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Jones Family Farms

Quality natural meats and seafoods

Growing up in a household where both parents were State employees wouldn't seem to lead you toward a fishing career, but that's how it unfolded for Nick Jones. Meeting his future wife Sara was the next nudge. She grew up on a dairy farm. Now they own Jones Family Farms, producing grass-fed meats, and shellfish on Lopez Island.

"I got 'shipped' to Lopez as a youngster and lived with a logging family, and became aware of fishing and farming. I had a strong love of seafood, the waterfront life, the lingo, the history, and the cuisine. A friend gave me a free boat in 2001, I leased a permit from a couple, and started fishing in Puget Sound, selling fish right off the boat to friends and neighbors, then to stores and restaurants." He and Sara married and they fished until 2009, when they sold their permit. "The actual fishing was a huge challenge. I was never a great fisherman. When I hit a certain point, it was time to move on. I loved doing it, and was happy to leave it." That point of departure was when he and Sara started a family. "You can't be gone all the time when you have kids." In addition, seafood prices were so low at the time, it was hard to make a profit. "I was getting .35 cents per pound for Puget Sound Coho."

Sara's farm background is the driver for what they do today. "I would never have thought of farming. But there's idle land on Lopez and it made sense to us to use it to raise livestock. We love having the farm. It allows us to do work we enjoy and still be home at night." They've gone from rotationally-grazing cattle on leased land to owning land and leasing 400 acres on the island. They have added pasture-raised pigs, grass fed goats, and poultry. In 2005, they acquired a 5.5-acre shellfish farm to expand their food offerings and diversity their production base. They sell Manila, Littleneck, and butter clams; flat and Olympia oysters; and mussels. All their oysters begin life in their Lopez lagoon. Pacific oysters finish their lives on the beach; clams are grown both in the lagoon and on the beach. Mussels spend all their lives in the lagoon.

Nick and Sara are committed to offering the highest quality artisanal food each step of the way: production, distribution, and land stewardship, using a whole-system approach to farming. Their Angus, Devon-cross cattle are Lopez Island-grown and entirely grass fed. They are slaughtered on the farm, then taken to Bow, Washington, where they are dry-aged for at least two weeks. Hampshire hogs are born on the farm where they grow up eating grass, plant roots, bugs, and grubs. They raise slower-growing heritage goat breeds that produce a deeper, higher quality flavor. "We grow our own grain, so we know it's organic. We don't certify it, but anyone is welcome to come to our farm whenever they want and see how we do things. If they see anything they don't like, they can tell us on the spot." 95% of their products are sold to restaurants, with the rest to stores mostly near the farm.

Although they don't fish anymore, they work with a network of quality-driven fishermen to supply seafood to their customers. As always, they insist that everything be harvested by the most responsible and sustainable methods known, and they specialize in unusual and seasonal fish and crustaceans. "From March through late May, catches permitting, we partner with the Finkbonner family and the Lummi Nation to offer halibut. These are buttery, rich, and have a depth of flavor unmatched in other halibut stocks." Late spring through mid-summer, they get coastal halibut from Jeremy Brown out of Neah Bay. Salmon comes from Alaska as well as locally. "Fraser River sockeye was the basis of our own fishing operation. They've been coming through the San Juans forever." They purchase as much as possible from Jack Giard, a Lopez reef net fisherman; Dan Post, a gillnetter from Lopez; and Arn Veal, a gillnetter from Guemes Island. The Finkbonners are their main source for local Coho, and the Bornstein family out of Bellingham also supplies local salmon. Fresh salmon is offered May through late November, while frozen and smoked salmon is available all year.

Spot prawns are procured through the Finkbonners. These are limited and most go to Asia; Nick and Sara are happy to be able to get some into local markets in April and May. Alaskan weathervane scallops come from coastal central Alaska and frozen. Recently they have started harvesting pink scallops with partner Joe Stephens. (Click here to read about their pink scallops.) "I'm evangelical about pink scallops," laughs Nick.

Another project is Link Lab Artisan Meats in Seattle's Maple Leaf neighborhood. Here they develop, test, and produce sausage, from traditional to not. They use pork, chicken, lamb, turkey, and beef, and have also created a cured bacon. Sorry to say, they sell directly to restaurants, so don't stop by on your home shopping day.

While we live in an area where many are concerned about sustainability and where their food comes from, it's still refreshing and exciting to see people like Nick and Sara be so focused on using sustainable practices, showing concern about environmental conditions, and developing restoration programs. You can count on Jones Family Farms to produce and distribute the highest-quality foods. Go find some!

Connie Adams/May 2017

Jones Family Farms
1934 Mud Bay Road
Lopez Island, WA 98261

Link Lab Artisan Meats
559 NE 80th Street
Seattle, WA 98115

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