“Farming just kind of found us..”
Often, farming can be summed up as simply trial and error: trying not to repeat past mistakes and leaving plenty of space for new ones to happen—and learn from.
Three years ago Wayne and Maria Ellis decided to transition their four-acre property into a series of farming plots for fruits, vegetables, chickens, and a couple of sheep.
Wayne’s great grandfather immigrated from Sweden to farm in the Skagit Valley. Wayne landed his first job at 11 years old, picking strawberries for Thulen Farms. He participated in 4-H throughout grade school and high school in La Conner, showing dairy cattle. Wayne was no stranger to getting his hands dirty.
Searching for advice for the first year of Love Well Farms operation, Wayne and Maria followed a friend’s recommendation to plant strawberries—a lot of them—along with other crops. Soon 1,500 tiny bushes set down their roots, along with endless weeds. Wayne and Maria wanted to farm organically, but growing strawberries, even on a relatively small one-acre plot, was too much for them on top of their other responsibilities: tending the chickens, sheep, vegetable crops, and a seed nursery, and working on construction projects around the farm. They decided the strawberries needed to go.
Owning and working a farm in itself is a full-time job, and Wayne was already a manager at Jerry Smith Chevrolet. After their first year Wayne and Maria had doubts about whether the two of them could meet the demanding responsibilities of running a farm. So Wayne asked Maria, “Do you still want to do the whole farming thing?”
“Yes, let’s continue,” she said. Love Well Farms would continue to grow.
Confident about moving forward and avoiding earlier mistakes, Wayne decided to make vegetables their primary focus. Gambling for a good outcome, they started to plant: carrots, beets, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and so much more were given a home in Love Well’s Skagit soils. Wayne and Maria learned from the previous year that planting all their crops at the same time was labor intensive. By staggering crop planting times, they could reduce labor, as well as create a more sustainable harvest over time. This practice also allows them to supply their farm stand and farmers markets more consistently.
As Wayne slowly raised the stakes by adding new crops across their property and creating an organizational landscape for the farm, he turned to a powerful, but free, resource with answers and advice on farming: YouTube.
Specifically, Wayne mentioned Curtis Stone, an urban farmer from British Columbia. He was interested in Stone’s practices, and the B.C. climate was similar to Skagit’s. Wayne found it easy and natural to learn from this farmer, who lived 200 of miles away from him.
Recently, Wayne was caught up in the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impacts. He was laid off from Jerry Smith Chevrolet, allowing him to focus full time on Love Well Farms.
Spending more time on the farm has given Wayne the opportunity to work on projects that will help with crop production, as well as expansion, to keep up with the demanding labor and to continue to learn his new craft. “This year is the first year we have a major organization flow, and it’s exciting,” Wayne said. Heading into its third year, Love Well Farms is evolving despite the hardships that raised doubts along the way.
You will be able to get your hands on some of their delicious vegetables, salad mixes, and more at their farm stand located right outside their property, off of Memorial Highway in west Mount Vernon and at the Mount Vernon Farmers Market. If you’d like to follow Love Well Farms’ journey, check them out on Facebook and Instagram.