Farm 12

Putting People Before Profit

The name Farm 12 might imply to some that this eatery has co-opted the hip farm-to-table trend so popular with restaurants today. But the story of this restaurant is different — and the name is genuine. The land on which it sits used to be a tulip farm, tended over the years by five generations of the Van Lierop family — known for their high-quality bulbs. The family homesteaded in 1934, and the property eventually was listed as farm No. 12 on the Puget Sound Bulb Exchange.

The Salmon Farro Bowl with chilled grains, snap peas, radish, avocado, sweet and spicy chilies, and cilantro, drizzled with lemon herb vinaigrette (offered with curbside service) is one of Farm 12’s most popular, healthy dishes.

The famed tulip farms of Puyallup Valley are mostly gone now, and Neil Van Lierop reluctantly decided to sell the property. He was lucky — the buyer didn’t intend to raze the farm, as was the fate of so many of his neighbors. Krista Linden, the founder and executive director of a local nonprofit, became the new steward of the former Van Lierop bulb farm in 2015, having recognized the land’s potential as the perfect home for the organization she founded, Step By Step.

Her program empowers at-risk mothers with counseling, education, and support. “The goal is to help them deliver a healthy baby, get a good start parenting, and establish a safe home and secure future,” Linden said. “We help moms, often during very dark times, address challenges they face.” Step By Step assists about 1,200 women a year, from early in their pregnancy to well after babies are born.

Linden envisioned repurposing the farm buildings on the property into a type of campus where Step By Step could operate and teach women job and life skills. She laughed when she said it’s quite a change from where the nonprofit started — in Linden’s laundry room 24 years ago.

The late Germaine Korum, founder of the Korum for Kids Foundation and an early supporter of Linden’s ideas, donated some of the funds to buy the land. The entire campus has been named in her honor — The Germaine Korum Center.

Next came Farm 12, the restaurant. Linden, restaurant-consulting firm Arnold Shain Restaurant Group, and her advisory council painstakingly developed the restaurant and event spaces. The 110-seat restaurant sits next to a 2,000-square-foot training kitchen and an event hall that seats 400 people. Farm 12 is a place where women in the program can develop skills that will allow them to flourish in the culinary industry and elsewhere.

Farm 12 Executive Chef Daven Daran

Farm 12’s Executive Chef Daven Daran blends experience in fine dining with a background in food sourcing — he was raised on a sustainable farm in Fiji. Linden explained her team’s philosophy: “We offer food that’s as fresh as we can get, but we keep it affordable for families, and we also use local farm products. It’s labor-intensive to do this, though. For instance, we hand-cut all our fries. That’s nearly one full-time job a year, just hand-cutting fries!”

Business at the restaurant started off with a bang when she opened the doors in November 2019. Then, the long arm of COVID-19 forced the doors shut not long after. “We’re still trying to get our legs under us,” she admitted. “When you go through times like this, the true character of leaders and employees comes out. I am really proud of our team.” The restaurant quickly reversed course and, for three months, offered curbside pick-up only, which was met with enthusiastic community support. Farm 12 returned to dine-in service on June 12.

“Our mission is to put people before profit,” Linden said. She has big plans for Step By Step — an early learning center, more event space, a second restaurant, and another greenhouse. “Sustainability in a social enterprise is incredibly important,” Linden explained. “We want to be here for the long term. We’re setting the bar as high as we can for food and service quality. We want to be known around the region, and
I want our people to be really proud of where they work.” stepbystepfamily.org; farm12.org; legacyinmotionproject.org

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