by Tom Thornton
It was late September 1978 when I rolled up the driveway of an abandoned chicken farm on Goodwin Rd. The landscape contours of the fields then looked like cotton ready for harvest. The reality was a very dense stand of Canadian thistle, 20 acres worth. The view east was a beautiful landscape of terraced fields that wrapped a sublime quiet stream. The hills above, a patchwork of forested canyons and ridge lines that crested at the top of Sumas Mountain. The view from the top of the farm was sweeping to the west. On clear day you could see the coastal range in British Columbia and in the winter you could see the snow reflection off the mountains on Vancouver Island and the high ridgeback of Lummi.
In those few first clear moments standing alongside of my rusted out dodge power wagon, I knew this was home, like I had seen this place before. Like so many ‘back to the landers’ of that time I was honestly just another cultural refugee running away, not necessarily running to anything other than to find value and meaning in my days. To me its so interesting how this work and these dreams have evolved.
Here it is 40 years this month when I came to the beginning of this journey. I have attempted to face everyday with meaning and to not let my cobbled humble dreams fade. Over time I’ve watched the romance I’ve had with this land physically tear me down to my knees. Yet, today I feel grateful and alive. The nexus from the beginnings of Cloud Mountain are based on valuing the significance and the important choice we make as a culture in supporting rural small landholders who work the land. These principles played a foundational role in the impetus in forming the non-profit Cloud Mountain Farm Center and continue to provide a great deal of inspiration to the thousands of visitors, customers and students who pass through annually.
On a more personal note, Cheryl and I have run the gauntlet of experiences and emotions over the years building this wonderful place. In those years we’ve seen a year’s work stripped in a moment of raining hail and have also experienced so many wonderful seasons here. We have gratitude for the life this work has given us and we continue to embrace the dance that has allowed us to draw deep at times from our foundations of being human.
Several of the true joys in this endeavor has been all of the incredible people who have worked here along side of us to make Cloud Mountain what it is today. Another has been our membership in this really superb community that we love and where we live! Cheryl and I thank all you for the moments and in so many cases the decades of support, consultation, inspiration and friendship.
On August 30 I stepped down from being the Executive Director at Cloud Mountain Farm Center. It is time to pass the torch.
I will continue on in a staff/mentor position for a few more years. Cheryl as well will stay fully involved in supporting this next phase at Cloud Mountain.