The de Vries family moved from the Netherlands in the 1950s and settled in Skagit Valley. Ralph de Vries planted a big garden when he retired, never using chemical pesticides or fertilizers because, as he said, “We didn’t use them in the old country!” Now Ralph’s Greenhouse grows certified organic leeks, carrots, beets, potatoes, and other cold-weather crops. The farm sits on the fertile floodplain of the Skagit River just west of Mount Vernon north of Seattle. The Skagit carries rich minerals and glacial till through the amazingly rock-free farmland. More than 50 acres of this farm are devoted to what have been described as “stunning” leeks – characterized by long thick stalks of white “meat” that can help create a rich, hearty winter soup, for example. The leek harvest typically starts in July and, thanks to the Skagit Valley’s climate and soil, continues through the cold days of winter, finishing up in April or May depending on the year. Ralph's Greenhouse has certified organic produce available in every month of the year.
Ralph’s Greenhouse became certified organic in 1988, the year Washington state started its organic program. Ralph’s son Ray now carries on the family farm tradition with the help of the many good people who work with him, most of whom work at the farm all year long. Because of their good work the farm is able to sell organic Northwest produce every month of the year. Ralph’s Greenhouse believes that it is very important to take care of the land now so that it will continue to support farming for future generations. “We don’t own the land,” says Ray, “It is simply our turn to take care of it, and how we take care of it will determine whether the next generation can build on what we left them, or whether they will have to fix what we messed up.”