best quality wheat we can using new technology and sustainable, minimal till farming practices. We are so glad we put in the time and effort then, because it is sure paying off now. Even though it may take hard work and sacrifice, never give up on your dreams.

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You can follow our farming story here:

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