The Cloud Mountain Farm Center Team
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Derek has a long record of entrepreneurism and program development in government, for-profit, and non-profit sectors. He co-founded Sustainable Connections in 2002 and became Executive Director of Cloud Mountain Farm Center prior to an anticipated merger with Sustainable Connections at the end of 2018. Derek was also the first co-National Coordinator of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) in 2002. He is deeply committed to creating a community that works well for all people, and believes our region is rich with the potential to do so.
Before his foray into the non-profit world he co-founded Viatru, an online Fair Trade retail service, and also worked with the Federal Reserve Bank. Derek attended the University of Toledo, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with honors. He has served on the boards of the Washington Business Alliance, Waterfront Advisory Group, Countywide Affordable Housing Task Force, Community Food Co-op, and Cloud Mountain Farm Center.
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I have spent 40 years as a student in annual and perennial cropping systems. I that time I have also attended countless agricultural workshops across the country. It’s been very satisfying to share the valuable lessons I have learned in crop production and in running a small business with the next generation of farmers who participate in our educational programs. I never get tired of the journey you must take every year through the seasons to grow successful perennial crops. I enjoy making wine, listening to music and spending time with family. My favorite thing to grow changed every year. Peaches have been the favorite for a while now, because they are the true local crop. When you pick them at their best they don’t ship very far. Peach plum is an obscure plum we’ve grown for 30 years, it will make you smile every time!
Program Market Development and Finance Coordinator
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I have worked in the agricultural field and food system world for over 37 years. My work has ranged from business owner to educator to marketer and financial manager. My favorite part of the work here is building relationships between different sectors of the community with an agricultural focus. Community building through education and providing products grown here at the farm is my main passion. I farmed in Norway for 2 years and learned about small agricultural communities and the role that agriculture plays in those communities. I also worked in the Alaskan Arctic and also learned about how natural resources plays such a vital role in peoples’ lives there. My favorite thing to grow is flowering perennials and an assortment of vegetables in a home garden.
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I have formal training and experience as a teacher, life experience in both home and commercial orchards, and a lifelong passion for plants and gardening. I feel the most rewarding part of my job is educating people about perennial plants- what works where, how to grow both food for the family and plantings for the environment and for aesthetic and mental health. I’ve built a house, not knowing anything about construction. Almost four decades later, I still live in that house. I love trying to grow alpine plants, especially ones that are native to the North Cascades. Like most rock garden enthusiasts, it’s a case of “tried that, killed that”.
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My first exposure to farm-based education was working with high school students in a youth leadership program. I was inspired by this work, recognizing that teaching and learning with people about growing food is empowering on an individual and community level. It is a way for people to engage with the land and support the vitality of their neighborhoods and broader regions. My formal education includes an M. ED in environmental education at Western Washington University and a certificate in ecological horticulture at UC Santa Cruz. My favorite part of this job at CMFC is working with people to achieve their personal goals and knowing that the work they will participate in will also strengthen communities. If I am not thinking about food systems, I am likely day dreaming about adventuring in the North Cascades alpine. I love growing melons! Slicing into a juicy melon that you nurtured throughout a long season, is the most rewarding feeling. Plus, they taste like candy.
Nursery Lead and Production Assistant
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I started in the intern program in 2013 and have held various positions in the organization since. I gained some farm experience while interning at Seattle Tilth farms and nursery experience while working at City People’s Garden in Seattle, but for the most part all my experience and training has been on the job while working for CMFC. During my time at CMFC I also co-owned Small Acres Farm for 4 years growing fruits, veggies, goats, and experience. My favorite part of working at CMFC is selling people the product and information to grow healthy, productive, and aesthetically pleasing landscapes and foods. My husband and just bought our own land and started Monkey Puzzle Farm. We live off-grid in a converted 1956 passenger bus and our nine goats live in a mobile barn trailer. My favorite thing to grow personally is, dry beans. Professionally, my understanding of perennial plants and systems. Or goats.
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My formal agriculture training includes a M.S. in Community and Agriculture from Michigan State University, a certificate in ecological horticulture from UC Santa Cruz, and a permaculture design certificate from Merritt College. Alongside this training, I’ve worked with a colorful spectrum of organic vegetable and perennial farms for the last decade. Additionally, my partner and I own and operate Alluvial Farms, a pastured pork business. Through the wide angle lens, I appreciate being able to contribute to the evolving food and farm systems in the PNW. From the narrower day-to-day angle, I appreciate being able to engage with budding farmers and gardeners amidst the ecologically diverse farm setting at CMFC. As with many folks in the PNW, I enjoy exploring the surrounding ecology by boat and by foot. Recently, I’ve been excited about engaging with the west side grain crop options, barley in particular. But I love me some peaches!
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I became our Operations & Facilities Coordinator in October of 2016, after completing a season as a nursery-specific intern. Previously, I worked as a laboratory and field research assistant for the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin Madison Peninsular Agricultural Research Station. Interns and incubators are my favorite aspect of working at CMFC; their enthusiasm and curiosity is contagious. The motivating energy radiating from fresh hands and minds is always worth the investment. I would rather be eating Mexican food while practicing Shinrin-yoku under the Oaks and Beeches of Washington Island, Wisconsin. My favorite thing to grow is a mustache.
Perennial Crops Production Manager
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In 2019 I am beginning my fifth season of full-time farming, all of which have been spent at education-oriented nonprofits. I completed the Cloud Mountain internship in 2016, and I am very excited to be back at the farm as part of the food production team. I got my start in agriculture helping to grow annual veggies at the student farm during college. I attended the University of Missouri and earned a B.S. in Forestry, becoming a real plant and ecology geek during those years with a particular affinity for trees. I have had a hand in growing vegetables every year since I began and I also spent two seasons raising pigs, goats, and sheep, but I have found my strongest interests lie in perennial crops (and especially fruit trees). I really enjoy the variety of programs we have here at CMFC, from the internship to the incubator farm to community workshops and events, and I am excited to be a part of creating efficient and ecological food production systems here in Whatcom County.
Nursery: Retail, Production and Propagation Assistant
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While studying at the University of Montana, I focused on landscape scale ecology and this set me on a lifelong exploration of the wonders of plants. I have worked various jobs, from farm hand, to wilderness guide to wetland restoration specialist, and the thread that ties together all the stages of my career for the past 15 years is the study of how plants grow. Whether grafting or getting cuttings to root, it still feels like magic when new plants take rise from a mere handful of sticks. And then finding good homes for these old friends that I propagated always brings a smile to my face as well. I once spent a year sailing the Sea of Cortez and exploring the Sonoran Desert ecosystem in coastal Baja. My favorite thing to grow is a tie: Figs and Japanese Maples
Cloud Mountain Farm Center is an integral part of Sustainable Connections’ Food & Farming Program,
building experience, knowledge, and community to expand dynamic local food systems.