Whatcom Magazine

Whatcom farm scene: Old meets new at Joe’s Gardens

Joe’s Gardens is both a relic of the past and a symbol of the future.

The seven acres of tilled soil in Happy Valley neighborhood might be one of the few remaining urban truck farms in the region, but brothers Nathan and Jason Weston don’t see an endpoint to the 82-year-old Bellingham institution.

Each summer, the farm’s rich, black earth is rototilled three times as the Westons and their employees sow the seeds for the bounty of produce that springs from the open patch of city land.

Begun in 1933 by Joe Bertero, who died in 2003, and his wife, Ann, the farm is now in the hands of a third generation. The Westons’ parents, Carl and Karol Weston, took over Joe’s Gardens in 1983 and their sons took it over full time in 2007.

Detail is found in every part of their work, even down to the weeds. They recently refurbished a walk-behind tractor designed for small farms. The 60-year-old Planet Junior tractor, prized by farm equipment collectors, uses an attachable wire weeder that picks out early sprouting weeds while leaving their prized vegetable plants at peace in the soil.

The Westons’ decades-old farm equipment pairs well with their use of modern know-how, such as soil analysis of each field. Soil supplements, precise weeding, and good farm practices create a landscape that uses no pesticides or herbicides, but requires hard work done mostly by hand.

“It’s the battle of the weeds,” Jason Weston says, “and we’re on the winning side.”

While Nathan Weston says each part of the season has something to look forward to, he says early August can’t be beat.

“Everything is happening. The tomatoes are ready, peaches are in, the beans are going,” he says. “A lot of people go away for July, so in August we see a lot of our customers two or three times a week. It really is the best month.”