Whatcom Magazine

Whatcom's Cloud Mountain Farm Center growing new farmers, along with produce and nursery stock

If you’re at Cloud Mountain Farm’s annual Fruit Festival, you can sample apples and buy a pear tree perfect for your northwest-facing north-county yard, but you’re just scratching the surface of this Everson-area fixture.

Since 1978, Cloud Mountain has grown produce that ended up in the kitchens of homes throughout Whatcom County, as well as filled local gardens with nursery stock. Now, Cloud Mountain is an incubator for new farmers in the region, while also developing some of the new fruit and vegetable varieties that will please local produce buyers for years to come.

“Like the plants we work with, the organization is dynamic and evolving,” says Tom Thornton, founder of the original farm with his wife, Cheryl. “Everyday we are providing education to people interested in agriculture or growing their own food.”

Three-and-a-half years ago, Cloud Mountain Farm was converted to a nonprofit farm center in an agreement organized through Whatcom Community Foundation. That expanded the work the Thorntons were already doing — promoting local food, encouraging local sustainable farms, and helping farmers and backyard gardeners discover what grows best in our corner of the country.

The Thorntons have stayed on at Cloud Mountain and continue to use their passion to encourage other people to create their own path in the “local foods” movement.

Still, at its heart, Cloud Mountain is a sustainable farm that supports its new work with earnings from its farm stand, nursery sales and garden seminars for the public.

For the past three years, the farm has accepted seven interns into an eight-month, intensive study-and-work program for people to learn not just how to grow produce, but how to be agricultural entrepreneurs.

This February, four farmers will use Cloud Mountain’s new 25-acre parcel to start their own produce farms. Three of the farmers have graduated from farm’s internship program, and this summer will fulfill Cloud Mountain’s mission to produce farmers who will continue to grow good food right here in Whatcom County.