"It all began with a seed catalog and compost in a quiet neighborhood where Karli and her partner, Luke, built a little garden. This garden grew so well it was clear that the need for more space was inevitable. “When you grow 300 spaghetti squash in a season, that’s when you realize it’s time to get more land,” said Karli.
Having an abundance of excess crops means friends, family, and clients all benefited. Even a friends swine herd reaped a large amount of that 300-squash production. Luke and Karli were entertained watching those pigs chase after squash and it felt good not to waste them.
This was part of the inspiration for Luke to start his own swine herd once they found a larger piece of property. They quickly jumped into farming with two feet.
Friends and family were very interested from the get-go. I mean, who doesn’t love piglets and good bacon? This was the start of Thistle and Bristle. They had their first CSA pork share in June 2021 and are quickly expanding with 18 piglets born in December!
The name comes from the large amount of seemingly endless thistles the family has pulled from the clay soil. “If you pay attention to the soil, it will show you what you are lacking and how it’s trying to protect itself and create balance,” explains Karli. “Thistles are very common in clay as the root system is designed to loosen compacted soil. This is something we’re working on changing slowly over time and where pigs come in,” hence, the name Thistle & Bristle.
“Our pigs are gently tilling the land and helping to improve our overall soil quality. As we add more diversity, the soil will continue to improve.” Today, Thistle and Bristle raise pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and hopefully adding sheep this spring.
When it comes to farming, Luke is very familiar with the territory from growing up on a small family farm and spending the past 15 years farming geoduck. Karli grew up in a linen supply family, spending the last 20+ years in health and skincare. She says it is eye opening learning how there is not as much nutrition in the grocery store anymore. “I overheard people mention our food not having as much nutrition in it as there was in the past, but now I know why.”
Over the last few years, she has learned and become more aware of the importance of local food sources. “We are seeing a lot of problems with gut health,” explains Karli, “along with the rise of autoimmune and inflammatory issues due to the overwhelming amount of processing occurring in the food industry. Loads of antibiotics and other drugs are being pumped into conventionally raised animals, which we, in turn are consuming. Meat, fruit and vegetables are all required to go through chlorine and other disinfecting baths just to be on the grocery store shelf.”
This brings up a good question: How much chlorine are you consuming on a daily basis? And to follow up; did you even know your meat is bathed in chlorine and/or other cleaning products before it’s neatly packaged and placed on the refrigerated shelf? Karli explains, “This is a subject I am passionate about, especially since we have young kids. I’d love to grow awareness about the origin and process of food so people can truly give full consent to what they’re eating. Our microbiomes need bacteria and eating foods from healthy soils with biodiversity is essential to your health. In healthy soil, the good bacteria tremendously outweigh the bad, but they both play a role.”
Buying community supported agriculture (CSA) from local farmers has more benefits than just a health aspect. You get to see where your food comes from and what farming practices are used while receiving the benefit of more nutritional food for your family. Plus, you are generating a more sustainable economy by keeping your dollars local and supporting a local family. Did you know the average distance food travels to get to your plate is about 1500 miles? Find your local farmers whose farming style fits your lifestyle and sign up for a CSA. Experience the difference of locally raised animals on your plate.
To follow along with Karli as she shares about local food, labeling and the farm life of Thistle and Bristle, visit their Instagram page @thistle.and.bristle. You can also visit their website.