Bay Baby Produce - Growing Family Fun
200 East Washington Avenue
Burlington, WA 98233
(360) 755-2299
www.BayBabyProduce.com

News

Posted June 16th, 2016

Fifteen years ago, my business partner Liz Mitchell and I planted the seeds of a vision in 30 2012-09-06 07.11.51acres of rich Skagit Valley soil. It was a vision of creating a family-owned farm around the whimsical notion of giving pumpkins a personality. Like other local farmers, our goal was to provide a decent living for our families and employees, while honoring and contributing to the traditions and values of the Skagit Valley agricultural community where Liz and I grew up.

As an educator, Liz also wanted to use our brand to promote the importance of nutritional health to children and parents throughout our community — an inspiration that led to the creation of our Pumpkin Patch Pals line of individually painted miniature pumpkins, along with educational materials supporting their role in homes and classrooms as family-friendly ambassadors to healthy food choices.

In the process of “growing” our business, we have accom2014-06-22 07.54.35plished much more than we initially envisioned. We’ve developed a proprietary painting and production process that provides consistent, top quality painted pumpkins. We’ve expanded our farming operations from 30 acres to 320, and in the past five years alone we’ve planted over 60 acres of organic produce. From a business that was originally 100 percent decorative pumpkins, fresh packed produce now accounts for 65 percent of our production!

Tragically, Liz Mitchell passed away in 2012. We wish she could be with us to witness the fulfillment of her vision for our farm — but her legacy definitely lives on. Back in 2011, as our edible produce extended the seasonal nature of our decorative pumpkin business, we both felt confident enough of our success to begin planning for a packing warehouse with the capacity to handle our booming current operations and meet strict food safety standards. We have since applied for a permit to build a 40,000 square foot agricultural packing warehouse on 5 acres of land we purchased in 2006 along the Conway frontage road.

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As we look forward to the next phase of the Bay Baby Produce journey, we do so knowing that success is often more humbling than failure. We have so many people to thank here in the Skagit Valley that we would be hard pressed to know where to begin. Our families, our employees, the network of independent farmers among whom we rotate our fields, the local suppliers and services who make our operations possible — all of you have contributed so much to our success, and we thank you.

Most of all, we are grateful to the communities of the Skagit Valley who have welcomed and supported us over the years. Thanks to our new packing warehouse, we’ll be able to express our gratitude more tangibly. In addition to supporting our farming operations, the additional space will further our community relations agenda, including our Farm Fresh Alliance and our nutritional health education 2014-06-22 08.37.04programs and promotion of women in agriculture — all of which will continue to keep Liz Mitchell’s vision alive in our community. We can’t think of a better way to say, “Thanks, Skagit Valley,” than by doing our best to earn the love and support you’ve so generously given us. Liz wouldn’t settle for anything less, and neither will we.

With gratitude,

Michele Youngquist and the employees and families of Bay Baby Produce

Posted May 11th, 2016

May 11, 2016

Dear Member of the Agricultural Community,

We are writing you today to inform you about a recent land use appeal filed by Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland (SPF) and Drainage District #17 that concerns a 40,000 sq. ft. agricultural packing facility proposed by Bay Baby Produce to be built on Conway Frontage road. The site plan takes up a total of 5 acres including the parking lot and bin storage. This land was purchased in 2006 by Michele Youngquist and Elizabeth Mitchell with the intent to build a packinghouse for their farming operations. In 2013 Elizabeth passed away and the building plans were put on hold, while the staff and operations recovered from their loss. In June of 2015 our company filed for a SEPA permit to build on said property.

The SEPA permit was granted, and SPF appealed the permit. Bay Baby Produce provided answers to concerns laid out by SPF and the county issued judgment to maintain the permit in July of 2015. During the SEPA permitting process Bay Baby Produce met with SPF to determine if there were options that would appease the group. The group proposed that we move to the port or find a different location to build, e.g., an existing building or a different piece of property. These options had already been considered and well researched by our company. Building is a long process, so an existing building that was economical and met our minimum necessities would have been preferred. There was no such building found in Skagit County.

Farmers build on agriculturally zoned property because it is economical and zoned correctly. After the SEPA permit was granted SPF also offered to mitigate, which they said would cost our company around $11,000 per acre. Currently, no final number has ever been produced. Lastly, SPF made an informal offer to buy our development rights for $150,000.

The SPF group has made the following claim, “We believe the public policies that affect our remaining prime farmland and our agricultural drainage infrastructure can be applied fairly and consistently by local government to all who propose large scale projects on farmland.” The county applied the applicable rules to our permit for the time period in which we submitted the permit. If you speak with the county they will tell you that they fairly and consistently applied the rules to our project. After our farming season in December of 2015, our company filed for our Fill and Grade permit. The Fill & Grade permit was granted in March of 2016. Again SPF appealed the county’s decision.

They made claim that the permit should not have been granted because the SEPA review was issued before any development permits were applied for and before any specific project information was submitted for review. This is the common practice in development to prevent companies from spending money on a project that the county will not grant a permit. The development permit application and project specific information were submitted 5 months after the county determined no adverse effects.

Our company is a seasonal business with a yearly small staff. During the fall months our business must strictly concentration on packing and shipping our perishable product. From the time frame between our SEPA permit and the submission of our Fill & Grade permit our company’s focus did not change. The drainage and irrigation were covered and accounted for in the SEPA and Fill & Grade permit.

Drainage District #17 informed Bay Baby Produce that they would not permit an increase of water flow into the district. Therefore, our civil engineer designed the site plan, so that the water runoff would be dispersed across the property, and that water would enter at a slower flow rate than current. The drainage district claimed that they never received the drainage plan, but the county has proof that said documents were sent. Skagit County adopted the current SEPA guidelines as of January 1st, 2016. All projects submitted before this date were reviewed using the previously adopted SEPA guidelines. Any SEPA or Fill & Grade permits submitted after December 31st, 2015 will have to meet the 2014 SEPA guidelines. As quoted above by SPF, the county must apply the SEPA and Drainage rules fairly and consistently! Thus far, the county has done this. SPF is asking the county to treat us differently, and apply the 2014 SEPA guidelines. Had we filed our permit after the date of adoption, December 31st, 2015, then the county would have required us to meet those standards. Protecting farmland is extremely important to our company. Building is necessary for our company to continue operating and expanding. The success of agriculture businesses is a blessing to our community. Help us continue to farm by supporting our packinghouse. By supporting us you are supporting the economic vitality of our community.

Sincerely,

Michele Youngquist
Bay Baby Produce