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Seattle woman forsakes corporate career for Whatcom farm life

BELLINGHAM, Wash -- Bellingham is farm country.

In fact, Whatcom County ranks in the top 3-percent of farm production in the entire US according to the city, port and county’s Choose Whatcom project.

But who is doing that farming may surprise you.

Q13 News visited one farm and met one person who could be the face of the new farmer.

Gabrielle Santerre’s resume includes English and Psychology in college. She worked well paid corporate jobs in publishing and sales. She had a life filled with hip bars, cool clubs, the trendiest restaurants in Seattle.

Now she’s a 30-something farmer living in Bellingham and she’s not alone.

“The 9 to 5 desk job was not for me,” said Santerre. “I also really like to work hard.”

Maybe it was her years in a cubicle. Or maybe it was the growing stress of Facebook and Instagram.

“Maybe the amount of technology we have these days has made a craving for something tangible,” said Santerre. “I decided to quit, much to the dismay of everyone in my family, to work in farming.”

First, she commuted from Seattle to farms in Woodinville and Whidbey Island. Then she went all in, moved to Bellingham and now manages Growing Washington’s local choice food box. A program that collects products from local growers and makers, packages them up fresh on a weekly basis and delivers them to subscribers homes.

“People get cheese, bread, vegetable, all sorts of good stuff in their box,” explained Santerre.

She’s still selling and managing. She’s just doing it well outside the city limits and she’s doing it with others like her.

“We’re employing a bunch of young people,” said Santerre.

The US Department of Agriculture recently found that for just the second time in the last 100 years the number of farmers under 35 is growing in the US.

Nearly 70% of those young farmers hold college degrees. That’s significantly higher than the general population.

“A lot of people are stuck with jobs that are paying well but maybe they don’t love,” said Santerre. “People ask me that, how did you become a farmer. I wish I could do that, how do I do that.”

To which Santerre says the same thing.

“I’m like 'quit your job and become a farmer.' They’re like 'but how?' There’s only one way.”

It’s what she did.

“I took that risk and I’m really glad that I, did” said Santerre.

It’s what others in Whatcom County and across the US are doing too.

The USDA finds most young farmers today don’t come from farm families. They are diverse in ethnicity, gender and sexuality. They most often work on smaller farms focused on organic and farm-to-table produce.

They are makers, growers and farmers.

“Now I can do things like read and write for fun,” said Santerre.