The art of farming: Waxwing Farm

Posted on February 11, 2020
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“….being able to witness what’s happening on a piece of land throughout the year has all kinds of artful magic to it, that for sure makes the hard days better.”

Meet Arielle Luckmann and Taylor Barker, Pacific Northwest natives and Western Washington University alumni. Growing up neither had any idea that owning and working a four acre farm in the Skagit Valley would be in their future.

Graduating with a degree in theater, Arielle left the Pacific Northwest and set off for the Midwest, where she temporarily called Chicago home. After performing and teaching music for 5 years, with her love for the Pacific Northwest still burning bright, Arielle knew it was time to return to her roots. She came back to the Pacific Northwest and starting working on small local farms where she experienced the rich joys of farming. It would also be the place where she would meet her life partner and co-owner of Waxwing Farms, Taylor.

Also with degree in the arts, Taylor found himself on farms nurturing a passion for farming and honing his skills for growing food. During his experiences at Plum Forest Farm, Rabbit Fields Farm, the Washington Conservation Corps and Snow Goose Produce, Taylor, whether he knew it or not, was preparing himself for sharing his life and co-owning a farm with Arielle.
Like a lot of individuals Arielle questioned if the fulfillment she felt from working on farms was something that could be her future or if it would be best to “get a real job.” She got that “real job” with the Bellingham School District, but quickly made the decision to give that small voice in her heart the space to speak. What was that voice saying? “Arielle Luckmann, you need to be a farmer.”

With their vision formulated, the next question Arielle and Taylor had to answer was “where are we going to farm?” Farming is a lot of hard work and some would say it’s also equal parts luck and being in the right place at the right time. They were in the right place at the right time when a good friend introduced them to his father, Ray DeVries of Ralph’s Greenhouse. Ray had some farmland south of Mount Vernon that he made available to them. This opportunity was “the launch pad where we could have the farm business we had been envisioning,” as Arielle put it, and Waxwing Farms was born.

The growth of Waxwing Farm, like all farms, wasn’t something that happened overnight. Arielle describes the importance of facing the reality that making your passion succeed takes persistent dedication and razor-sharp focus. The work she and Taylor had in store for the next couple of years was going to be hard, but it didn’t scare them away from pursuing their dream.

“It’s not for everyone, and it’s not always going to feel like it’s for you either while you’re doing it. Farming requires specific maintained effort and being open and flexible to what is important,” reflected Arielle, when asked about what advice she would give someone interested in starting a farm. She went on to share that even though there is magic in watching a piece of land blossom into a work of art, its rigorous work. Arielle believes gaining experience by working on other farms is the best thing someone interested in starting a farm can do.

Arielle and Taylor are proud to be in year four of their business with a thriving and growing CSA. For those that may not know, “CSA” is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture. This is a model for market farmers to secure much needed cash flow in the early season, when little is growing, as memberships are sold in late winter for produce pickups during the spring and summer months. It also allows CSA members to connect directly with the farmers growing their food.

The way the Waxwing Farm CSA works is members are welcomed to the farm where they are met by a white board detailing what is available each week and how much they can take. Waxwing members then select their produce, just like in the grocery store, from the offerings that week. Arielle shared that her background as a performer lends itself well to greeting members, providing education and sharing a recipe or two on how to use each week’s produce.

There’s more to farming than just choosing what to grow, how to grow it and how to lay out farm fields. There’s also the real work of bookkeeping, marketing and creative community engagement that goes into making a retail market farm economically viable. Arielle describes her experience as a gigging musician and fiddle teacher as greatly informing her understanding of being self-employed and how to successfully market their farm. With her experience with website design and social media to promote and market her music career, switching gears to promote Waxwing Farm was seamless. Additionally, with the help of local workshops, supportive mentors and farm conferences, Arielle and Taylor have been able to find much success.

So, what’s Arielle’s favorite vegetable? Her friends would probably say radishes. But to her, it’s impossible to choose. “How do you choose a favorite child when you love them all equally” she questioned.

If you’d like to learn more about Waxwing Farm, check them out on their website, Facebook and Instagram.