In the winter of 2017, we –Annah and Ellie– were looking for affordable (free) land in Bellingham to start an experimental farm project. We had both been working on vegetable farms for years and our joint enthusiasm gave us the boldness to start a little farm of our own.
We heard about some land in the Birchwood neighborhood that was available for farming and went to check it out on a sunny December morning.
Our first impression was a bit underwhelming. Two abandoned buildings dominated the front of the property, and behind them, the “farm land” was an acre of chest-high Blackberry brambles and 7 foot tall stocks of poison hemlock.
Annah was intrepid as ever and pointed out a section of the field that was mostly grass.
So we started there.
In 2018 we cleared ¼ acre of the property, removing blackberry brambles and root balls, tilling the soil, adding compost and forming vegetable beds.
Two years before we started City Sprouts, the only grocery store in the neighborhood had closed, making food access very difficult for much of the Birchwood community.
We decided to start a cooperative farmers market stand in the neighborhood, collaborating with a few other farms in the area to bring fresh vegetables to the community each Sunday at an affordable price.
The next year, 2019, we cleared more blackberries and increased our vegetable production space to ½ an acre.
In addition to the Birchwood Farmers Market, we also sold at the mid-week Bellingham Farmers Market, and grew 1000 pounds of beets for the the food bank.
In 2020 we cleared another ½ acre of land, making our urban farm a solid acre. We started up our sliding scale CSA, sold produce to some local restaurants and expanded the offerings at the Birchwood Market.
Since 2020 we have been cultivating 1 acre of organically grown vegetables on this previously abandoned field of blackberries. It has been incredibly rewarding to steward this piece of land and create a little farm ecosystem in the middle of a neighborhood. The support we have received from the community has been crucial to our success. The Community Food Co-op, The Bellingham Food Bank, the Twin Sisters Markets, Kulshan Community Land Trust and SeaMar Community Health Center have been essential partners and collaborators.
in 2022 we are excited to continue our partnership with Sea Mar to grow a selection of peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables for the FARMACIA program. The FARMacia is a free farmers market for Sea Mar patients.
We are also continuing with our CSA program, as well as the Twin Sisters Markets (which now includes the Birchwood Market.) In addition to growing veggies, we are broadening our impact in the community by offering educational opportunities to the next generation of farmers and food system leaders by offering small scale production farming internships through Western Washington University.