Dave Hedlin’s grandfather came from Denmark to the rich soil of the Skagit Valley and started the family farm back in 1906. That original 70 acres has grown to about 400 acres where Dave and his wife, Serena Campbell, his sister, Mary Hedlin, their daughter, Lauren Hedlin, and nephew, Kai Ottesen, continue to farm today.
From the earliest days, the Hedlin family has grown seed crops like cabbage and spinach and beets. The Skagit Valley provides the seeds for about half the cabbages grown all over the world! But today the farm is more diversified, with about 200 acres in organic produce and a 50-acre fresh market patch.
And one more crop that might surprise you: shorebirds. The Hedlin Farm is one of the first sites for the innovative Farming for Wildlife program, where farmers agree to flood a portion of their fields with fresh water for a period of time to provide habitat for migratory shorebirds making their way along the great Pacific Flyway.
“The Skagit is a magic place,” says Dave Hedlin. “Where else can you have the wildlife, the birds, the salmon in the rivers, the trees on the hillsides and this incredibly productive soil that’s feeding the world?”
The Hedlins encouraged all their children to go to college, to learn about the world, to go away and work somewhere else for a while, and then decide whether they wanted to join the family farming business. Lauren, now 28, took advantage of the opportunity to explore her love for horses, studying and working in West Virginia. But the Skagit kept calling her home.
“I really missed it when I was away,” she said. “It’s so beautiful. You have the mountain and the valley and Puget Sound right here. I remember poking around in tidepools as a little kid. It’s also really gratifying to drive by a field of cabbage seeds and say ‘We’re feeding the world!’”
Today Lauren runs the fresh market operation, which has grown from a stand by the side of the road to a 50-acre plot that supplies organic fruits and vegetables to five farmers markets around the region.
Hedlin Farms includes some certified organic products, certified pesticide-free products, Salmon-Safe Certification for the whole farm and participation in many other community efforts.
Stewarding the land is a shared commitment by the generations who’ve been involved in the Hedlin Farms. “We’ve told the kids, we won’t be disappointed if you don’t want to farm,” Dave Hedlin said. “But you have to continue to be good stewards of the land. It’s an asset to move forward, not an asset to sell and get rich on.”
“I want this to be here always,” Lauren Hedlin said. “So I have to be part of taking care of this for the future.”