Seeders: Chandler Briggs & Leila Schneider, Hayshaker Farm
The Farm: 8 leased acres, 4 miles from downtown Walla Walla – 100+ year old historic Italian family farm
What They Seed: draft horse powered, diversified fruit & vegetable farm – for Farmers Markets & Restaurants in the Walla Walla Valley
Where You Can Find Them:
Farmers Markets: Walla Walla Farmers Market (Thursday, Saturday), Richland (Friday)
Retail Farm Stand: Colville St Patisserie
Feeders They Supply:
Restaurants: Whitehouse Crawford, Public House 124, Brasserie Four, The Green Lantern, Saffron, Jimgermanbar, Colville St Patisserie, Walla Walla Bread Co
Hayshaker Farm is a new farm in Walla Walla, run by two young farmers, Chandler Briggs and Leila Schneider. They are ambitious and dedicated, working hard to supply farmers markets and restaurants in the Walla Walla Valley.
Chandler is from Southern California and comes from a non-farming background, but is now in his 9th season. He and Leila originally met on Vashon Island (Washington), where Chandler was then working with a couple of friends on 2 acres of leased land. Leila, from France and trained as a baker, was traveling through Europe and the US working on farms.
On Vashon Island, Chandler and his friends were doing most of the field work manually. He realized that many of the successful farms were greater than 5 acres and used more mechanized tools. Chandler became interested in using draft horses and would make weekend trips down to Sequim to work-trade with John Erskine of High Bridge Shires Farm. John is very passionate about helping young farmers grow and has been a great mentor for Chandler.
“It’s not easy, I think it’s important to say that. I want our customers to know that we work hard because we love it” – Chandler Briggs, Hayshaker Farm
When a job opportunity arose at Welcome Table Farm, an established horse-powered farm in Walla Walla, Chandler took it. He spent three seasons there, learning more about draft horses and growing vegetables, berries, herbs and fruit for farmers markets, restaurants and a CSA. Leila made the move to Walla Walla and continued baking. Eventually the two made the decision to go out on their own and start Hayshaker Farm.
They found an 8 acre property with a house on it on the outskirts of Walla Walla, for lease on Craigslist. Over 100 years ago it had been owned by an Italian farming family (as much of Walla Walla once was) and had Class A soil. They took the lease in 2014 but their landlord made it clear that the land would be developed in 6 to 10 years. The property came with irrigation and a barn and any investments that Leila and Chandler have made since have been done with mobility in mind: from their high tunnel greenhouse to the cooler built in an old trailer, they will be able to move the farm when it comes time.
In January 2015 they purchased Dusty and Jackson, their Percheron gelding draft team, from an Amish farm in Iowa. Chandler had been collecting old horse powered farming equipment over the years, which he was finally able to put to use.
Chandler works full time on the farm with one other staff member, while Leila also works part-time as a baker at Colville St Patisserie. They are cultivating 6 acres of vegetables and have an additional 2 acres for their greenhouse and pasture and space for the horses. The horses are an amazing asset to the farm and the more they are worked the more valuable they are.
Through contacts from Welcome Table Farm and a strong presence at the Walla Walla farmers markets they are quickly growing their customer base. They even took the initiative to meet with Walla Walla chefs in the winter to figure out what they could grow for them and make their relationship most beneficial. About half of their sales is to restaurants and half to farmers markets at this time, and they are considering a CSA in the future.
It is young farmers like Leila and Chandler that are key in making changes and improving our current food system. They have a profound outlook on their roles as stewards of the land and educators to their customers, along with the drive to make a difference.
Advice to New Farmers:
Don’t do it alone.
Know that not everything will work all of the time, you have to be okay with it. Live with and accept failure.
“It’s not easy, I think it’s important to say that. I want our customers to know that we work hard because we love it”
“Our society is build on convenience and we need to go back to resilience which means doing things that might take longer. We need to consciously change our day to day lives to be more focused on resilience and less on convenience”
“Our society makes it difficult for small farmers, it’s part policy and part a social issue. So thank your farmers, support them.”