Welcome to the Outback
We are WWU’s 5-acre farm on south campus between Fairhaven College and Buchanan Towers. Started in 1972, the Outback is a place of experimentation, learning, reflection, advocacy, and agriculture. We feature permaculture practices and teachings and are home to community gardens, chickens, production rows, a teaching apiary, vernal pools and a delineated wetland. We’re a student-driven farm with three year-long Coordinator positions and a team of work/study students focused on growing food for the WWU community. All students are welcome to come and engage in ecosystem restoration, community building, and food justice. Everyone has a right to know about their food – and the Outback is a place where you can explore the importance of farming for empowerment, resilience, and health. The Outback was even named as one of the top 40 ranking college farms in America by CollegeRanker.com!
How to get involved
- Come visit! If you're a student at WWU, this is your farm. The Outback is a part of campus and is always open to visitors - just make sure to close the gates when you pass through.
- Volunteer: Work parties Winter Quarter are Sundays from 1-3pm on the main farm and Wednesday mornings, 9-11am to work in the Forest Garden. No previous experience required!
- Join the Community Gardens: The Outback hosts 61 garden plots that are used by students, campus groups, WWU faculty and staff, alumni and other members of our Bellingham community. If you’d like to explore growing your own garden, we have the tools, the know-how, and the support to help you succeed. Learn more, add your name to the waitlist, and download the required paperwork here.
- Participate in free workshops: Outback Coordinators plan and host several events each quarter that are free and open to all. Topics range from native plant foraging to permaculture design to eating well on a budget. Please see our calendar for upcoming events!
Meet Our Team
Farm Manager, Terri Kempton
Terri blends experience with organic and biodynamic farming together with conservation biology and permaculture design. She works half-time year round supporting students, overseeing farm logistics, and handling the administrative pieces of the Outback. Terri is also an instructor at the College of the Environment and Fairhaven College, teaching classes on food, ecogastronomy, farming, agroecology, and community building. Contact Terri at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-650-6807 with any questions about the farm, potential projects, or for more information about student positions.
Outback Engagement Coordinator, Kate Conway
Kate (they/she) is a Fairhaven student studying sustainable, just food systems. They are a lover of eggs, their trusty bicycle Louise, and cold swims. Kate believes access to fresh, healthy food is a basic human right and is excited to continue working with the Outback to fight food insecurity on campus. To get involved or for interviews, email email@example.com.
Outback Operations Coordinator, Skye Schatz
Skye (They/She) is a Western student studying biology. They have a strong passion for food justice and believe that everyone deserves access to quality, flavorful, and culturally relevant foods. They bring a background working in non-profit, no-till agriculture and are thrilled for the opportunity to help contribute to all Western students having equitable access to food. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org for general questions or to volunteer!
Outback Permaculture Coordinator, August Miller
Reign (they/he/she) is a student in the College of the Environment at WWU. Reign 's majoring in environmental studies with an emphasis in geography and a minor in GIS. Reign’s passion for learning about the Earth led them on a unique path. Before university, they volunteered as a certified WSU master gardener for five years, worked in tree fruit research labs, and had a career as a horticulturist in apple and cherry orchards of Central Washington. You can reach them at email@example.com
Outback Faculty Advisor, John Tuxill
John is an ethnobotanist by training and has carried out research on the maintenance of biodiversity in traditional agricultural systems. He is Associate Professor at Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies and teaches courses on Ethnobotany, Agroecology and Food Systems, Ecological Restoration, and Natural History. His classes make extensive use of the Outback as a learning space, and he also works with students on Independent Studies and other academic projects at the Outback. Contact John at John.Tuxill@wwu.edu or 360-650-4435.
IN MEMORIAM - Outback Permaculture Coordinator, Elliot Scott
Elliot was a Huxley student majoring in environmental studies and Chinese language. Using permaculture design principals, Elliot managed the food forest and natural habitat areas. Through shared knowledge and labor, he strove to represent all students' interests on the farm.
Please visit the Elliot Scott Memorial Scholarship to donate.
