Michael Pilarski has been collecting books on agriculture and earth repair for 40 years. Now, with a library of information at his fingertips, he wants to share it with Jefferson County’s citizens.
“Most of my spare income over the years has gone to accumulate these books,” he said, sitting in his new public reference library that is covered wall-to-wall with books.
The shelves in his new space, located at 10644 Rhody Drive in Port Hadlock in the Ness’ Corner Building, contain old and new books covering a wide range of topics: from herbal medicine to climate change, permaculture design to mushroom foraging, native plants to tropical species.
“I’ve always wanted a library,” he said, surrounded by just a fraction of the books he actually owns—he confesses to six more book cases full at his home.
“I thought, if I want to spend all this money on books, then they should be for the public,” he said. “That helped me justify it.”
Anyone can come to the library and take a look at any of the books—although they are just for reading inside the building, not checking out and taking home. It is open on Wednesdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The space is comfortably decorated with plants, a sofa, chairs to read in and tables to do research at. There are also a few books available for sale.
WSU Extension also has a selection of books on small-scale farming, says Kellie Henwood, the small farms coordinator, as well as quite a few editions of the Small Farmers Journal that people can reference.
“This is a classic journal from Lynn Miller that started out for horse-drawn farming practices, but has gained popularity in the small farms world,” Henwood said. “We had a generous donation from a local person of her collection.” But when it comes to size, Pilarski likely has the largest collections of books on ecosystem restoration and regenerative agriculture in the entire county.
He hopes it will become a space where young farmers, gardeners and anyone who is interested will come to learn and become more dedicated to regenerative agriculture and earth repair.
Pilarski—also called “Skeeter” by friends and acquaintances alike—isn’t a librarian, although he has read most of the books on his shelves. He has been a farmer since childhood, working the land since he was in second grade. His organic farming career began in 1972, when he was 25. Since then, he has grown increasingly passionate about regenerative agriculture and global earth repair, terms he hopes will become more popular as everyday people in Jefferson County join the movement to help repair and regenerate earth’s ecosystems, many of which have been damaged by modern farming techniques.
In 1978, he founded the Friends of the Trees Society, and started the first Festival of Trees in Port Townsend, a yearly tradition of celebrating trees that lasted for 20 years.
Since the 80s, he has been teaching permaculture design courses—classes that instruct farmers in how to mimic natural ecosystems to grow food. Last year, he hosted the first ever Global Earth Repair Conference, that brought speakers from across the nation to Fort Worden to discuss the state of the environment.
Now, beyond offering his reference library to the public for perusal, he will also be hosting a series of workshops in his new space, with lectures about everything from agroforestry to regenerative farming and making biochar. Some of the courses will be led by Pilarski, others by local herbalists and farmers like Denise Joy and David Yarrow.
The space also acts as a combined office for the Global Earth Repair Foundation and Friends of the Trees Society, two organizations Pilarski started. It will be a place where he can host classes, but also have meetings to plan events like the upcoming Global Earth Repair Foundation Meeting (date to be determined) in which local farmers, environmentalists and scientists will discuss the state of Jefferson County’s climate, and what we can do to help repair the earth in our own backyard.
To learn more about Pilarski’s upcoming workshops or to learn more about his reference library, visit his website, friendsofthetrees.net.