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Mama’s Garden: Four mothers, one farm

Oct 6th, 2013 | Category: Community

Annual Harvest Festival set for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12-13

Along Highway 9 in Acme you’ll come upon Mama’s Garden farm stand. It truly is Mama’s Garden. Operated by four local moms – Kim Cook, Laura Smith, Wendy Lenssen and Renee Kalsbeek – this small farm started in 2003 and has grown to offer a variety of vegetables, flowers, eggs and more.

Mama's Garden's first sign, decorated with all the kids' handprints. COURTESY PHOTO

Each October, the farm hosts a weekend Harvest Family, this year taking place Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12-13. Family-friendly activities include hay rides, pumpkins, pictures and more. We spoke with Mama’s partner Laura Smith about the farm, its growth, and the upcoming festival. Here’s what she had to say.

Can you tell us how Mamas got started? What inspired you four moms to start a farm like this?

In 2003, Kim, Wendy, and I all had little babies. We lived on the same road and were all stay at home moms. We had tea together each week just to get a little adult interaction. One tea we got to talking about how we could make a little extra money, then somehow the idea of a pumpkin patch came to mind. Kim and I had grown up on dairy farms near Acme approximately a mile apart, so our dads had fields that they might let us rent. Kim’s dad was already selling sweet corn by the road and let us put in some pumpkins that summer of 2003, about a half acre. We also threw in a few veggie seeds and low and behold we had our first crop. We bought a Costco tent and put out our pumpkins and the few veggies we grew with suggested donation prices. Everything sold. The next year we planted more veggies. The next year even more. Everything always sold. We did that for four years. The third year we added a fourth partner, Heidi Brown.

How has Mama’s grown since you started?

We then took a sustainable farming coarse offered through WSU which helped us set some goals and make a five-year plan. On our fifth year we moved across a driveway to a different field and built a permanent stand out of scavenged wood and old tin. We expanded our growing area to one acre. The next year we built a work shed/chicken coop, again out of recycled materials. The next year we added a second chicken coop.

Mama's Garden self-service farm stand offers a variety of vegetables, flowers, eggs and honey. PHOTO BY RENEE KALSBEEK

In 2011, Heidi Brown stepped down as a partner to spend more time with her family. In the summer of 2012, Renee Kasbeek expressed interest in joining the garden. In 2013 she became an official fourth partner.

Currently Mamas Garden farms close to five acres and three smaller hoop houses. We have 150 chickens and we are on our fifth year of providing a harvest festival. We sell to local restaurants and other local businesses, including Northfork Brewery, Acme Diner, Blue Mountain Grill and Acme General Store, as well as Acme Farms and Kitchens.

Obviously you have to balance family and work. Do your kids enjoy spending time at Mama’s and what do they learn working beside you?

The head count of children between the mamas over the years has been between 15-16 kids. Most of them have grown up together playing at the garden while we moms work. For many years there was always one of us with a baby strapped to our backs. Sometimes they help us plant, help us process and help us weed, but mostly they just get to run around and be kids… like one big family! Obviously farming is hard work, no one farms to get rich, you farm because you enjoy it. Growing food is rewarding. Hopefully our kids will learn the value of hard work as they grow up watching us and working along side us. Right now the kids like to make flower bouquets with us and harvest certain crops.

Wagon of pumpkins during last year's festival. PHOTO BY RENEE KALSBEEK

What do you like most about running your small farm, and what are the biggest challenges?

What we like most is that it is flexible with our busy lives and allows us to have our kids with us. The challenge is just balancing it all, and finding ways to grow that accommodate our busy lives.  None of us can give up our Saturday to do a farmer’s market.

What do you enjoy about your annual harvest festival?

Hay ride at the Harvest Festival, this year set for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12-13. PHOTO BY RENEE KALSBEEK

It is so fun to see families come out and experience a few hours of country. Families come and just hang out for hours visiting and letting their kids run around. It is still small and personal. We enjoy hosting it. Mama Renee has been doing fall photos since we started this festival before she became a partner. This year two things are different. First you will get 2-3 poses and all shots will be put on a CD that will be sent to you or can be picked up at the garden. The cost is $30, $5 of that can be donated to the Whatcom County PTA of your choice.

How long will the stand be open this year?

PHOTO BY RENEE KALSBEEK

The stand will have veggies until the first frost in mid-October, then squash and potatoes and select veggies usually through November. In December we have wreaths and table center pieces for Christmas. We will sell eggs through December and may sell eggs all winter depending on how the chickens are laying.

We are very proud of how Mama’s Garden has grown from the first year. We have a lot of loyal customers who make our stand a success, and we live in a community that supports and embraces the concept of locally grown food. People can walk right out and see where that carrot in the bag they are buying came from.

Mama’s Garden is located at 2600 Valley Highway in Acme and is open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.  For more information, follow their Facebook page or contact smith87999@yahoo.com or (360)  595-2210.

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