History of the Organic Farm

an old film photo of the farm house from the archives. a group of students are sitting in the grass in front of the farm house

History of the Organic Farm

The 1971-1985 timeline of the Organic Farm was written by Claude Mahmood, gathered and reviewed as a project in Ecological Agriculture. We are regularly adding to our records and updating the timeline. 


A Vision

The Evergreen Organic Farm became a vision for students in the Environmental Design class where they learned that on the west edge of the school property, there was an old farm. Meetings were set up on regular basis to see if the community would help establish a farm on the Evergreen Campus. During these meetings, these four pertinent guidelines were formed:

  • The Farm was to be a college project involving everybody at Evergreen and not just one coordinated studies program.

  • The Farm would attempt to involve community help as much as possible.

  • The Farm was to be run in strict accordance with ecological principles. It was to be an organic garden.

  • The Farm was to be governed by general consensus of the entire group. There would be room for individual projects of any compatible sort, but the entire operation would not be run by any one person.

There was a fifth point that was debated at almost every meeting about using human and animal power only and no gas or electrical tools or machines on the farm. Due to the large size of the farm, this point was eventually rejected and not put into place.


Student Proposal

In 1972 the actual proposal for the farm was put together by a group of students in the winter and President McCann proposed it to the Board of Trustees that quarter. The Board of Trustees approved the proposal and thus the farm was formally instituted in 1972.

The farm was given $800 from the Student Activities Fee Board to get the farm started. The students began working on the farm by cleaning out the old and neglected farmhouse and started working the land by clearing stumps. They decided to rotovate the garden area in the spring and then apply "animal manure (approximately 10 tons) from various sources, hops from the brewery, and with dolomite lime." (1974 Ralph Allen, et al) They also tried to start composting the food services and dormitories food scraps, but do to lack of good separation, this was stopped at the end of Spring Quarter.

It was also during the spring of 1972 that the farm realized it needed someone to be a caretaker to help maintain and provide security at the farm. However, due to the poor condition of the farmhouse, the deans felt it needed to be in a safer condition for someone to live in. It was because of this concern that the farm group began the clean-up and remodeling of the farmhouse. Students from the Environmental Design class began redesigning the old farmhouse to make it livable. Most of the students in Environment Design helped on the farmhouse and garden area during the spring, but most of the students then left for the summer. During the summer, two students  remained and they managed to keep the garden growing with some help from faculty, prospective students, community members and neighbors.

The farmhouse was made waterproof by the end of summer. However, the inside was still unfinished. Facilities staff provided materials and labor and that allowed for the farmhouse to be brought up to Thurston County code standards. The two students then moved in. "The well was certified by the health department, the pump was repaired, irrigation pipes were laid, and the septic tank was located by talking with a man who put in the tank and drainfield tiles in 1969. The MacLane Fire Marshall visited the house and gave his approval." (1974 Ralph Allen, et al)

The farm was also offered a free registered Guernsey cow that was pregnant and the farm happily accepted the gift.

That fall, people were so impressed with the produce that the farm had grown and displayed on two tables for orientation week that it renewed student interest in the farm. The Student Activities Fee Board conducted a poll and found that the student farm was ranked fourth and was therefore granted $850 for the school year for supplies that the farm needed for the upcoming year. Though there were still some details and work to be done, the chicken coop was established and students began working on a low-cost plan for a greenhouse.


Planning & Evaluation

Throughout 1973 the following people "Ralph Allen, Jimmy Kagan, Frida Kagan, Tom Kneipp, and Marc Ross with the assistance from Pris Bowerman and Carolyn Dobbs" (1974 Ralph Allen) began working on a extensive plan and evaluation for the organic farm which would take a year to complete. It would encompasses the history, original proposal of the farm and a 3 year evaluation of the farm, statement of philosophy, policy statement and farm activities as well as future plans for the farm.

In the winter of 1973 the planning of next years crops were being worked on and it was decided that they would enlarge the garden area and include a perennial flower garden by Lewis road. The idea of an orchard was also planed but due to the difficulty of some stump removal in the orchard area it was postponed till a later time.

In the spring of 1973 there were many helping hands and new faces almost every day to help out on the farm. A group of twelve students were contracted by Frida Habbick and Carolyn Dobbs to work on the farm during the spring. The farm received 5 tons of manure (almost half of the years before) for lying out on the garden area but this year it was better planned and used more wisely. They also managed to get two Rhode Island Reds, and ten Sex Linked laying hens, they then realized they needed to build a dog proofed fence to protect the new chickens. Because of all the attention that the farm was getting the administration started paying more attention to it and realized that there might be some concerns about the safety of the farmhouse. Even after all the work that had been completed during the summer and fall of the previous year. They also were concerned with the appearance of how the farm looked and that it could give a bad impression of Evergreen. Due to the concerns of the administration the old farmhouse was remodeled and was a drastic improvement of what it was before.

The beginning of the greenhouse was established in the spring and some of the glass was put into place but the as summer came, the student that was leading the greenhouse project left and the greenhouse would not be completed for summer use.

Then in the fall (Nov 1973) the farm was asked to complete an evaluation of its performance which would justify its continued operations. This request looked at five areas that John Moss, the president of Evergreen in 1973 asked and they were broken down into these five areas: Organizational History, Academic History, Physical Layout of the Farm, Current Operations, and Future Plans. In December a Task Force was created under the direction of Pete Steilberg to complete the evaluation of the farm and report back to John Moss by January 31, 1974.


