Mixing Traditionalism with Modernity
In a world where people’s food choices are becoming increasingly conscientious, the community of smaller, family run ethical farms is an asset that many are seeking out. As we seek out more ethical choices in where we get our food, Whatcom County has built a growing community of farmers optimistic about a viable future of organic, self-sustaining farms. Wright Brothers Farm, an up and coming vegetable farm located in Ferndale, incorporates these values as a driving force for the future of their business. Craig Wright, who primarily handles financing/marketing and crop planning for the farm, was kind enough to share his story with us.
Established in 1903 as a cedar shingle mill before becoming cleared for agricultural purposes, the evolution of the farm throughout the past century and how it has stayed in the family tells an interesting story. From cedar mill to chicken ranch to dairy farm to vegetable farm, the land has served many purposes. At one point during the 1960s, it was briefly leased out, but the family came back together to continue to expand the farm in 1971 and establish it as Evergreen Station. Craig told me the new farm founded by his uncles was “among the early pioneers of organic growing”. He recalled that he and his brothers all worked together on the farm during the 70s and 80s during elementary, middle, and high school before heading off to college. His parents had “3 boys in 3 years,” meaning something was always broken or was about to be. During the 90s and early 2000s, the farm stayed small and wasn’t producing at a larger scale. Yet as the brothers went off to pursue other careers, they found themselves coming together again in 2015 with ideas for getting involved in farming again.
After taking the “Cultivating Success” course at the Snohomish County WSU Extension Agency, the path to rebuilding the farm had begun to take shape. By this time, each of the brothers had decades of experience with different careers. Mark, the youngest, works as a news anchor on King-5. Chris, the middle brother, had experience as a leader at a large manufacturing machine shop that makes aerospace parts. Craig, the oldest, had been in law, venture capital, and worked in accounting. Craig mentioned that working many years in business had made him always want to be a part of a startup. With the other brothers still putting time in with their current careers, last year he decided to take the step and commit to the farm full time.
The skills that each family member honed during their time away from the farm certainly seems to have benefitted them. This diverse combination of skillsets merge together and fulfill most challenges faced in farming. Chris was able to design and manage the construction of a new automated irrigation system and hoop houses. His son Matt serves as the full-time farm manager and is always building something with help from his brother Zack, a student at WWU. Mark uses his networking and communication skills to develop ideas and reach out to consumers. Craig uses his legal and business knowledge to handle finances and marketing with help from his son Blake, who has taken after his father in pursuing accounting. “That’s the cool thing about it. We love the history of the farm and being good stewards of the land, but also we want to allow everyone to participate in the way that they want to participate”.
Currently, the farm’s primary focus is growing vegetables. Craig remembers when he was younger and working for his uncles how much better the food tasted when it was grown on the farm. While they grow many types of vegetables, his personal favorites are the beet and carrot crops because of their sweetness, as well as heirloom tomatoes. In seeking to grow the highest quality, best tasting vegetables, Wright Brothers Farm focuses intently on soil health and seed selection – choosing the most flavorful varieties to grow. They coordinate with chefs and seed suppliers to find crop varieties that food connoisseurs seek out. On top of their passion for creating great food comes their passion for sustainability. Craig emphasized the farm’s practices of using a low-till planting strategy, raised beds, and drip irrigation while transitioning to being certified organic. “We want to be a part of something that is sustainable and creates great food,” he continues.
As for the future of the farm, it looks to be nothing but optimistic. They hope to expand their vegetable palate and cater to more chefs and public consumers, while always striving for product improvement. Craig stressed the importance of listening to customers and what they desire in a product, as well as the journey of striving to meet that expectation. He tells me “I love being part of this community. Being part of this group of growers and chefs who are really committed to local, delicious, and organic food. To do it with our family makes it that much more fun.” Listening to him speak about his farm, its easy to understand why.
You can sign up for the Wright Brothers CSA on their website or find them at local restaurants Camber and Packers Kitchen + Bar, as well as at Seattle area restaurants Omega Ouzeri, Vios, Terra Plata, Ben Paris, Hearth and Copperleaf Restaurant.