By Dan Bates Herald Writer
When you first see the colorful fields and the old-fashioned vegetable and flower stand, you know it’s going to be a friendly place to stop. You will be inclined to ignore the “No Annexation” sign on the fence because you know there is history between those farm signs and city limits signs. The battle centers on a surface water tax, but that’s no fun at all. You want some of that fresh, sweet corn!
The little farm, at 11121 51st Ave. in north Marysville, at one time reached nearly 80 acres. Today, it’s just 15.
John and Linda Campbell own it, and work it. John’s father bought the first 40 acres in 1920 and built it up over the years. The soil there is rich.
Without using pesticides, the Campbells grow great sweet corn, Hubbard and butternut squash, green beans, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, Swiss chard, carrots and more. They grow thousands of colorful flowers, which they sell for large events or at $2 for a bouquet.
Their little stand sits at the farm entrance, just north of the high school roundabout in Marysville.
While they talked and did their work, I listened and took some photographs of John and Linda, but I think their own words better reflect the difficulties and joys of farming today.
Here’s a slice of what the Campbells had to say.
The car in the greenhouse
John: “The chicken business during the depression was good. In the ’30s, before I was born, my dad raised chickens here, and owned part of a chicken hatchery in Everett. In 1933, business was so good my dad went to Seattle and bought a brand new car right in the middle of the Depression. People couldn’t believe it. They’d say, ‘A chicken farmer? Right in the middle of the Depression? Buying a brand new car?’ I still have that car, and I’m trying to restore it. A ‘33 Dodge.”
John: “I was born on the Fourth of July in 1937, so I am patriotic. In 1976, out here in the middle, I planted red, white and blue petunias of an American flag. I got an award from the Grange for it. From then on, we’ve been doing what you see here.”
Linda: “Of all his brothers, (John) is the one who decided that he would play farmer.
“He told me, once, when he was up in Alaska, ‘I was, at this point, deciding what else I was going to do with my life.’ Then his dad called him and said, ‘We’ve got 12 acres; you want come down?’ And he came down, not knowing what in the world he was going to do with it.
“A friend at the extension service told him about Twin Cities Foods needing corn growers. So he and his dad turned all the fields, even his dad’s fields, into corn, and John was growing other stuff on the side. When Twin Cities dropped the corn order, he went into produce big time.
“People found him up here at the barn. This is where we sold (produce) out of, and the rest is history.”
John: “When my father passed away at 96, the government said we owed $300,000 inheritance tax. We had to sell everything north and east of here to settle with the federal government, so all that’s left is 15 acres. We still have the old house and some of the buildings.”
John: “I’ve got this problem not wanting to let go of where I was born and raised.
“I guess it’s my problem of holding on … People say, ‘Why don’t you get rid of that old chicken house?’ My dad built that with his bare hands, with a hand saw and a hammer, no power tools, back in the ’30s, you know. And so, I’ve been trying to get a new roof on that and save things.”
15 acres and what do you get?
John: “It’s more difficult all the time. Of course when you came in here, you couldn’t miss my signs. We’ve got a major fight with the local government and I don’t know how its going to turn out. They’re forcing us out of here, because, you know, if there were houses here, it would return a lot more tax dollars. And they have billed us for the rain tax. Sometimes I talk too much.”
A good harvest
Linda: “I love the harvest time. I love this little farm. And I love what John does with this little farm. His work is everywhere you look on the farm. We do eat our farm food. We love it. The kids grew up on it.”
John: “I don’t want to sell. I’ve got this thing about saving the old family farm. I tell some people, ‘Some days I feel like I’m out of here. I’m not going to put up with this anymore.’ But when you ask me straight out — am I going to stay here? I’m afraid I’m here for good.”
- See more photos from the Campbell family farm in our photo gallery.