Farming is alive and well in the twenty-first century. Washington has long been a vital part of our nation’s food supply, with the state’s Department of Commerce acknowledging that “Agriculture is woven into the fabric of Washington State’s heritage and has been an important part of our culture since the earliest days of territorial settlement. Farmers and ranchers provide environmental stewardship that supports 15 million acres of the state’s lands.”
For students and faculty at the Evergreen State College, environmental stewardship rises to new heights…with delicious results. For more than 40 years, the Evergreen Organic Farm has provided a hands-on, green thumb haven for sustainable, certified organic goods. More than simply a garden, the Farm prides itself on being “a working small-scale organic farm that serves as a learning laboratory focused on small-scale organic agriculture. The Organic Farm currently produces fruit, vegetables, eggs, chickens, herbs, cut flowers and sheep.”
Connor Murphy, farm manager, explains that “The Organic Farm grows nearly 100 different crops, including: annual and perennial vegetables, annual and perennial flowers, fruit trees, berries and herbs. We raise chickens for eggs and meat and keep bees for honey. We also produce value-added products such as jam. The Organic Farm is sustained by the on-campus sale of farm-grown products. We have a twice-weekly market on Red Square and also supply a small Community Supported Agriculture program.”
Assistant farm manager Beth Leimbach is an Evergreen alum of the first farm program in 1992. After receiving her Bachelors of Science in organic agriculture she rejoined the program with the 2014 growing season. “The Farm is kind of a destination for some people,” she agrees. “Some people come to Evergreen to take our program from across the state and the country; that is all they want to do.”
Prospective students and their parents are often “blown away” by the Farm, says Leimbach. One family, dropping their child off to start the fall session of classes, recently toured the Farm prior to opening a nursery back home in Alaska. Other summer visitors included teachers from a Texas middle school, eager to learn about the facility and operations.
Murphy is proud that “the Food and Agriculture program at Evergreen is consistently named as one of the top programs of its kind in the nation. The Organic Farm is supported by staff, student farm aides and faculty with students enrolled in the Practice of Organic Farming program (POF) working as interns on the Organic Farm throughout the entire growing season.”
Few college programs are as tasty or come with such an eager following. The Farm’s produce and wares are sold seasonally in front of the Evergreen Library on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. from May through late October or early November.
The community produce stand serves a crucial role as well. “The team uses money from sales to fund the operations side, buying tools, seeds, supplies and equipment,” says Leimbach. “It also teaches the market side of farming: care and post-harvest handling, display and customer service. And, I’d like to shout-out some praise to faculty and staff – they’re huge supporters!”
As the season winds down, Murphy encourages shoppers to visit often. “Beautiful tomatoes are beginning to be harvested in great number, our lilies are gorgeous, sweet corn will be ripe soon and our famous strawberries are back in season—this is a great time of year to be on the Organic Farm,” he shares.
Staff hope to expand the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program which provides weekly produce to local subscribers and are currently upgrading infrastructure around the property to help make this a reality.
Industry experts are hopeful about the continued growth and sustainability of organic farms. The “USDA reported on April 20, 2017, that there are 24,650 certified organic farming operations in the United States, a 70 percent increase since 2008.”
Thanks to the Evergreen Organic Farm’s four-decade quest to teach, learn and grow, such demand will be met by graduates ready to put healthy food on the table for generations to come.
To visit, volunteer or ask questions, call the Farm at 360-867-6160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Farmhouse can also be rented for meetings or events. Find directions and information on available tours online.