Farmhouse Inspection & Proposal

The Disappearing Task force (DTF) assembled and began to examine the questions that were asked, in doing so they came to realize that they needed to have further physical inspections of the farmhouse and began talking to other faculty at Evergreen to get further input. The DTF turned in on February 20, 1974 the answers to the five main questions and demonstrated that the farm was still very much alive and thriving. However, they were still awaiting an inspection of the old farmhouse which was still to take place in the next month, this would determine if they would need to rebuild a new farmhouse or if they could make some more improvements to the current one.

At this point the DTF felt they had answered the questions that were put forth by John Moss and decided to create two further groups to continue looking at the farmhouse and what needed to be done when the report comes back. These groups were for a "Structure Site Group" and a "Site Plan Group." Though the actual report could not be located, it came back the old farmhouse was not a suitable for living in and that it was beyond salvaging. It was then decided that the farm would build a new farmhouse.

Throughout the rest of the year of 1974 student groups, programs and contracted individuals played a roll in helping to get the design and proposal for the new farmhouse passed through administration so that funding could be acquired for the construction of a new farmhouse which could begin in the next year.

1975 - 1977

New Farmhouse Construction Begins


In the spring of 1975, Evergreen acquired a permit to begin construction and Service and Activities Fee Board allocated $15,000 dollars to the construction of the new farmhouse. In no time the land was cleared and a foundation was laid. It would take students, staff and faculty until February 14, 1980 to officially finish the construction and open the new farmhouse to everyone.

Also in 1975 an agreement was reached to help in "maintaining an attitude of joint ownership, of mutual respect and of shared responsibility between academic programs, plant operations and student activities." (Steilberg 1975)


In the spring of 1976 the construction for the frame of the new farmhouse began. The cow the farm acquired was also given away (no explanations given) and the pasture land was turned over to the community gardens space which rye was planted for the winter to help reduce weeds and help maintain a healthy soil for next spring in the community gardens.


In the winter of 1977 plastic had to be placed over the small glass greenhouse as it was in need of repairs and falling apart which the program "Back to the Land" completed. Also this year two full time work study programs were created and new tools were purchased for the farm thanks to the work of David Yates. The new farmhouse continues to be built and the roofing became the main priority along with completing the framing for the year.

On October 10, 1977, Woody Deryckz wrote a memorandum to Rob Knapp outlining some long range ideas that Evergreen might want to consider for the agricultural program. This was a four page outline document that detailed some of the current needs that Evergreen might want to look at in shaping how to teach further programs on organic/ecological agriculture.

1978 - 1979

Solar Greenhouse Construction


In the winter of 1978, the construction of the solar greenhouse was started through a group contract which would be completed in 1979. During the summer, a group contract was led Carolyn Dobbs and Kaye Ladd at the Organic farm called "Organic Gardening" which helped maintain the garden space during the summer.

A group of students took a year to write up "The 1979 Plan and Evaluation for the Organic Farm at Evergreen State College." This was an extensive document that pulled together many aspects of the Organic farm since the 1974 DTF to answer the initial five questions posed by John Moss. In this they proposal a biennium review of the farm to look at several areas including: updating the history of the farm, decision making/policy statement, Description of the components of the Organic Farm, academic involvement at the farm, and recommendations for the future. However, there was only one more biennium document created in 1981 that there is record of. (1979 May Wright, Sharon Newell; et al)


In the spring 1979 the farm found out it had fifteen new chicks after the mother popped up out of the woods one day. The completion of the solar greenhouse was achieved in the fall and this year the farm also acquired a cider press and a solar dryer was created during the summer.


New Farmhouse Opens

In 1980 on February 14 (Valentines Days) the new farmhouse was officially opened. At the Thurston County Fair in August students won an award for the most outstanding educational exhibit. In September the first Harvest Fest was conducted and over 800 people showed up in support of the Harvest Fest, every year after the farm has held a Harvest Fest.


Community Garden Expansion

The community gardens area was in such high demand that they expanded the area with 22 new beds for community members to use during the spring of 1981. It was also during the spring that Pat Labine was hired on "as the first permanent farm program faculty, that was to start in the fall of 1981." (1981, Felicia, Kathleen Granger, Faith Hagenhofer) It was also during 1981 that the 1981-1983 Biennial Plan for the Organic Farm was written (which was the last evaluation and plan of the Organic Farm on record).

Tim O'Conner (a caretaker) wrote a 3 page paper in 1981 entitled: "Suggestions for the Organic Farm" including making sure that the production of the Biennium reports was continued and used as a bible. He also made suggestions for record keeping of various things that should be kept for reference.

On December 9, 1981, the Farm Board moves to "…give further consideration to the removal of shade trees to the south and east of the orchard." (1985 Pat Labine)

1982 - 1985

Forest Management Plan


On May 12, 1982, John Heimburg, a student in ecological agriculture presents a preliminary proposal to the farm board concerning tree removal. It was during the next year that, from this proposal, that the farm began to look further into a long range management plan for the farm and the removal of some of the trees around it.


On January 10, 1983, Mike Maki presents the first forest management proposal. During the rest of the year several meetings took place to discuss the tree cutting proposal and ideas with several school officials to see what is required. In the fall the plan was starting to become more public and was drawing more attention and the Cooper Point Journal ran an article on Nov 10, 1983, bringing about more attention to the public. From this an Ecological Baseline Study of the Area for the Proposed Forest Management Plan for the Evergreen Organic Farm was created by Andrew Poston on December 10, 1983.

In this proposal he describes the existing ecological conditions, concerns of the decision-makers, and ecological impact of the proposed development. This proposal was created to help the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAP) make a decision on whether to let the tree cutting occur or not.


In the spring of 1985, land was cleared to allow more sunlight into the garden and some other trees were removed throughout the farm for various reasons. A portion of the trees were given to the logging company that helped and allowed us to clear the trees and stumps.

Organic Farm


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