Friends in Focus – John Egbert

John under the very fruitful red plum tree in July 2019.

Each month, we will be featuring a short interview with one of the members of our community so that you can get to know them a little better.

If you have volunteered at the Chuckanut Center, you have likely met this happy, helpful, kind fellow. John Egbert leads the efforts in our Victory Garden, which sends thousands of pounds of fruits and veggies to local organizations that feed those in need. He is passionate about providing nutritious, fresh, lovingly-grown produce to those who are inundated with processed foods. John is also passionate about teaching others how to grow their own food and is the lead instructor of our Cooperative Vegetable Gardening Program which begins on April 17th!

How long have you been gardening?

I began gardening at age 3 with my mother. Dare I say over 70 years? My gardening began sniffing blue iris and Lily of the Valley which led to dreaming about growing juicy tomatoes and sweet corn.  I’ve gardened in Ohio, Michigan, New England, New Mexico, and Bellingham. 

What have been some of your biggest challenges in the garden? 

At CC, some of my biggest challenges have been managing weeds such as creeping buttercup and yellow dock, as well as trying to control slugs and carrot flies.  Gardening requires managing and living with contradictions: wood chip mulch helps prevent weeds, but encourages slugs. Tillage encourages weed germination, and can damage soil aggregates.  Yet after winter, soil seems to ask for air. No hole, no seed, no transplant.  

In gardening, success comes from knowing local conditions and anticipating changes. The idea is manage soil and water, take advantage of light, and emulate nature. Each plant like each of us has limiting factors which encourage or discourage growth. Our intimacy with plants requires attention to what they like so they produce what we want. 

What do you find most rewarding about your involvement with the Chuckanut Center? 

The CC offers an excellent gardening site with plenty of sun, water, and healthy soil. Growers share resources and learn from each other.  We have a common, unspoken intention to take care of this gift through hard work. The Center is a place where the individual and the team can thrive. Opportunity is its centerpiece.   

What is one piece of advice you would give someone who has very little experience growing their own food? 

If you’d like to be successful growing your own food, be sure to meet and question experienced gardeners. Gardening is a place in life where people like to share what works and doesn’t. Learn all you can about the living soil web. If you understand soil, you will grow your plants well. 

Any favorite resources? 

Consult two key texts: Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide and Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. 

Lastly, what is your favorite thing to plant in April?

April is greens month. The weather is cool and often damp, slugs abound, but it’s time for salad greens, and I cultivate endive and escarole. 

Thanks, John, for your sharing your wisdom and experience with us!

If you would like to nominate someone to be featured in the Friends in Focus interview series, please email us at

-Written by Meg All