Freeway Farming

Welcome to an urban oasis

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Although the York Farm is quickly becoming an urban oasis full of many green goodies that promise to bear all manner of foodstuffs, some of the trees that abut the garden aren’t exactly real. That’s because they’re etched into the tall concrete barrier that separates the growing space from the busy I-5 corridor.

Mary Loquvam and Byron Bagwell, the York neighborhood residents who are primarily responsible for turning a fallow stretch of land into a place where people can meet, greet and volunteer time to growing crops, say they’ve spent enough time at the farm that they don’t really notice the noise from the freeway anymore. And as for those “fake” trees? Well, they’re quickly being overtaken by a variety of plants that are actually alive.

On a recent Thursday morning, Loquvam and Bagwell were on hand to talk about the farm, which is in its second year of stewarding land donated by Washington’s Department of Transportation in order to grow food for the historic neighborhood—and prove to others that it’s a doable endeavor.

“We make a distinction between this and community gardens,” Loquvam says. “This is a working farm. We’re focusing on three storage crops—potatoes, beans and winter squash—with the idea that people can come here and get food to store for the winter.”

While the particulars of the first big harvest are still being worked out—volunteers will have access to the crops, but Bagwell and Loquvam also want to make extras available to York neighborhood residents and the Bellingham Food Bank—those who want to learn more about what it takes to keep an urban farm going are invited to a June 22 Solstice Celebration and Fundraiser.

While the main focus of the event will be on showing off the space via tours and demonstrations, Bagwell—who lives next door to the York Farm—wants people who show up to know that what they’re doing doesn’t have to be an isolated incident.

“This is about more than growing food,” Bagwell says. “This is a model for what can be done with empty spaces—while also cutting the true cost of food by growing your own produce and using less. It also adds to the beauty of the neighborhood.”

The duo also stresses that this has not been a two-person job. In addition to the many hundreds of hours they’ve each given to the cause, dozens of volunteers have donated labor, and interns Mary Smith and Lester Weber—who will be honored at a short ceremony at the solstice shindig—have shown true commitment when it comes to both digging in and learning more about keeping the farm going. And the list of community members and nonprofits that have donated either plants or building materials is growing by the day.

When asked if they see the farm being a longtime addition to the York neighborhood, both Loquvam and Bagwell are quick to say that, through careful planning and a desire to show that urban farms can help feed the communities in which they’re located, they want the space to be used for generations to come.

“We like to tell people in the neighborhood that ‘We’re building an orchard for your kids,’” Loquvam says.

Although neither profess to be master gardeners, Loquvam says with her organizing experience and Bagwell’s building know-how, they’ve made it possible to turn their urban farm dream into a reality.

“You don’t need expertise to get things done,” Loquvam says. “You just have to have vision,” Bagwell adds. With that, they smile, bump knuckles in solidarity, and get back to work.

More Outdoors...
Unearthing History
Take a historic cemetery tour

While it’s true that the outings taking place Sun., Oct. 15 at the Mount Vernon Cemetery are occurring during the spookiest time of the year, Skagit County Historical Museum Director Jo Wolfe wants to assure potential visitors that there’s absolutely no need to be afraid of what lies inside…

more »
Beer, Metal, Yoga
A different kind of serenity

Yoga can be intimidating, but a couple of venues in downtown Bellingham want to provide an out-of-the-ordinary experience for beginners and seasoned practitioners.

First up: Beer + Yoga at 9am Sat., Oct 7 at Aslan Brewing (1330 N. Forest St). Jess Fleming and Dawn Hood started Just Add…

more »
Power Produce
Fall fun, with pumpkins

At last fall’s Skagit Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival at Christianson’s Nursery, Dick Kilburn of Anacortes took home first place, and $1,000, for his 1,165-pound squash. (For reference, that’s about the same weight as a grand piano.)

While Kilburn’s giant orange orb was a clear winner,…

more »
Nature's Gym Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Mediterranean feast

6:30pm|Gretchen's Kitchen

Sasquatch Stories

6:30pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Books on Tap

7:00pm|North Fork Brewery

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Comedy Open Mic


MVHS Fall Concert

4:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Book Group Mixers

5:30pm|Village Books

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Seasonal Beers

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Life of the Arctic Polar Bear

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Anyone for Stew?

6:30pm|Gretchen's Kitchen

Birds and Plants

7:00pm|RE Store

Jeremy Kahn Quartet

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Thriving in the Middle

7:00pm|Village Books

Scottish Dancing

7:30pm|Fairhaven Library

CWWarrenMiller Trove
Book Group Mixers

5:30pm|Village Books

Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

U.S. Citizenship Class

6:00pm|Lynden Library

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Balkan Folk Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Summer Bike Stories

7:00pm|Cafe Velo

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Mt. Baker Theatre Undersea Bubble Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books Trove CWWarrenMiller