Last month, Puyallup farmers Mark and Katie Green got to share with the community some big news.
After years in the making, the couple officially purchased the farm from Dick and Terry Carkner, the former owners of Terry’s Berries Farm located at 4520 River Road in the Puyallup River Valley. The farm is now named Wild Hare Organic Farm under the Green’s ownership.
“When we shared (the news) with our customers they were so excited,” said Katie, 36. “(The farm) is very special to them and it’s very fun to see.”
When we shared (the news) with our customers they were so excited. (The farm) is very special to them and it’s very fun to see.
Katie Green, owner of Wild Hare Organic Farm
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The Carkners cultivated the farm for more than 30 years. For the past three years, the Greens were managers on the farm, harvesting for its Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
But purchasing the farm wouldn’t have been possible without the help of PCC Farmland Trust, a nonprofit land trust dedicated to preserving local farmland for future generations of farmers. PCC Farmland Trust was familiar with both the Carkners and farmland in the Puyallup River Valley.
“Through knowing (the Carkners) and the area, we knew they were planning on transitioning into retirement,” PCC Farmland Trust Conservation manager Robin Fay said.
In order for to make the farm more affordable to the Greens, PCC Farmland Trust stepped in, and in collaboration with partners under the Puyallup Floodplains for the Future Initiative, secured $125,000 in easement funding through the Department of Ecology’s Floodplains by Design grant with Pierce County. Through a conservation easement — an agreement between the trust and farm to not develop the property — Mark and Katie could not only afford to buy the farm, but the farm would be preserved in perpetuity. Wild Hare became the trust’s 20th forever farm, and 10th in Pierce County.
“We’re so thrilled that this represents an opportunity for one generation that has farmed to hand it over to another generation who will farm,” said Rebecca Sadinsky, PCC Farmland Trust’s executive director.
We’re so thrilled that this represents an opportunity for one generation that has farmed to hand it over to another generation who will farm.
Rebecca Sadinsky, PCC Farmland Trust executive director
With other Puyallup farms being developed, Mark and Katie’s story shows how farmland is valuable to the community. The backbone of the farm is the CSA program, which provides fresh fruit and vegetables to hundreds of community members every year. They also invite students for tours in the fall, where they show the importance of growing food up close and personal.
“It’s not your typical mazes-and-pumpkin-patch feel — it’s focused on food,” Katie said.
The Green’s property is just shy of 30 acres. In addition to blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, hundreds of varieties of vegetables and herbs are grown there, and they’re always certified organic. Hundreds of chickens flock about the farm, snacking on weeds and bugs to help the crops.
Mark and Katie didn’t always know they wanted to be farmers. They both grew up in the state and met at Central Washington University. Mark was studying philosophy and Katie was studying literature.
They moved to the East Coast so Mark could attend graduate school. It was there, while living at the east end of Long Island, that the couple got a taste of growing food. Katie worked for a specialty grower there, selling to chefs in New York.
“My learning curve in growing vegetables (and) how farms worked was pretty steep,” Katie said.
The couple moved back home to Puyallup in 2011, after their daughter, Hazel, was born. Together, they decided they wanted to continue farming. They’ve been married for eight years.
Now that they’re officially farm owners, Katie and Mark are in the process of moving into their new home on the farm. Katie said they don’t have huge plans; they just want to continue to serve their loyal customers.
“We just want to continue to do what people like, but even better,” she said.
When it comes to passing farms on to new generations, Mark and Katie’s story is becoming less of a common one. For many farmers, the search for new farmers to take on their legacies can be difficult — but they are out there, Sadinsky assured. It’s just a matter of making connections.
In the Puyallup Valley, Wild Hare Organic Farm is especially valuable for its proximity to both Puyallup and Tacoma.
Katie thanks PCC Farmland Trust for making their dream a reality.
“What they’ve done, I couldn’t assign a value to,” she said. “They’ve made our entire future possible.”