Organic Farm History

The following information is currently being revised and reviewed both in historical and grammatical content. The following was written by Claude Mahmood who started gathering and reviewing the farm history as a project in Ecological Agriculture. 


The Evergreen Organic Farm became a vision for students in the class "Environmental Design" they learned that on the west edge of the school property there was an old farm. The students along with the facility learned that the old farm on Lewis road was available for those that wished to use it. A meeting took place with interested members to talk about what the vision of the farm is for the community. One of the members, "Dean Cadwallader had come from the University of California at Santa Cruz that has a University Garden that has achieved considerable attention because of its beauty and originality."(1974 Ralph Allen, et al) This concept struck a cord in those at the meeting and they decided that the farm would be modeled after what Santa Cruz had done.

Meetings were set up on regular bases and other people in the community that were interested in helping establish a farm on the Evergreen Campus were invited to come. Meetings were set up weekly to plan out and come up with concepts for the farm. Others surveyed the old farm, "while others worked on soil and water distribution studies." (1974 Ralph Allen, et al)

During these meetings four pertinent guidelines were formed that would guide the farm and they are:

  1. The Farm was to be a college project involving everybody at Evergreen, and not just one coordinated studies program.
  2. The Farm would attempt to involve community help as much as possible.
  3. The Farm was to be run in strict accordance with ecological principles. It was to be an organic garden.
  4. 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." (1974 Ralph Allen, et al)

There was a 5 th 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 effect.


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 winter. The Board of Trustees approved the proposal and thus the farm was formally instituted in 1972.

The farm was given $800 in the winter of 1972 from the Student Activities Fee Board to get the farm started. The students began working on the farm by cleaning the old farmhouse out that had been neglected for many years and also started working the land by clearing stumps in the winter of 1972. 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 the 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 the poor condition of the farmhouse the Deans felt it needed to be in a safer condition in order to house someone. It was because of this concern that the farm group began the cleaned up and remodeling of the farmhouse. However, the students from the Environmental Design class began redesigning the old farmhouse to make it livable. Two students were contracted to work on the farm and clean it up in the spring and would continue through the summer. Most of the students in Environment Design helped on the farmhouse and garden area during the spring, but most of the students had left for the summer. During the summer the two students that remained managed to keep the garden growing and were able to get some Evergreen faculty, perspective students, community members, and neighbors to chip in to help make the first year's garden very successful.

The two students managed to complete the outside of the farmhouse during the rest of the summer which made it waterproof by the end of summer. However, the inside was still unfinished. Facilities Planning provided materials and labor that allowed for the farmhouse to be brought up to Thurston County code standards and the two students were able to move 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 also received a registered Guernsey cow that was pregnant for free during the summer of 1972 and the farm happily accepted the gift.

During the 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 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 in the coming year. Though there were still some details and work to be done at the farm, the chicken coop was established and students began working on a low-cost plan for a greenhouse.


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.


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.


In the spring of 1975 Evergreen acquired a permit to begin construction and Service and Activities 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.


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.


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.


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)


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 CPJ ran an article on Nov 10, 1983 and brought 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 through out 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.