Gholson Gardens is a small, 10-acre farm located in southeastern Washington state, in the quintessential rural community of Walla Walla. The farm is owned and operated by Mike and Elaine Vandiver, two US Army veterans turned first generation farmers.
With no previous agricultural experience, we purchased the farm in May 2014 as a way to start anew after learning a traditional family wasn't in the cards for us. We didn't have any immediate plans for the farm, which was mostly in pasture. We simply hoped to enjoy the beautiful red barn, sweeping views of the Blue Mountains from the farmhouse porch, and maybe get some critters to complete the country scene.
Shortly after purchasing the farm, the previous owner handed over a dusty packet of papers that would change our perspective on the farm's prospects and would ultimately change the entire trajectory of our lives!
The packet contained copies of documents which showed the farm was once an old homestead acquired under the Homestead Act of 1862. The documents chronicled the homestead process in fascinating details and identified Nathaniel S. Gholson (pronounced goal-son), a pioneer from Iowa, as the petitioner for the land on May 12, 1870. A detailed account of his journey is on the the Gholson history tab.
In discovering our farm's rich heritage and doing a bit of research, we were humbled to learn about the Gholson family's journey from Iowa on the Oregon Trail via the Kennedy Wagon Train of 1862. It is hard to not be inspired by such accounts. And when looking at the 10-acre parcel that remains, with the original barn, adjacent milking parlor and creamery, along with the old farmhouse, we were compelled to find our own unique way to return the farm to its pioneering and productive roots.
For us, that meant raising a herd of alpaca who sustainably graze the pastures while providing us with superior, soft fiber. We launched our first farm business shortly after our first fiber harvest in May 2014, which we call Old Homestead Alpacas.
In the fiber harvests that have followed, we began to offer more than just knitting yarns and spinning fibers, which ultimately led us to launch a line of professionally machine-knit garments. Limited by the natural colors within our herd, we began exploring safe, eco-friendly methods at dyeing the fiber. Not wanting to apply commercial grade acid dyes and chemicals to such an exquisite natural fiber, we soon discovered natural dyeing techniques using heirloom dye plants and flowers. And not soon after that, we discovered those dye plants and flowers grow extremely well in the Walla Walla valley. We started our first dye garden in 2016 and in 2017 we added a few rows of zinnia and dahlias to cut for our own personal enjoyment on the farmhouse table.
Growing cut flowers for ourselves alongside the dye flowers was as enjoyable as it was enlightening. Knowing that the fiber takes 2 years to bring to market (1 year for the alpacas to grow it and the better part of another year spent professionally milling, knitting and then hand dyeing), we quickly realized that growing cut flowers for market could be a great way to diversify the farm. And that's what we did! We sowed our first seeds in late February 2018 and began field production in early May, selling them at the local farmer's market from June through September. We sell primarily at the Walla Walla Downtown Farmers Market and to a few local florists, but are also offering a 'bouquet CSA' starting in Spring 2019.
2019 - find us at the following farmer's markets - Downtown Walla Walla every Saturday from 9am to 1pm - May through October and in College Place at Lions Park every Thursday from 4pm to 8pm May through September.