Peninsula farm work a savior for ex-convict

DUNGENESS — Mud, carrots and moisture are Patrick Drum’s tickets to an unexpected life.

He’ll tell you right off that he spent close to half his adulthood in prisons around the state.

He’ll also tell you that for the past two years, he’s been doing something that makes him feel good at the end of each day.

Drum, 33, is a year-round field worker at Nash’s, supplier of organic produce to Western Washington.

On this Labor Day, Drum is laboring, all right.

It’s the peak of harvest season in the 400 acres Nash’s leases across the fertile Dungeness Valley.

Ask Drum what he did last week, and he replies: “a bunch of irrigatin’.”

He also bags grain and picks lettuce, cabbage, spinach, carrots, berries, broccoli and anything else among the 100 crop varieties grown on Nash’s farm.

It was Kia Armstrong and Scott Chichester, two longtime managers at Nash’s, who gave Drum a chance in September 2009.

He had a prison record, having most recently served four years for drug-related offenses at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

“From the time I was 16, I would get intoxicated. I used chemicals,” Drum recalled.

“I was just lost . . . in nonsense.”

His parents were also users. His mother died in 1996 at age 47; his father followed in 1998 at age 50.

But “I stayed acting up for a while,” Drum said, adding, “I’m a slow learner.”

While he was at the penitentiary, Drum saw other inmates, career criminals who were serving 30 years or more.

“One wrong turn, and that was their life,” he said.

Somewhere, Drum found the will to start down a different path.

Released from Walla Walla at 31, he got a job washing dishes at a Sequim restaurant.

He did that, and hated it, for nine months.

He heard Nash’s was hiring, and that they were good people.

He also heard the work was grueling: out in the fields all winter, come rain, wind and snow.

“You can’t handle that,” somebody told him.

But Drum liked the sound of being outside.

He applied at Nash’s, and then kept going back to check in, day after day, until managers Kia Armstrong and Scott Chichester hired him.

“It came down to his presence as an individual,” Chichester said.

“I felt like I was speaking to somebody who was already on a path to changing his life.”

Ever since, Chichester added, Drum has shown himself to be “somebody who always wants to do the right thing, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes.”

This past winter and spring have been “particularly difficult, for sure,” said Chichester, who’s in his 14th year at Nash’s.

“They were the wettest, and the latest, since I’ve been on the farm.”

A lot of applicants have come to Nash’s saying they really want to work, added Armstrong.

Then, reality — and winter — set in.

And those same people find that they don’t want to do this work.

Drum is different, Armstrong said.

“As the seasons change, and the job roles change, Patrick is always there, willing to help, willing to put in the time.”

Drum devotes the larger share of his energy to farming — which he finds gratifying — but he’s just started a side business: selling vials of rainwater from Forks.

Fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga are ordering them from Drum’s website at $13.50 apiece.

Drum includes a necklace chain with the vial, plus a notarized certificate of authenticity, for $13.50.

He said people all over — Arizona to New Zealand — are ordering them.

“I always come up with ideas. I’m following through with this one; it might work,” Drum said.

After all, Forks rain has made the North Olympic Peninsula world-famous, like volcanic ash put Mount St. Helens on the map back in 1980.

At this point, Drum plans to donate proceeds to Forks-area nonprofit groups; he said he’s researching them now.

As for his future, Drum hopes to continue at Nash’s, learn more about farming, and maybe make something of this side-business idea.

He also likes to hike — the Storm King trail above Lake Crescent is a good workout, he says — and just “check out the beach” after work.

“I got lucky, with Nash’s,” Drum said.

Job-hunting is hard for ex-offenders, since “if you write on your application, ‘Yes, I’ve been convicted of a felony,’ that’s a big barrier.”

Not having a job, in turn, is a barrier to putting one’s life on track.

“I want to be an example,” Drum said, of a former offender who became a dedicated worker.

These days he’s looking forward to celebrating the fall harvest at Nash’s on Oct. 1, when the farm hosts its semiannual barn dance.

“When I go, I don’t drink,” he said.

“I do dance.”


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at

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