“I just fell in love with the Valley.”
Don Kruse has called the Skagit Valley home for the past 42 years, operating Skagit Sun Farms for much of that time. Farming a variety of strawberries found at local retailers and farmers markets, Don has found his place in the berry industry.
Don was born and raised in Missouri, and though he was fond of his home there, he wanted a change of scenery. Just 22 years old, Don relocated to Fairbanks, Alaska, hoping for a new adventure. He bought a home and learned the construction trade, eventually working on the Alaskan pipeline. Feeling the need for a change, Don decided to travel to La Conner to visit a longtime friend. “After making the trip down to Washington to visit my friend, I just fell in love with the Valley,” Don shared.
He was so taken by the Valley, Don decided to relocate. His world changed from the extreme climate of Northern Alaska to a beat-up farmhouse and 40 acres of land he would call home. Don didn’t come from a farming family, but he found ease in his new surroundings and planted five acres of strawberries as a start in his new endeavor. “I slowly expanded over time; when the opportunity to buy more land opened up, I would take it,” Don said.
Expanding farm operations and crop production takes time and hard work—something Don credits himself as having as he immersed himself in his new life. Don also spoke highly of his employees who have been by his side for the past 35 years; he expressed that “they’re like family to me.” As we can all imagine, farming is no easy task: it’s full of variables that could affect the result. It’s vital to have a strong, capable, and dependable team.
Don and his crew now produce 150 acres of certified organic strawberries in the flats between La Conner and Mount Vernon. Based at a successful farm stand in Anacortes, Skagit Sun berries can also be found at local farmers markets, PCC in Seattle, and Whole Foods stores.
Don’s involvement in agriculture across the Valley doesn’t stop with his production of beautiful and tasty berries; he is a founding board member of Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland. He also raises money for Anacortes Island Hospital through his Anacortes farm stand, an effort he has championed for several years now.
“It’s good to see that Skagit Valley is still driven by agriculture,” Don said. After 42 years of farming, he still finds satisfaction in farming products he knows people love: “People light up when they see berries, it’s a nice contribution to that joy.”
With no sign of stopping, Don and the Skagit Sun Farms crew are well on their way to another fruitful berry season this year.