Pursues ‘regenerative farming’ model
Methow Valley Farmers Market staple Twisp River Sourdough is becoming Twisp River Grain & Mill as owners Neil and Kasey Gibb continue to pursue the development of their Twisp River land and regenerative-farming goals.
Though they said the project is still in its infancy, 3 acres of their land is planted with rye and winter wheat to be used both to supplement feed for their 73 laying hens and, with the help of a new grain mill, to continue and expand the offerings of their sourdough bakery.
Kasey Gibb started baking sourdough out of necessity. While she loves to bake and eat bread, for years a gluten intolerance made that difficult.
“Somebody introduced me to sourdough and so being able to eat bread again was really nice,” she said.
While sourdough isn’t necessarily made with gluten-free grain, the bread’s unique chemistry tends to counteract gluten’s effects on sensitive guts, she said.
“It’s because it’s fermented, a lot of people who are sensitive to gluten can tolerate [sourdough], which is why I’m doing it,” she said.
Gibb bakes her bread at the commercial kitchen at the Twisp Grange and sells it at the Methow Valley Farmers Market. She also exclusively uses wild yeast, which adds to the bread, but can be “temperamental.”
“It’s amazing the amount of people who come up to me at the market and say, ‘I can’t eat bread because of the gluten but I can eat your sourdough bread,’” she said. “The first time somebody said that I was so excited because that’s why I’m doing it.”
Kasey Gibb is the baker and takes on “research and development” while Neil Gibb uses engineering skills from a 27-year U.S. Coast Guard career to help expand the farm, including an upcoming project to build a commercial kitchen on the property.
Changing the name of the business to the Twisp River Grain & Mill is an expansion of Gibb’s love of sourdough, and sharing it with others, rather than a replacement. She still plans to have a presence at the market, but hopes to be able to expand to year-round offerings with the help of the new kitchen.
“I’m just enamored of small grain farms, small grain growing,” Kasey Gibb said. “And so it seemed like the right thing to marry with the sourdough.”
Rescuing the land
The Gibbs moved to their Twisp River Road property three years ago after homesteading off the grid in Maine. They’ve had gardens for years and were considering taking over a blueberry farm in Maine before heading to rural Washington — where neither of them had previously lived.
“When we bought this piece of land it was for sale and it was advertised to be subdivided,” Kasey Gibb said. “It was critical that we rescue the house and we rescue the land, and the soil here is amazing and it almost begged to be farmed. It feels like the right thing to do for this land.”
The house was vacant for more than 20 years, and the Gibbs gutted and completely renovated it to be livable.
“It’s a challenge and it’s a fun challenge,” Kasey Gibb said. “We didn’t anticipate being farmers, but I know we’re really enjoying it.”
The Gibbs said other Methow Valley farmers and residents have welcomed them.
“There’s established farms here that have really helped us out. Everyone’s been very supportive,” Neil Gibb said. “‘Oh you need that equipment, borrow ours.’ It’s nice to be autonomous but it’s also nice to have friends and neighbors in your back pocket I guess.”
Though they’re not living strictly off the grid anymore, the Gibbs are still committed to carefully and responsibly farming their land following the regenerative agriculture model. They won’t till their fields to help conserve water, and plan to rotate crops and animals to keep the land healthy.
The farm isn’t certified organic, but they don’t use any synthetic fertilizers and double the value of their rye field by using it to crowd out native and invasive weeds on their fields.
They also just bought a circa-1947 combine harvester and plan to reuse an electricity-generating wind turbine from their Maine homestead on the Twisp farm.
“For us it means we’re really farming utilizing the laws of nature,” Kasey Gibb said.
For more information, go to www.twisprivergrainandmill.com.