Organic Farmer, Chef & Single Dad
Jeff Miller has owned and operated Willie Green’s for close to 25 years. Back in the mid-90’s when the farm “went dormant” in November, Jeff would grab his chef’s knives and cook with us at Lisa Dupar Catering during the busy holiday season. He is a graduate of the CIA and chose organic farming over the hot kitchen. He has taken a quarter acre plot of land he bought in the 80’s and has grown it (literally) to a fifty-five acre farm which produces fifty to sixty varieties of vegetables and berries available at farmers markets throughout the Seattle area. He is a supplier of organics to our local Whole Foods for the retail customer and Charlie’s Produce for chefs and restaurateurs. He has also added an exquisite outdoor event venue, The Fields at Willie Green’s, amongst the greens, basalt fountain, fire pit and rows of raspberries.
Our families have been friends for over a decade and through the turns of life he has become a single Dad of two; Noah, 15 and Lexie, 8; Plus, two step-children, Dominic & Danielle with whom he has remained very close.
I was curious how he runs both his farm and his family so successfully. We pulled up to Willie Greens and waited for him as he was in another field across the road. He roared up on his huge tractor with that infectious grin he always seems to have.
I ask him how he prioritizes the demands put on him by life as a single dad and busy organic farmer.
Jeff: “Well, I am constantly torn. I know I only have my kids for a short period of time and I sacrifice things to be with them. But hey, I have made a choice to put them first. I used to go to all the farmer’s markets. It’s been so long since I have been there myself and I know my sales are higher if I’m the one talking to my customers, but it’s more important I’m with my kids; it’s my priority.”
I asked him what his week looks like this week.
Jeff: “I take Noah to school at 9:00 AM after I see Lexie off to school. Then I come back to check on all the moving pieces on the farm. Then I am back at school by 2:00 to pick them up. Three days a week I take Noah to the baseball training facility Everett. He made the H.S. baseball team also and during the season, he will have 3-4 games a week.”
He kind of chuckled and mentioned that this Saturday Noah has a double game day. One at 11:00 AM in Seattle and one at 6:00 PM at another field.
Jeff was quite an accomplished player in his youth and gets a proud grin on his face talking about not missing any of Noah’s practices or games.
He shares Lexie every other week with her Mom and I asked how she is doing.
Jeff: “I want to teach her so much about life. She just made her first soccer team, so that is new for us this year.”
He shared that he has also battled Chronic Vertigo that he has improved by about 80% largely by eating a gluten free, egg & dairy free diet. Knowing his love of food, we drilled him on how he keeps this diet up.
Jeff: “I really miss cheese. I can eat some sheep’s cheeses and a little goat cheese, but I simply feel so much better with no dairy and no gluten. I think more than half of America just thinks they have indigestion, when they are really having an allergic reaction to gluten.”
He walks us to his 5 new super greenhouses he built by hand with funding from Whole Foods.
Jeff: “Whole Foods really does practice what they preach and truly serves that community and supports local farmers. It has been an amazing partnership these past few years.”
He was able to start sugar snap peas in January and they are now over 6” tall and almost busting through the roof.
Jeff: “Each row will yield about 400 pounds at $5.00 per pound.”
We look over acres of freshly planted little starts of mixed lettuces. The valley is gorgeous today.
Jeff: “The farm is my sanctuary. I really see myself still hopping up on the tractor at 80, even if it’s to get my tractor fix”
Jeff found his soul mate and sweetheart this year and is recently engaged. His fiancée, Lisa, is also a busy single parent. They will be married this August on the farm.