Classes that use the Farm
In addition to volunteering, attending workshops, and joining the Community Garden, WWU students can take courses that use the Outback as a classroom. It’s also a popular site for individual and group ISPs. Courses have included the following:
FAIR 197e: Experiential Learning in the Outback
FAIR 206a: Science and Our Place on the Planet
FAIR 235A, B, and C: Experiential Farm Skills.
FAIR 330e: Ethnobotany
FAIR 335p: Global Biodiversity Conservation: Science and Policy
FAIR 336B: Food Justice in the Outback
ESCI 361: Water Quality
WGSS 363: Feminist Food Justice
ENVS 397k: Ecological Design I
FAIR 436: Advanced Seminar in Agroecology
ENVS 411: Agroecology Planning and Practicum
FAIR 432Q / ESCI 470: Ecological Restoration
The Outback Farm and Fairhaven College acknowledge that we work, gather, and learn on the unceded ancestral homelands of the Coast Salish Peoples who have lived in this region from time immemorial. Please join us in deep respect and gratitude for our Indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
n 1972, a group of students in the newly established Fairhaven College decided to go “back to the land” and started farming the five acres immediately “out back” of the College. They built a barn, brought in cows and pigs, and started growing produce. These students shared lodging in the historic Burns cabins from the 1920’s on the ridge above the farm (one of them still remains). Over the years, the Outback has also been home to sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, and bees. Countless concerts, gatherings, and events have been held at the Amphitheater, built by students and Facilities in 2010. Every year 10-12 free workshops are held in the large Outdoor Classroom, built in 2013. More history can be found in the article “The Life and Times of the Outback Farm.”
- 1920s June and Farrar Burn homestead the land and build two cabins
- 1969 The Outback slated to become dorms and parking lots.
- 1972 Students initiate the Outback Pig Farm
- 1978 Student proposal to become the Outback Program is accepted but is later dropped by administration.
- 1980s Students begin experimental living in Outback. A barn is raised. Classes begin to utilize the Outback.
- 1990s New student energy initiates wetland designation and restoration. A greenhouse is constructed. Students bring in ducks, and establish annual Earth Day Events. First performance stage is built.
- 1996 First Earth Day celebration in Outback.
- 1999 Outback receives endorsement and academic protection from WWU.
- 2000 "Outback Cooperative Project".
- 2001 "Ecovillage Design" Course. Hundreds attend Earth Day. Food grown for homeless shelters through Fruitful Gatherings. Solar system installed.
- 2002 College of the Environment and Fairhaven College complete an academic proposal.
- 2003 Proposal to become an official Associated Students Program. Students begin designing new performance stage.
- 2004 Push continues for program status. Stage design complete.
- 2006 Outback becomes AS program and 1st salaried student coordinator hired; Community Garden restored for folks to have their own garden plots; Educational Garden started (originally 'Market Garden') and food grown for volunteers and Bellingham Food Bank
- 2007 CDC (Early Childhood Development Center) garden started; Received AS grant to fund greenhouse expansion and tool shed replacement, cedar signs, and raised beds for Community Garden.
- 2008 students take down old dilapidated tool shed and sauna buildings and build new tool shed; students install cedar signs that Facilities made
- 2009 students complete Amphitheater framing; Students form Burns' Cabins Restoration Project.
- May 2010 Amphitheater is completed!
- Summer of 2013 completion of the Outdoor Classroom
- 2018 Farm Manager position created thanks to student leadership and SEJF grant funding
- Spring 2019 the new teaching apiary was started with two nucs and hives
- 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Outback staff (considered essential workers) continued to steward the farm but focused on providing food for students facing food insecurity. The team was instrumental in the establishment of weekly food distribution events and free farmers markets that ran until fall 2021.
- In fall of 2020 a team from College of the Environment started researching mushroom cultivation, leading to the creation of a mushroom garden and inoculation of winecap stropharia, oyster mushrooms, and shiitakes.
- In 2021 we started construction on a large cob oven by the Outdoor Classroom. This project will help evolve the Classroom as a gathering space and community hub, and is built in memory of Elliot Scott, a Permaculture Coordinator who passed in 2020.
- Plans for 2022 include recontouring the vegetable rows in the Ed Beds and - thanks for a Whole Cities Foundation grant - replacing the chicken house, coop, and run. It's also the 50th Anniversary of the Outback Farm! Come celebrate with us May 21-22.