Western’s Outback Farm celebrates 50th anniversary with weekend full of free events May 21-22

May 5, 2022

In 1972, when Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies was still a new institution, students moved to the historic Burns cabins on the ridge above what is now the Outback Farm at Western Washington University and started farming. They built a barn, raised goats for milking and pigs for eating, planted a few fruit trees, and grew vegetables. In the five decades since then, the farm program has grown and now hosts dozens of classes and independent projects, a staff of eight students, a food forest, and 60 Community Garden plots.

This year marks 50 years of farming, experimentation, ecological restoration, cooperation, and community in the Outback, and Western is celebrating with a weekend of free events May 21-22, including workshops, presentations, live music, food, an info fair, and work parties.

“I’m beyond excited to be able to celebrate the Outback Farm’s 50th anniversary with alumni, friends, staff, faculty, and current students,” says Caskey Russell, Dean of Fairhaven College. “For 50 years the Outback Farm has provided a unique learning experience for thousands of students, and it stands as a symbol for the greatness of Fairhaven. Please come and honor the Outback with me.”

Visitors will be able to learn and connect at a variety of family-friendly workshops, including sessions about bird watching, beekeeping, fermentation, Indigenous food sovereignty, food justice and farm resilience. Live music includes a singer-songwriter competition at the main celebration on Saturday evening from 5-7 p.m. with a food truck, info fair, and T-shirt sales, a Blues Brunch on Sunday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. with a coffee cart, and an open jam session with alumni Sunday at 1 p.m.

“Not only are we celebrating the past 50 years of this special place on campus, we are focusing on our current mission of food sovereignty and all the things we can accomplish in the next 50 years,” says Farm Manager Terri Kempton. “I’m especially looking forward to the events on Indigenous food sovereignty and the food justice work going on here at Western.”

Registration is free but required, as some events have limited space.
See the full schedule and register for Outback Farm 50th Anniversary events.
If you’d like to support the Outback Farm, please visit the VikingFunder donation page.

Questions about the Outback Farm can be sent to Farm Manager Terri Kempton at kemptot@wwu.edu 

A sign between a tree and a trail welcomes visitors to the Outback Farm's Food Forest.
Students working at the Outback Farm as the top of an illustrated earth, with text reading Outback Farm 50th May 21-22