by: AUDRA MULKERN
I met Lynn Swanson of Glendale Shepherd over a year ago at the Bayview Farmers Market on Whidbey Island. Her quiet way and gentle smile drew me to her stand. She was selling some cheese, and soap. I asked if I could take her picture and she shyly agreed. I was so struck by her that I kept in touch over the year in hopes that she would allow me come to her farm during lambing season. As luck would have it, she agreed and not only did I get to experience her farm during it's most precious time, but I was able to see that her quiet way at market also makes her a most thoughtful farmer and cheese maker.
Though the path to farming was laid out before her, Lynn’s journey took a couple of twists and turns before she settled into her destiny as a 4th generation dairy farmer.
Her childhood was spent learning to sew from her aunts at home and at school where Home Economics was still offered as part of the curriculum. Her Aunt and Uncle had a dairy farm in Carnation, WA where she often visited and tended a small flock of sheep that she sheared, spun and dyed the wool for knitting and weaving. She recalls her Aunt being quite the character and believes her to be the main influence in her life path.
As an adult she worked as a clothing pattern maker and tailor while doing her fiber-art design work on the side. Several Seattle galleries sold her pieces and she dabbled in other many other mediums, painting, sculpture and leatherwork.
With animal husbandry in her blood, it seemed only fitting that she would eventually return to farming and opting to raise sheep instead of cows for her dairy. The mediums she now finds herself working on are wool made from her sheep’s yarn and award-winning cheeses made from their milk. Her recent Good Food award wins only serve to motivate Lynn to continue to create incredible food bringing her artisan touch to each wheel of cheese. Even her farm and barns have and incredible aesthetic and light that had me often feeling like I was on a movie set rather than a working farm.
“I do love to make food that people go crazy about!”
— Lynn Swanson
During the two days I spent with Lynn on lamb watch, we would work our way through chores, feeding, laying down bedding, adding water, checking the laboring ewes. I noticed that Lynn would often stop and quietly observe her herd. It felt intimate and reverent, and she explained that the best way to know what was going on with your animals was to spend time every day observing their behavior. She found that she could often predict if one was getting sick or things were not right long before it became a bigger problem. She pointed out the ewes that were several hours away from birth, and could tell right away if a lamb had not nursed well and would spend time encouraging them to suckle and bring their body temperatures up.
When my time with Lynn came to an end, I knew that I had been gifted with much more than the cheese that she shared with me. I had met someone whose lessons of the cycles of life, the seasons, and the joy of working hard will be ones that I will live and share.
“Love the cycles of life, the seasons, enjoy working hard for something important to you. It’s not always 70 degrees and sunny in Paradise.”
— Lynn Swanson