Auburn's rich farming history still shines today, despite challenges

AUBURN, Wash. -- You may think of Auburn as little more than a Seattle suburb.

But ask any longtime Washingtonian, and they'll tell you it's also known for its crunchy cucumbers, crisp lettuce and fragrant rhubarb.

In fact, many will argue some of the best farming in the state sits on the west side of the Cascades.

Rosella and Burr Mosby's 350-acre farm rests on the fertile soil of the Auburn Valley. The first-generation farmers grow zucchini, cucumbers, leeks, beats, and rhubarb. They grow their crop atop the same soil that has been farmed for more than 120 years.

"This has historically been a big farming community," Burr Mosby said.

It's easy to get a glimpse of Auburn's farming past. Down the road from the Mosby's farm is The Mary Olson Farm, Part of the White River Valley Museum,  the farm is nestled against steep hills and tall evergreens.

The turn-of-the-century subsistence farm was purchased by the city in the 1990s. The city hoped to preserve the history of the area while teaching visitors and youngsters about Auburn's farming past.

A past that has included a hops boom and a diary bust.

"It's really deep within our culture so I think that having this farm where people can visit and see the history is really important," said Rachael McAlister, the museum and farm director with the White River Valley Museum.

The challenges of the past - like robberies and a drop in hops prices - are quite different from the problems today. Rosella and Burr say more government regulations mean farmers are feeling the pinch. They also say the booming economy and tougher immigration laws make it hard to find workers for the Mosby Farm - which needs about 100 farmhands in peak season.

"The other thing we're competing against right now is construction and warehouse jobs," Burr said.

Though troubles pop up and trips to the state capitol on behalf of farmers are increasingly common, the drive to work remains, Rosella Mosby said.

The same drive that likely persuaded people into farming years ago.

"You get to be a part of the local community, and it's pretty cool," said Rosella Mosby.