Tuesday, April 15, 2008


21 Acre Farm Woodinville

Imagine starting a community supported, small organic farmer growing and teaching, green building practices model facility unique in King County. Can it be possible? Is such a synergy possible— or just a green dream?

21 Acres is bringing this green dream to reality in Woodinville Washington on the north end of King County’s Agricultural District. 21 Acres includes a 5 acred productive farm, over 50 community gardens, nature trails, wildlife corridor, a clay lined pond tied to water recycling systems and an orchard starting up.

“21 Acres started with Friends of the Woodinville Farmers Market deciding to buy this property in 2003-4 to showcase sustainable systems, garden demonstration center. We had a dream of building a farmer’s market community center — a permanent center for Woodinville and Redmond community to grow, buy and sell fresh produce, eggs, and get to know each other.” said Brenda Vanderhoop, 21 Acres Communications Director.

“So the north 3 acres is community gardens for nearly 50 people — many having been here since the inception of our farm. And this year we’re going to break ground on a new 17,000 sq foot facility for farmers to clean, process and store their produce. Our architecture for the new building is going to be LEED Platinum — best green certification— including a living roof where we’ll grow rooftop gardens. Inside the Center will be the works composting toilets, commercial kitchen for Washington Grows and other farmers to take advantage of right here where they grow their crops. We even have a garden shed demonstrating solar, geothermal and living roof with a completed solar powered irrigation system,” said Brenda.

“The Center will be a highly visible example of people, land, agriculture and wildlife co-existing productively and harmoniously. The 21 Acres Center will also provide a year-round farmers market, an accessible system of interpretive trails, ongoing educational programs, and a beautiful venue for community gatherings and celebrations.”

Green dreams are not reserved for the buildings at 21 Acres either.

Washington Grows is partner for the farming that is happening on 5 acres Clayton Thomas and Vince are cultivating.

“Our work on 21 Acres is cultivating 5 acres for organic produce. We are cultivating the land with permaculture principles. That means we aren’t using pesticides — we have small mechanical methods when tilling our soil. That keeps erosion to a minimum and keeps the soil on the land — not running off into the waterways that cut across our land.” said Clayton Burrows.

“We’ve worked closely from the outset of our farm at 21 Acres — which is really just two years old — to revegetate the sides of waterways — growing green buffers 20 feet across from the water. We are in the education business at Washington Grows — helping new farmers learn about organic farming principles, watershed and wetlands protection, and how to balance our need for farmland with wildlife corridors and nature trails.

Teaching conservation practices begins in the field. Vince

“We host a Youth Volunteer Corp -- 6-8th graders who work on the farm for 2 weeks-- a total of 40 hours. Those kids learned about what farming is really about!" I see this work as an opportunity to change a lives -- starting with my won and all the people we involve through our produce stands, through the fresh soups we serve at the market, and the kids who work with us in the field."

"This is my 4th year farming. I started by working with John @ Nature’s Last Stand. Then I met Clayton Burroughs — director of Grown In Washington”. Grown in Washington started in Arlington on 4 acres tough work— just Clayton and I working the field. Clayton operated it alone for years. We kept growing that farm, and it led to another farm Food bank Farm up in Bellingham area— the mission is to grow food for the food bank in Bellingham. After that farm got going, we started 21 acre farm here. It is my life dream— I have to grow great food and then have to sell it.”

Now we have 100 CSA members and 2 farmers markets.

We got encouragement early on from everyone we met starting 21 Acres. “People said ‘You’re going to do it!” which helped along with all the work getting started. The tilth of the soil here isn’t great. The land needs lots of organic material — too sandy in some places, and clay in others. But every year we manage to make the land a little more rich and fertile for planting.

We have a greenhouse, a Japanese tractor and I work the land with Clayton and my true love, Gabrielle.”

“This year we’re growing evergreen strawberries (?), sugar snap peas, melons, a lot of other crops and lots of education to kids who get their hands muddy and start learning about what to grow in each season.”

“We’re naming rows for all the crops this year so kids and folks in the community on a walking path through 21 Acres can learn abut the varieties of vegetables we grow. The high school kids that come here are doing it sometimes against their own wishes. One bunch just wasn’t clicking with the farming we had to do— so I taught them a farm song— everyone started singing and then the work with the hoes in the field got easier — they had fun.” Call him to find out more about this scene.

Interns are crucial to our farms success. We have a range of people. Last year I worked with a 39 year old who wants to start her own farm. Several are late teens or early 20’s — and that’s really satisfying — because we’re getting the next generation of farmers farming.

“We’re in an evolutionary time with this farm in suburban Seattle here. People can still buy anything they want at the grocery store— the farmers market brings back a seasonal rhythm that connects people to local produce.

The farmer’s market where we sell our vegetables can be the first time someone actually sees fresh produce.”

What else do you want me to focus on to tighten up this story?

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