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Ag Community Worth Saving, Says Olympic Nursery Owner

Longtime Woodinville resident Tom Quigley urges community to continue to embrace the benefits of local farm land.

You won’t find too many people more concerned about the preservation and future of agriculture and tourism in the Sammamish Valley than Tom Quigley, owner of Woodinville’s bucolic Olympic Nursery.

Quigley was a member of the King Country Agriculture Commission for eight years. He’s a former board member of the . He’s been instrumental in the success of the , which begins another season May 7. In 2009, on Earth Day, he was honored by the Greater Grace Wine Appreciation Society for his agricultural preservation efforts.

In addition, Quigley co-founded the Sammamish Valley Alliance, which promotes agriculture. He was the organization’s first chairman. And in February, Quigley gave a presentation to the called “Saving Our Valley Farms.”

“He’s been a force in the ag community for some time,” said Ron Baum, overseer of the Sammamish Valley Grange. “And he’s a very generous person. If someone needs something, he’ll make sure they get it one way or the other.”

People tend to listen when Quigley voices his thoughts on agriculture. He says one of biggest issues must be education through venues such as the Woodinville Farmers Market. Another is just community acknowledgement of Woodinville’s farms, which includes actively supporting growers and their products.

But you may be surprised about what Quigley says is the biggest agriculture issue Woodinville faces: traffic and transportation, and the lack of basic infrastructure in place for tourists visiting town.

“We all know that ag tourism is major here, and a big part of that of course are the wineries and the tasting rooms. To this day, there is not a single piece of language in the Woodinville municipal code about shuttles.”

There is a a desperate need for shuttle service in town, Quigley says, noting that there are no dedicated services in Woodinville. He mentioned two that help take up the slack: Butler Seattle, which features a special service for Woodinville wine country, and , Woodinville’s longtime restaurant and club that offers bus tours on the weekend for paying customers. Especially needed, Quigley says, is shuttle service to the Tourist District, which can get clogged with its numerous tasting rooms.

Quigley has certainly been around long enough for strong opinions about Woodinville. Born in Everett, he bought Olympic Nursery in Woodinville in 1989, a name he now says in hindsight he wished he changed since there are so many businesses with “Olympic” in their names. Olympic Nursery specializes in installing flowering and ornamental trees, as well as trees and shrubs that provide privacy. Over the years, Quigley—a certified arborist—has added landscape design to his services.

Quigley serves a niche in the Sammamish Valley. He frequently gets customers who ask how he stays in business with nearby. In fact, Quigley is good friends with Molbak’s owner Jens Molbak, whose salespeople send customers his way all the time.

“People sometimes just want bigger trees, and they don’t want to wait,” he said. “I don’t sell seeds.” He remembers an older man who ordered a large tree one day. “He told me, ‘Young man, I don’t even buy green bananas anymore.’”

Quigley leases the land for the nursery on 140th Street, while also overseeing much of the 70 acres that surround it and extends west to the . It’s there Quigley helped install a heritage garden, sponsored by the Sammamish Valley Grange, that is open to the public. The purpose of the quarter-acre garden, which features a trapper’s cabin and a sawmill project, is to educate visitors about crops and crop methods used by early pioneers. Crops grown there now include wheat, barley and rye.

Quigley works out of his main office, a greenhouse, and more than a year ago moved the entrance to the greenhouse’s south side.

When not ordering trees and overseeing their delivery, Quigley—as you might expect—is active in Woodinville’s agriculture community. Although much of the area surrounding Olympic Nursery is protected by King County’s Farmland Preservation Program, he says citizens will have to stay active to keep it that way.

“People in the valley appreciate the farmland protection,” he said. “They can get pretty vocal if there’s an attempt to annex or change zoning laws.”

Although agriculture was much more prevalent in Woodinville’s past—dairy farms used to thrive in the area, he said—Quigley is heartened by what he sees as an increased appreciation for just how valuable farming, and its resulting open spaces and local food sources, is to local residents.

“Agriculture is highly valued, and the average Woodinville citizen is aware of it,” he said. “We’re really an urban community, but having a productive ag community so close is an unusual benefit.”

Sonja Lyons April 19, 2011 at 06:29 PM
I want to get my food as locally as possible, so I want agriculture to stay in Woodinville.
Brenda Vanderloop April 19, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Great article, Brian! Tom has been an integral cog in the agricultural wheel throughout the Sammamish Valley and beyond. The local farms and businesses appreciate his hard work and efforts on all levels.
Deborah Poarch April 20, 2011 at 04:41 AM
Thanks for this great article. I was just having a conversation with someone from 21 Acres this weekend who didn't know the history of the FPP. I hope everyone looks at the FPP link to see that the deed says, "the Grantors being therewith fully satisfied, do by these presents grant, bargain, sell, transfer and convey unto the Grantee forever all Development Rights in respect to the Land, hereby perpetually binding the Land to the restrictions limiting permitted activities to agricultural and open space uses..." It's forever. The valley would not be what it is today without this incredible piece of legislation.

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