Green Angel Gardens

Nurturing art, growth and sustainability

Larkin Stentz is the proprietor of a small, sustainably-minded organic farm in Long Beach, Washington.

     As a kid, Larkin Stentz huffed and puffed about having to go to church. Exasperated, his parents offered an alternative: Weed the rose bushes. It didn’t work.

     “That was a turning point,” says Stentz. “I really enjoyed sitting among rose plants, just sitting and listening to the birds. It was very tranquil. So at some point it just got into my system.”

     Today, Stentz is the proprietor of a small, sustainably-minded organic farm in Long Beach, Washington. But to Stentz, Green Angel Gardens is more than a place to simply grow fruits and vegetables. “It’s more than a farm and maybe not as much of a farm,” Stentz says. “It’s an educational center.”

     Over the last decade, Stentz has given tours to over 500 grade school-aged students from the North Coast. For grownups, the program is much more much more intensive. Interns and WWOOFers – Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms participants – stay for months at a time, trading 40-hour work weeks for room and board.

     “One of the first things I say to them is: ‘You are now a crew member of spaceship earth,’” Stentz explains. “So what does that really mean? Well, if you’re a ‘crew’ that means you have some responsibility; you have some ownership.

     “You also realize that it’s a closed system, per se,” he continues. “That’s just one of the attitudes I encourage the young people to have while they are here. So every young person gets a pee-bucket here. So you begin to look at what you produce.”

     And while composting solar toilets might seem startling at first, Stentz says the interns and WOOFers regularly experience growth beyond simple farming techniques.

     “They feel better after being here,” Stentz says. “They sleep better. They’re more attuned to the birds singing.”

     Green Angel Gardens has hosted 125 interns and WWOOFers, Stentz says. Most are college aged. They come from across the United States, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Chile and beyond.

      Over the three-month terms, Stentz nurtures not only his students’ understanding of farming but also their arts. In recent years he has opened the farm as a canvas. One WWOOFer, from Japan, painted an ornate, detailed flower in the stairwell of the main house. A portrait of the farm’s cats, Stentz says, jumps off the bedroom wall. Others have created signage, murals and more. The works inspire Stentz, whose own art did the same for another farmer, way back when.

     At 27, Stentz was playing flute on a street corner in Palo Alto, California, when John Jeavons happened by. Jeavons, who has since written acclaimed books on food growing and championed sustainable, “biointensive” techniques, liked what he heard.

     “John asked me to come out and play at his research farm,” Stentz remembers. “And I became enamored with the concept and the ideas, so I studied it and trained with him then and started my own little gardening company in Palo Alto. I would go out and make raised beds for people to grow their food in.”

     At the time, though, Stentz wasn’t quite ready to trade his musical career for life on the farm. Still, he was well aware that connecting with the Earth was paramount, and that art, too, was a part of the puzzle.

     “Earthlight,” Stentz’s album from 1984, has a few inscriptions on the back of the record sleeve. The first reads: “This album is dedicated to John Jeavons and his work helping us to make the garden earth grow. One of his books is ‘How to Grow More Vegetables.’ 10 percent of royalties go to his efforts.”

     The second passage is a poetic musing by Stentz himself, reflecting on his desire to educate others on the interconnected, vital, fragile nature of the Earth:

     “What if the Earth were but a few feet in diameter, floating just above a field somewhere ... (People) would all come to love and cherish it. I’m sure they would promise to protect it – even with their lives. For they would know that it was the only one, and their own wholeness, their own roundness, was somehow related to it.”