Aug 15, 2007
Farm Moves Toward Employee Ownership

The community of Sequim is nestled in Washington’s Dungeness Valley, between the Olympic Mountains and Pacific Ocean, near the mouth of the Dungeness River. The area’s geography and weather patterns have created a unique microclimate that doesn’t exist in other parts of the Olympic Peninsula, which can get up to 200 inches of rain a year. Sequim gets about 12 inches.

That makes it an ideal location for growing vegetables year round, which contributes to the success of Nash’s Organic Produce, said Kia Kozun, the farm’s sales manager.

Nash’s Organic Produce is named after Nash Huber, who founded the farm in the 1970s and still runs it today. Huber, 66, grew up on a farm in southern Illinois. He started out as a chemist, adding artificial dyes, colors and sweeteners to foods, but came to believe the industry he was working in was unhealthy and false, so he moved out to Washington and started farming again, Kozun said.

Thirty-five years later, Huber and his employees manage 350 acres of produce, all certified organic. They own 10 of those acres and lease the rest from landowners who have an interest in farmland preservation, according to the sales manager.

Huber was one of the first farmers who believed in what organic food stood for, before it became trendy. He became certified more than 30 years ago – the fourth producer in Washington to do so, Kozun said.

Huber’s farm is most famous for its carrots and other “amazingly sweet” vegetables like kale, cabbage, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, arugula, fava beans and sweet corn. They also grow small fruit like strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries. Forty-five vegetable varieties are grown for the wholesale market; another 30 or so are sold through the farm store, CSA and local farmers’ markets, she said.

All the crops are irrigated. The water is drawn from the Dungeness River. Severe droughts affected irrigation the last two years. Fertility and compost programs keep the soil healthy, she said.

The Community Supported Agriculture program runs for 25 weeks, from early July to late December. Paid subscribers receive a box of vegetables every week, along with a newsletter that has field updates and recipes. The farm store, open year round, offers an alternative to mainstream grocery stores that don’t sell local vegetables. The vast majority of product sold is certified organic. They also sell at five local farmers’ markets, Kozun said.

About two-thirds of the farm’s produce is sold wholesale, but they’re always striving to increase direct, local sales.

The farm, which employs about 30 people from May to December, is in the process of becoming an employee-owned corporation. Huber has a team of half a dozen young managers ready to run things when he steps down.

“We’re always looking for young folks who want to get involved,” Kozun said.

For more information, visit www.nashsproduce.com.

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