Down on the Farm
Originally from Idaho, Merry Brown-Hayes and her husband Tony followed the path of so many young people here, by leaving the area to “make a living.” They worked in Washington in real estate/construction (respectively). But also like so many who leave, they returned in order to give their children the experience of small-town living, buying property just west of Sandpoint in 1995. Merry had always dreamed of having a farm, so they built a greenhouse first thing, but then the couple opened a real estate business (Windemere Resort Lifestyles). In 2008 the business merged with Sotheby’s, and while Merry continues to work as a realtor, she also began to focus again on her original dream of a farm.
“Each year the gardens and our gardening interests have grown and matured. Every year since we moved here I have started plants and flowers in the greenhouse, and given many, many away to friends and neighbors,” she said. “The love of gardening and all things related to that effort continues to grow and be a driving force in our future. We decided last fall that we wanted to move in the direction of taking our ‘garden passions’ to the next level” — and thus was born Avalon Farms.
“Over the years we have become interested in sustainable gardening with heirloom plants without using any pesticides or non-natural materials on the gardens. We believe in sustainability and in the value of growing fruits, vegetables and flowers ‘the way my grandmother did’. We have never used pesticides on our property and believe that is the best way to ensure what we grow is truly healthy,” Merry explained.
Avalon Farms “debuted” this spring at the Sandpoint Farmer’s Market, to the apparent delight of shoppers as Merry has sold out each week she’s been there. “The market is vibrant and a great venue for people in the area to buy local (which is somewhat unique in the Farmer’s Market world .. as some other markets allow larger producers from out of area into the market). That is something we really believe in,” she said. Later in the summer, she added, the farm will be open for regular hours, and the Avalon Farms Facebook page will be supplemented by a website, so those who can’t make it in to town on Market days can still purchase.
Merry’s “specialty” is heirloom vegetables, along with a particular love of dahlias. “We will have over 100 dahlia plants in the ground, and look forward to sharing those beautiful flowers later this summer. They are a lot of work and must be ‘dug and stored’ each fall. But we have a ‘system’,” she said, and added that honey from Tony’s work as a bee keeper will also be available later in the year.
Merry says, “We love ‘being home’ in Idaho and Sandpoint. We’ve spent most of our lives working with people and providing service, and we want that to continue. As we get older and approach retirement, we want to invest our time in this farming effort that will allow us to do the thing we love and share it with others.”
Share the love with Merry and Tony at the Farmer’s Market, and learn more on the Avalon Farms Facebook page.