CHIMACUM — “Peace and blessings,” Peter Mustin writes at the start of his emails. One could say he hasn’t had a lot of those two things.
Originally from Philadelphia, Mustin spent his teen years in that city. And he’ll be the first to tell you he got into trouble.
There were bright spots: times when Mustin worked outdoors, growing flowers and produce. He remembers his grandparents, self-sufficient people who always had vegetables from their garden and eggs from their hens.
In 1978, the Mustin family moved to the Pacific Northwest, where his father bought land in a place called Chimacum.
But Mustin’s dad suffered from mental illness and addiction. He’s gone now, having left his 24-acre parcel of the fertile valley uncared for.
Today the place is in the midst of a transformation — a restoration — for the owner and for the ground under his feet.
Mustin is clearing away years of debris and, with the help of his allies, turning the soil into sustenance for flowers, poultry, wildlife and people.
Ask him what kind of flowers he’ll grow and he responds: “What won’t we grow?”
Dahlias, peonies, paperwhites and poinsettias are a few favorites, while Mustin plans a poultry flock that’s similarly diverse. Chickens, turkeys and geese already live there; he wants to add quail and pheasant to create a niche for his farm.
It’s called Woodbridge, for the connector Mustin built at the edge of his land. Chimacum Creek flows through the farm, and he intends to honor that habitat.
But first, the cleanup.
Squatters lived here, “and never took out the trash,” Mustin said, so he’s had to haul away abandoned vehicles, various hunks of metal, rolls of barbed wire, piles of lumber.
“It was just ridiculous,” he said, adding he’s filled Dumpsters with many tons of junk.
Yet Mustin can see beyond it all. His supporters can, too. He and Crystie Kisler, co-owner of Finnriver Farm & Cidery, organized a GoFundMe campaign a few months ago via the farm’s website, Woodbridgefarm.net, and illustrated it with a short video by Gabe Van Lelyveld of Whaleheart Productions.
The contributions are pouring in from across Jefferson County and further afield, ranging from $25 on up — and, in a stunning demonstration of how Mustin’s vision has inspired people, $5,000 arrived Wednesday from an anonymous donor.
Chimacum Corner Farmstand, the Port Townsend Food Co-op, the Jefferson County Historical Society and fellow growers from nearby SpringRain Farm and Finnriver also have donated. The Woodbridge Farm campaign has raised three-fourths of its $50,000 goal.
That’ll go fast. Mustin is investing in a large greenhouse and adding shelters for animals, fencing, a water well and filtration system and insurance for it all.
With business partner Cameron Jones now on board, he’s contending with the costs that come with starting a farm and seeking USDA organic certification.
Certified or not, Mustin said he and Jones will use sustainable practices; in this and on other fronts, they’re receiving strong moral support from the crew at Finnriver.
Kisler said it was only natural for her to lend a hand: “He’s a neighbor,” she said.
In establishing the farm and cidery, “we’ve had access to a lot of support and resources,” that Mustin might not have.
Kisler expressed gratitude for the people who’ve supported the GoFundMe effort, and she emphasized she wants no personal credit.
“It’s a joy to see his vision emerging,” she said.
That vision extends beyond growing things. Mustin wants to provide a refuge for people like himself, people who need to get away and heal. If he has his way, Woodbridge Farm will become a place where Black, Indigenous and people of color can breathe.
Mustin, who turns 46 this month, has been farming on and off for three decades.
There are moments when he shakes his head at how life can change. He has served time in prison for multiple felonies. He survived a serious injury — an eight-penny nail from a co-worker’s gun got lodged in his chest while he was working on a construction site.
He’s candid and wry about it all.
“A few years ago, I was in a prison cell. How does that happen?” he said.
“If I can help out other people who were in my position, five years down the line … have kids come out here and work the land, realize there are other things to do,” that will be his dream realized.
There’s plenty of meantime, though, and plenty of work.
Mustin hopes to gather volunteers and have some good weather as winter turns to spring; interested workers can reach him at [email protected]
Mustin acknowledges too the attention he’s receiving as a Black farmer in Jefferson County.
“I would appreciate if the attention was about our product here, and not my skin color,” he said.
Standing on the green grass, a hawk riding the breeze overhead, Mustin is at home.
“I’m putting all my eggs in this basket,” he quipped.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]