A long-standing fall tradition continues in Central Whidbey, where a fifth generation Sherman and her family have assumed management of a beloved Coupeville farm.
Alix Roos and her husband Brandon Roos took over operations of the land formerly known as Sherman’s Pioneer Farm after Alix’s uncle and aunt, Dale and Liz Sherman, retired at the end of last year. The farm has been an important fixture in the community for decades, especially during the autumn months as a hub for pumpkins and squash and a trolley ride locale.
Alix and Brandon have rebranded the farm as Scenic Isle Farm due to its proximity to Highway 20, a designated scenic isle through the state of Washington. The couple leases the family land where the farm sits, which comprises four acres of carving pumpkins, an acre and a half of mixed vegetables, the historic barn and more.
Brandon was the first to express interest in farming, Alix said. Though Alix spent many childhood weekends helping out and playing on the farm, neither she nor Brandon have a professional background in agriculture. Alix served as the director of the nonprofit fundraising group Friends of Ebey’s for several years before working on a startup that supports nonprofit organizations. Brandon is a project manager for a construction company in the Bellevue area.
“We did plan it a little bit, but not much,” Brandon said with a laugh. “It all sort of happened.”
For the Roos family, maintaining family traditions is a matter of great importance. They will continue to offer trolley rides to the pumpkin patch like Dale Sherman did, and they will continue to grow the crops that the Shermans have grown there for generations.
“Hubbard squash and Rockwell beans are a heritage crop that has been a big tradition in our family and a lot of multigenerational farming families around here,” Alix said.
Her grandfather, Edwin Sherman, even helped Washington State University develop the sugar Hubbard squash, an extra sweet strain of the crop that thrives in the climate of northwestern Washington.
The couple has so far enjoyed two fun and successful weekends of fall festivities, with first-time farm visitors joining those who have been coming to the Sherman farm for decades. Brandon said he loves to see their excitement, especially among young children, when they find the pumpkin that speaks to them out in the four-acre patch.
The couple said they could not have come this far without the stewardship and help of many, including Alix’s mother, who was a strong advocate for the land’s preservation and protection; Dale and Liz and past Sherman generations who have cared for the land since the 1890s; and the many farmers in the community who have contributed their mentorship and knowledge as Brandon and Alix take their first foray into agriculture.
“It means a lot to think about what’s come before us,” Brandon said.
Alix agreed, adding that the farm is meaningful not only to the extended Sherman family, but to many in Central Whidbey.
“Dale and Liz left a really amazing imprint that was decades long that allowed the community to come out here in the fall and celebrate harvest season,” she said.
Since it’s staying in the family, the farm will continue to provide heritage to future Shermans and others. Alix and Brandon’s 10-year-old daughter, Zayne Roos, a sixth-generation Sherman, already helps out around the farm, manning the cash register, making popcorn, helping with the pumpkins and even driving a small tractor.
“I went to an outdoor education school for five years, so I like just being outside,” the fifth grader said when asked about her favorite part of being on the farm.
Zayne’s love of the outdoors is shared by field manager Jess Maeder, who has worked part-time as a consultant on Scenic Isle Farm since March. Maeder attended the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. She worked on another Central Whidbey farm as an intern and fell in love with the area. She moved back to Whidbey Island after finishing her program and has worked on several farms on the island.
“It’s just such a gorgeous place,” she said. “Even if I feel like I’m not doing enough, or like things haven’t gone as planned, when you’re out here, and the sun comes out behind those clouds, you’re just like, ‘This is exactly where I’m supposed to be.’”
She added that Alix and Brandon have been wonderful to work with.
“It’s nice to have them rooting for me, and I’m rooting for them, too,” she said.