Early in 2013 Mary Loquvam and Byron Bagwell determined that the vacant land next to I-5 could be put to better use than merely providing space for brambles, dust, and weeds. Wanting more than just a community garden, they envisioned a small working farm for their York Neighborhood in Bellingham, Washington. A farm that could offer not only fresh summer and fall storage crops for the neighborhood, but also provide a venue for community education about modeling water conservation systems, permaculture techniques, and a farm internship program to offer job training and resume-building work experience in arboriculture and food cultivation for underserved members of Whatcom County.
After securing a land use permit from the Washington State Department of Transportation to use the vacant lot, this industrious and magnanimous duo engaged neighborhood friends as well as sixteen government and nongovernment agencies to provide them with a variety of resources to make this vision a reality. With volunteer and intern-staffing, the farm has cleared the land; prepared the soil; built two tool sheds; and fenced and planted a small orchard. A key component of this new farm operation is York Community Farm’s partnership with the City of Bellingham’s Water Conservation Program. Through this program’s vital support, the farm has installed four cisterns that capture rain from the shed roofs to provide 2,750 gallons of water.
The farm internship program truly reflects the neighborhood and farm’s big-heartedness and concern for the community. York Community Farm had two successful intern graduates in 2013 and anticipates three more graduates in 2014. An intern’s 120-hour three-month commitment to the program provides an intern with basic skills and experience in an array of food production activities (composting/soil building, seed germination, transplanting, bio-intensive bed construction, fruit tree pruning, etc.) which can be utilized by our local and regional farming and nursery operations.
States founder Mary Loquvam, “Our 2013 inaugural internship was a breath-taking, spirit-lifting experience for interns and residents of the York District alike. While we can’t hope to recapture that experience again exactly, we have learned that our internship program can provide hope, community, and a pathway to employment for the underserved of our county. We also learned that our internship program is a very positive way for a neighborhood to engage with folks of lesser circumstances than most of us enjoy. And, it is a way for all us to learn more about and work together on local sustainable food production.”
As a 501 c 3 nonprofit, NABC is providing fiscal sponsorship services for the York Community Farm.