It’s hard to imagine that anyone would move away from Hawaii, but one plucky couple did just that in 2020. When Rachel Herring Shyles lost her job at the nonprofit Hale Puna on the island of …
It’s hard to imagine that anyone would move away from Hawaii, but one plucky couple did just that in 2020. When Rachel Herring Shyles lost her job at the nonprofit Hale Puna on the island of Kauai, the couple made a big decision.
“It was quite a leap of faith,” Herring Shyles said of her and her partner Dan Shyles decision to move to Port Angeles, but having friends in Olalla, on the nearby Kitsap Peninsula, clinched the deal. They found a piece of property they were interested in: a heartfelt letter to the owners gave the young couple an edge over a buyer with more money. The story of the farm-to-be was that compelling.
“We’ve both hit our 30s, and we both realized it was time to start putting down some roots,” Herring Shyles said. “I didn’t want to be that mother working 50, 60 hours a week.”
A farm seemed like a natural fit, giving her experience with a food forest at Hale Puna, and her gravitation to landscapes.
As a girl, Herring Shyles had been “enchanted with the Pacific Northwest rainforest,” and inspired by the protected and intact flora and fauna there. She grew up in suburban Nashville, but managed to follow her passion for nature, earning a biology degree and working in conservation, interests that are easy to put to use in her new surroundings. Her husband Dan is passionate about education, and teaches full-time at the Port Townsend High School. (There probably aren’t that many farmers with degrees in astrophysics, but he’s one of them.)
“We’re both just nature lovers,” Herring Shyles said. “I wanted my business, you know, to be centered around the place.”
Herring Shyles takes charge of the daily operations of Wildling Farm, three acres of paradise west of Port Angeles.
Winter is the quiet season, now that the holidays are through. Their flock of 33 chickens are awaiting more daylight to kick-start egg production, and Herring Shyles has to get caught up on restocking some of her staples, like sourdough tortillas made with Chimacum-based Finnriver Grainery flour, raw milk soaps made with Sequim’s Dungeness Valley Creamery, and handcrafted rosemary salt.
“The tortillas have been a great hit,” she said, adding that she offers a subscription service for consumables, enabling bulk savings. She also offers delivery to a 25-mile radius.
“There’s a real need for this,” she said.
Offering delivery has allowed Wildling Farm to make genuine connections and provide wholesome products to folks who really need that extra love.
There’s a single mom of three, without a vehicle, who gets to feed nutrious handmade tortillas to her kids. A woman with a broken leg who can’t drive to the Sequim Farmer’s market, where Herring Shyles had a booth last year. And a new mom nursing a newborn who finds it easiest to stay at home right now.
“One of the biggest challenges is to not take on more than I can handle,” Herring Shyles admitted, laughing. She’s clearly capable, and used to having a range of irons in the fire. As she and Dan settle into their relatively new home, she’s been genuinely moved by the local response to their arrival.
“How welcoming the Olympic Peninsula community has been to us,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better first year in business.”
Although far from Hawaii, the spiritual concept of “aloha” seems to linger here in Washington, Herring Shyles said.
“I’ve really felt aloha here, just that sense of giving, and familial care.”
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