Gene Kahn's vision
The story of Cascadian Farm begins with the story of its founder, Gene Kahn.
In 1972, 50 years ago, Gene was an idealistic 24-year-old graduate student from Chicago, who wanted to make a difference in the world.
Intrigued by the fragile balance between nature and humans and inspired by reading “Silent Spring” and “Diet for A Small Planet,” he wanted to grow crops in a way that would not harm the land.
He moved to the West Coast where he embraced his strong appreciation for nature and found a cooperative community that shared his views.
Never having planted anything before, he gained his knowledge of farming through reading, and began farming organically near the Skagit River in the Cascade Mountains of Washington in 1972.
“The original inspiration to begin Cascadian Farm was my conviction that our personal survival depended on ‘going back to the land,’” says Kahn. “After several years of tirelessly looking for a perfect location, I found an abandoned 51-acre property in a remote location that was being used as a dump site for cars, appliances, and garbage. There was no electricity and the house had no plumbing heat or windows remaining. [I thought] ‘Ah, perfection!’ and that is how the New Cascadian Survival and Reclamation Project began.”
Kahn's method was to work in harmony with nature, preserving the soil and protecting the rivers and streams around the farm, focusing on choosing conditions that would foster biodiversity.
At the time, he was surrounded by traditional farms, and although they didn’t understand why he wanted to pursue organic farming, they played a large role in helping him get started.
“The locals who were involved in agriculture thought of me as a ‘working hippie,’ and they tried to dissuade me from farming without agrochemicals. Afterall, I had chose to farm in a temperate rainforest with 80-inches of annual precipitation,” says Kahn.
But, the local farmers later became mentors to Kahn and gave him tips for growing in the Skagit Valley.
“The education they provided me, and their continual support had a lifesaving impact on the farm,” Kahn said.
At first, Kahn farmed for a small community, selling organic products out of the back of a VW truck. PCC Community Markets was his first customer in 1972.
But Cascadian Farm soon became a thriving organic food company.
Little did he know he would become one of the pioneers of an agricultural movement that continues to thrive today. He was “organic” before organic was vogue.
Since the 70s, Cascadian Farm has continued to flourish as one of the nation’s leading producers of wholesome, organic food.
Take a trip through time to see the brand's milestone moments.
Cascadian Farm today
Fifty years later, Gene’s legacy lives on as Cascadian Farm continues to be an entirely organic brand.
“When we have a brand celebrate a major milestone like Cascadian Farm’s 50th anniversary, it’s humbling to remember that very few brands are lucky enough to celebrate such an occasion,” says Dan McFadden, brand manager, Natural & Organic. “Cascadian Farm was a true pioneer of organic farming practices and benefits, and having the brand celebrate 50 years is a testament to the power of a bold vision and brand purpose coming together.”
“The most important growth metric for me was not equivalent cases or sales dollars, but acres farmed organically,” said Kahn. “The memories that bring me the most satisfaction are the numerous people who made it all happen.”
To learn more about Cascadian Farm, visit CascadianFarm.com.