Growing Garden A community food Co-op farm fund project

The Growing Garden is owned by Brent Harrison, one of the founding fathers of Whatcom County organic agriculture. The Growing Garden has been bringing fragrant basil and other local herbs and veggies to the co-op for thirty years.

The Community Food Co-op's Farm Fund Next Step grant award couldn't have come at a better time, as the farm prepares to grow and transition to new ownership by young farmer and current farm manager Mike Long.

Brent (left) has provided a unique opportunity for Mike (right), to run the farming operation for the last six years, with the goal of transitioning to ownership as Brent moves toward retirement.

Brent started the farm in 1983-4, (Mike said "I was just one or two years old at the time"), when the only organic market was the Co-op. His years building the farm into a thriving business have created a foundation for Mike to explore new markets and products, with the backing of Brent's veteran experience and work to build the infrastructure of the farm - a beautiful plot of land with rich dark soil, established beds and greenhouses, overlooking Mt Baker.

Brent sees the Next Step grant easing the farm's transition, giving Mike more infrastructure and expanding his possibilities for the future of the farm. "It's helped boost us towards a goal and driven us to put more resources towards it, he said. "It's kind of exciting to think about things on a larger scale. Instead of us slowly accumulating the capital, the grant definitely advanced the timeline for our projects."

Now, as the recipient of a Next Step grant, the farm is embarking on new adventures and a transition in ownership to a young, local farmer.

Mike has a strong background in biodynamic farming, and hopes to expand into medicinal herbs and native plants that can be wild crafted or dried. He said, "we can maintain our size and integrity if we can just expand a few of the markets that we already have and keep it really local which has always been a core idea here. I want to maintain that, perfecting what we already have."

Mike and his wife Molly recently bought a five acre farm, certified organic as a second site of the Growing Garden.

Co-op members, give yourself a pat on the back. This is where we really see the full circle of the Co-op's work with local farms - with the support of the Whatcom Community Foundation, Co-op and community members, the Farm Fund offers Next Step grants and loans.

With the funding, farmers expand and stabilize their businesses, offering more high quality, fresh, local food. Brent Harrison passes his experience and farm infrastructure on to Mike, who in turn works to support emerging farmers, and the result is that delicious local food ends up on our dinner plates.

Article by Laura Steiger. Photography by Matt Curtis. Spark by Habiba Sial.


Matt Curtis

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