Meet a Full Circle Farmer – Ralph’s Greenhouse
Ralph’s Greenhouse is a family farm located in Western Washington’s Skagit Valley. The de Vries family moved from the Netherlands in the late 1950’s. From 1960 to 1980 Ralph dairy farmed, when he retired he started a garden next to the dairy farm called “Ralph’s Greenhouse,” where he grew leeks for the market and Dutch potatoes for his Dutch friends. Ralph did not use herbicides or pesticides because, as he said, “We didn’t use them in the Old Country!” Ralph’s Greenhouse became certified organic in 1988, the year Washington state started its organic program.
Ralph’s son Ray (seen below) now carries on the family farm tradition with the help of the many good people who work with him. Most of the people at Ralph’s Greenhouse work there on a year-round basis, and because of their good work the farm is able to sell Northwest produce for ten months out of the year.
Ralph’s Greenhouse believes that it is very important to take care of the land now so that the land will continue to support farming for future generations. “We don’t own the land,” says Ray. “It is simply our turn to take care of it, and how we take care of it will determine whether the next generation can build on what we left them, or whether they will have to fix what we messed up.”
Ralph’s Greenhouse maintains soil fertility by composting, using cover crops and practicing crop rotation. The farm makes its own compost by combining leftover vegetables and manure from the dairy farm. It also uses a system of water recycling when washing the produce.