Walla Walla’s farming community is still alive and well thanks to the dedication of local farmers like Galen Tome.
The fifth-generation farmer is the owner of Walla Walla Heritage Farm, one of the largest suppliers of Asian vegetables to Portland and Seattle during the fall season. The aptly named Heritage Farm comes with a history tracing back to the 1800s.
Located along Heritage Road, the farm used to be much larger. “I farmed this ground right where we are sitting,” said Tome as he drank coffee at Hot Mama’s Espresso. “The highway went straight through the farm. The state wanted to cover a lot of the [water] springs.”
Tome credits the over-one-hundred-year legacy of his farm to his crops. The Mediterranean climate of Walla Walla offers great conditions for bok choy, radishes, Chinese broccoli, cabbage, and watercress. While most farmers harvest in summer when the flies are active and the temperature is high, Tome harvests in the fall.
“You need to think about the nature of the ground and work with it,” he said, “Weeds don’t grow much in fall so I don’t use pesticides or herbicides. Asian crops are cool weather crops, so I don’t have to use as much water.”
Tome remarked that recently, cooking shows have labeled his crops as “superfoods” which has increased attention to this farm.
Despite the success he may have found now, farming wasn’t always Tome’s goal. After growing up on the farm, he went to school for cost accounting and worked in high finance in Spokane. But he started to miss the simple life and decided to move back to the Walla Walla farm to spend more time with his parents.
“It’s nice to be able to add something to the world instead of taking it away,” he said.
Heritage Farm has witnessed the rise in technology and corporate farming yet has remained steadfast in its old-fashioned practices. Tome still uses the springs that were developed by his family members generations ago.
Before the days of strict work regulations, high school kids would work on the farm after school. Tome fondly remembered how the demanding work brought the community together.
Now, farming is much more independent. “You get a lot of time to think. You are out there pulling weeds and driving the tractor for hours. You get to think about anything you want,” said Tome, who later admitted, “Most farmers just think about the next crop.”
Technology may be rapidly advancing the farming industry, but Tome has no plans to change his practices. As the first precision agriculture instructor at Walla Walla Community College, he has trust in his method of farming.
With a pure source of water and organic farming practices, Heritage Farm is ready to stick around for another hundred years. 
Interview with Galen Tome, 10/17/2023.
Bok Choy Field. A view of the bok choy field at Walla Walla Heritage Farm. Photo by Galen Tome.
Cultivating. Solitary tasks, like cultivation, give farmers a lot of time to think. Photo by Galen Tome.