Not unlike its host of hungry piglets, Rainier’s Vail View Farms is in its infancy.
After Fred Delaney retired from the military in 2017 from a 26-year career in electronic warfare, Delaney was left with a big question mark as to what to do next.
“There’s really not much to do in the outside world with electronic warfare,” he said.
Yet he didn’t have to look far to find inspiration.
Delaney’s dad grew up on a farm in Eastern Washington and his father-in-law operates a farm in Rainier.
“So I looked around and found these 10 acres (in 2018),” Delaney said, gesturing around his land as he spoke with the Nisqually Valley News on his farmhouse porch. “It’s kind of a small piece of land. First, we moved in to live on a piece of land with a great view, but then we bought some chickens, and chickens are kind of a gateway drug to farming.”
While chickens are not yet a source of profit for Delaney, that fact doesn’t stop him from trying.
“I’m really going to dig in with the chickens,” he said. “I have Bresse chickens, which is a French breed. They’re one of the newest breeds in America and they’re supposed to be the best-tasting chicken in the world. I haven’t noticed a difference in mine yet, but it’s the French. They have a certain way they raise them. So I’ve done some studying. I’m going to do some experimenting with raising them.”
After buying the chickens, Delaney added some pigs to his stock.
“Pigs are really fun to have on the farm,” he said, as one grandmother sow noisily picked on her own granddaughter in the spacious pig pin after being recently transplanted from the nursery. “So I just started to buy more pigs and kind of built it from there. I think I have seven or eight sows right now and two boars and a whole bunch of piglets.”
Pigs happen to be Delaney’s main source of profit, selling the piglets as weaners, or the adults as butcher hogs in halves and wholes. Delaney said he has three different breeds of pigs.
“My boars are Berkshire, a really good meat pig. And then I have duroc and Hampshire. My first duroc, I crossed with a Yorkshire, so I’ve got some Yorkshire-looking pigs, but they’re really duroc-Yorkshire,” he said.
He said one of his boars is “so ugly that he’s cute.”
At one point during the interview, Delaney’s farm dogs, a friendly trio of Border Collies, noticed that a portion of the fence holding in some sows had somehow fallen down. Like good farm dogs, they worked together to hem the pigs in until Delaney could fix the fence.
“Good dogs,” Delaney said, recalling the time a sow got hostile with him.
According to Delaney, the dogs “were on her immediately,” doing their job to protect him.
Delaney went to Evergreen State College and graduated this spring with a degree in organic farming.
“I’m looking at adding vegetables,” he said. “I was hoping to do it this year, but with COVID and then some other issues I had on the farm, I didn’t get the organic farm started. I got a small portion, and then I’ll probably have some winter crop to sell, but next year’s going to be the big push for garden vegetables.”
The farm also features a herd of goats that Delaney’s friend simply dropped off one day, as well as some cows for his kids’ 4-H projects.
He has three sons, ranging from 5 to 12 years old.
It’s the boys that really got him interested in what farming could offer the family not in profit, necessarily, he said, but in profitable time.
And with his many deployments and training over the years, that kind of time was once hard to come by.
“I didn’t want a nine-to-five that ended up being a seven-to-six,” Delaney said. “I didn’t want to be out of my sons’ lives. Kind of being family-oriented is what drove me to be here on the farm and be involved in my boys’ lives.”
In the end, Delaney said he feels like he’s been able to slice off his own piece of paradise for his family to make memories in.
“You can sit here and watch those trees sway and listen to the wind,” Delaney said, grinning from the farmhouse porch. “You’re two minutes from Rainier, 15 minutes from Yelm, but it’s like you’re in the mountains out here.”
Visit vailviewfarms.com for more information.