Meet the Farmers
Bell’s Farm has been a family farming operation for over seven decades. In 1946, owner Paige Mueller’s great-grandparents, Jesse and Margaret Bell, purchased a 15-acre parcel of beautiful land on Washington State’s Whidbey Island with their service pay after World War II. Four years later, the Bell family produced their first crop of strawberries, picked by local kids and sold to the cannery in Skagit County. Paige grew up on the farm, and together with her husband Kyle, took over the farm five years ago. Despite growing up on the farm, Paige had little interest in farming largely due to the commercial nature of Bell’s Farm back then. Her interests pulled her to work instead in nonprofits and as a school librarian. Things changed in the summer of 2015, when Paige quit her job at the nonprofit and decided to work full-time on the farm.
Paige and Kyle spent a full year working on the farm as employees before assuming partial ownership with Paige’s parents. Demanding a switch from conventional to regenerative farming practices, they immediately chose to end the use of chemical and synthetic inputs. “At our farm we strive to have a closed holistic system; the animals support the microbiome, which support plant growth, which we then harvest or feed back to the animals. This is the goal we are building towards,” says Kyle.
A member of the US Army for 11 years and a disabled veteran, Kyle serves as Bell’s operations manager. Kyle grew up on Whidbey, and after serving in the military moved back home and started working at the Boys and Girls Club, where he and Paige met. Kyle sees parallels in his time as an infantryman to the task-oriented job of managing a farm. He was recently recognized as one of the fruit and vegetable industry’s Top 40 Under 40 for his work transitioning Bell’s Farm into a regeneratively managed crop and livestock farm and for his key role in launching the Whidbey Island Grown Cooperative, a local hub for the production and sales of agricultural products on the Island.
Paige and Kyle are both active members of their local agricultural community, and together they strive to encourage greater participation in the local food economy through education, advocacy, and partnering with local organizations and food banks. Paige is on the Coupeville Farm-to-School board and Kyle is currently president of the Whidbey Island Grown Cooperative, which runs its food hub from the farm.
Regenerative & Sustainable Practices
Bell’s Farm operates with a holistic agricultural philosophy that calls for every element of the farm to work together in harmony. In practice, this looks like:
- Holistically managing animals on the farm to fertilize the ground, turn up the soils, and promote soil health and greater biodiversity.
- Using no synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides on their soils and produce. They test their soil twice per year to check nutrient levels and adjust their strategy to build organic matter and diversify pasture mixes.
- Increasing local food security and alleviating hunger by donating excess produce to their local food bank and nonprofits around their Puget Sound community.
- Offering education and outreach through agritourism, including their annual strawberry festival, regular farm tours, and u-dig potato days. They are also active in their community through the farm-to-school program, donating food for cooking classes, and advising the school farm on their practices and operations.
- Working with the NRCS to plant douglas fir trees for windbreaks and plant native root stock in the riparian acres on the farm, including aronia berries, ornamental willows, and malus fusca (a native crab apple) grafted on commercial apple varieties.