Mitch Lewis had no idea when he scaled Mount Everest that lessons he learned in climbing the highest peaks around the world would help operate a Thurston County regenerative farm and gathering space. But that’s exactly what happened. And today, Summit Farms reflects the values he and spouse Michelle gathered along a global journey that brought them to their farm’s 28 bucolic acres near Millersylvania State Park.

“You can’t do it alone,” says Mitch in describing what climbing taught him about life. “You are part of a small team and a bigger team of a global community. You will have a lot of adversity, but also a lot of perseverance.”

“Being a farmer is more difficult than climbing,” he adds.

“There are no short cuts to farming,” says Michelle. “It takes a lot of hard work, and nurturing and intention. Then the rewards are amazing.”

‘Gut Feeling’ Leads to Launch of Summit Farms

Mitch knows about adversity, perseverance and starting new chapters. A renowned athlete, he climbed the highest mountains and ran marathons on seven continents. Mitch is a former tech industry executive in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and an author and motivational speaker on coaching and mentoring. He and Michelle are passionately dedicated to improving the world. Today, they live that role as small commercial farmers who are also environmental stewards.

Mitch Lewis standing on a mountain top covered in snow holding a pickax
Mitch Lewis climbed the highest mountains on seven continents, including Mount Everest. He says lessons learned in climbing help in life and in operating Summit Farms in Thurston County. Photo courtesy: Mitch Lewis

Mitch and Michelle made the surprising decision to move from the Bellevue area to Thurston County and launch Summit Farms once they saw the property in 2021. They originally did not intend to move south of Renton. Plus, the farm’s property had been neglected, needed work and they had no farming experience. Nevertheless, they purchased the property. “I gravitate toward things that are hard,” says Mitch.

“Both of us had a little voice inside us, a gut feeling, that we are supposed to live here,” says Michelle. “We sit on our porch and look at the birds and the trees and think about how special it is. There is a little bit of spiritual peace as well.”

Thurston County Summit Farms Offers Non-GMO Produce, Agritourism, Event Center, RV Slips and More

Mitch and Michelle pour their considerable energy into their sustainable farming and hospitality operation, living in and working from the original farmhouse built in 1912. “Mitch is the do-er, and I am the thinker, planner and helper,” says Michelle of their division of labor.

Mitch and Michelle Lewis  in overalls in the snow, standing by a tractor. Mitch is holding a pitchfork and Michelle is holding a Farmlife calendar
Mitch and Michelle Lewis purchased 28 acres in Thurston County to launch Summit Farms in 2021. Since then, they have partnered with many local organizations and they thank the community for its support. Photo courtesy: Mitch Lewis

Zoned for agritourism, the spread gives them space to grow salsa ingredients and offers a 1910 two-story Gambrel historic former dairy barn and event center. Events at “The Big Red Barn” have included a celebration of life, May Day gathering, speaker presentations and meetings. Going forward, Mitch and Michelle are figuring out what other events fit into the barn’s setting. “We are trying it on for size,” says Michelle.

The property also houses a milk parlor, two greenhouses, five full RV hook-up spaces that are open seasonally, a private Cedar-lined authentic Finnish steam sauna and fields in which to play. The farm is home to frogs, a pheasant named Paddy who has no tail feathers and visiting Canada geese.

Mitch Lewis in the Summit Farms historic barn’s upper level that is renovated as an event space. Visit the farm’s website for information on reserving the barn space for gatherings and meetings. Photo credit: Nancy Krier

Summit Farms’ Products are Available at Farmers Markets and South Sound Fresh

Summit Farms uses non-GMO organic seeds and fertilizers. The farm specializes in ingredients to make salsas, sauces, pickles and relishes. Examples include tomatoes including tomatillos, peppers, cucumbers, a variety of herbs, garlic, white onions and red shallots. They also grow squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, Italian plums, pears, apples and English walnuts.

The vegetables and herbs, as well as starts, succulents and seedlings, are available at the Olympia and Tumwater Farmers Markets and through South Sound Fresh.

Mitch and Michelle Lewis standing behind a table full of plants for sale with a sign above their heads that says, 'Summit Farms estd 2021'
Mitch and Michelle Lewis of Summit Farms make their locally-grown ingredients for salsa, sauce, pickles and relishes available at the Olympia Farmers Market, Tumwater Farmers Market and through South Sound Fresh. Photo courtesy: Mitch Lewis

Thurston County Farming and Business Communities Embrace Summit Farms in Team Effort

Like with mountain climbing where you are roped together and sherpas help and guide you, it takes a team effort to succeed in farming. Although new to the area and to farming, Mitch and Michelle dove right in to partner with the community. They are Certified Tourism Ambassadors and Mitch serves on the local Agritourism Advisory Committee. The Thurston Conservation District, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the Community Farm Land Trust, and the Thurston Economic Development Council are just a few of the organizations helping them develop skills.

In turn, the community has embraced their efforts. Mitch and Michelle say local farmers have generously guided and supported them. A perfect illustration is when their ATV got stuck in the mud. The predicament ultimately involved a pickup truck, tractor, a tow truck, a set of lost keys in the dark summer night, and many locals. “We had 12 strangers out there,” says Mitch of their neighbors who pitched in to rescue the ATV. “This is what this community has been like.”

For more information, visit the Summit Farms website or call 707.540.5567.

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