Dan learned the produce industry as a warehouse manager for Organically Grown Company, one of our region’s largest organic produce distributors. The couple met in 2003 while working at Terry’s Berries in the Puyallup Valley. The following year they leased five acres of land near Enumclaw in east King County to begin their own farm, and they started Terra Organics, a home delivery service to provide a market for their crops and select produce from other organic farms.
With their hands-on farming experience and background in organic produce marketing, in 2009 Kim and Dan made the bold step of purchasing one of three parcels at Orting Valley Farms, a 100-acre former dairy preserved by the PCC Farmland Trust in collaboration with the Washington State Wildlife & Recreation Program and Pierce County Conservation Futures Program. The PCC Farmland Trust secured a conservation easement on the land, ensuring that it is saved for organic production forever and making it affordable to a new generation of farmers.
Kim and Dan chose “Tahoma Farms” as the name for their 40-acre parcel in homage to the Native American name for Mount Rainier, which rises majestically 30 miles to the southeast. Located along the Puyallup River, the farm’s rich, well-drained soils were formed by a succession of volcanic eruptions over the past 10,000 years.
Being able to own rather than rent their land has empowered the Hulses to envision a long-term future for their farm and to make major investments, including planting high-value perennial crops such as raspberries and planting Northwest native trees and shrubs to restore wildlife habitat along the river.
Tahoma Farms’ field manager Agustin Moreno works with a diverse crew to grow 175 varieties of 70 different fruits and vegetables through the year. Summer crops include arugula, basil, carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, dandelion greens, fennel, Italian parsley, lettuces, melons, mustard greens, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, radishes, raspberries, shallots, spinach, squash, strawberries, tomatoes, and tomatillos.
The farm extends the growing season with a new 2,500 square foot tunnel greenhouse. And they take full advantage of Western Washington’s relatively mild climate by grow hearty crops fall and winter such as carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, celeriac, collards, fava beans, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, parsnips, and turnips.
Tahoma Farms’ kaleidoscope of fruits and vegetables are sold through a diverse array of outlets, including farmers markets in Tacoma and Seattle, the Tacoma Food Coop, Charlie’s Produce, and their own Terra Organics CSA. In major steps toward providing young people with fresh, wholesome food, in the summer of 2011 the farm was selected to provide fresh produce for Seattle daycare centers, and in the fall the farm began its first deliveries to the Kent School District.
Dan and Kim started Terra Organics to provide customers with a seasonal, home-grown CSA, combined with year-round delivery of premium, organically grown fruits and vegetables. In just a few short years Terra Organics has grown to 10 employees providing home delivery to 1,300 customers in Pierce, King, and Thurston Counties.
Terra Organics recently implemented a sophisticated Internet-based ordering system that enables customers to select from six different boxes, including the Tahoma Farms CSA from June through October, mix & match options of mixed fruits and vegetables, and a Northwest box featuring fruits and vegetables grown by farms in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.
During the growing season more than half of the produce distributed by Terra Organics is grown at Tahoma Farms. Although they supplement their delivery service with crops grown outside our region, they also buy premium fruits and vegetables from several of Washington’s top organic farms, including Ralph’s Greenhouse in the Skagit Valley, Willie Green’s in Snohomish County, and Alvarez Farms in Yakima Valley. In addition, they purchase from Organically Grown Company, a regional organic produce distributor, and Farmer’s Own, a network of organic farms that market through Charlie’s Produce. Along with fresh produce, Terra Organics offers grain products from Bluebird Grain Farms in the Methow Valley and eggs from Stiebrs Farms in Pierce County.
Tahoma Farms is committed to organic production practices, including long-term crop rotations, planting green manures, and utilizing compost to build the soil. In the same way that they are growing a sustainable farm, Kim and Dan are growing a business that will strengthen the local food economy and nourish their community for years to come.
Written by Tilth Producers of Washington
Organizers of Washington Organic Week