Fifteen years ago, my business partner Liz Mitchell and I planted the seeds of a vision in 30 acres 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 accomplished 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.
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 programs 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.
Michele Youngquist and the employees and families of Bay Baby Produce