Michael Nichols, owner of Whidbey Green Goods, stands in his hoop house, also known as “The Hovel.” Customers visit the Clinton farm to pick up their own produce and plant starts. (Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News Group)

Michael Nichols, owner of Whidbey Green Goods, stands in his hoop house, also known as “The Hovel.” Customers visit the Clinton farm to pick up their own produce and plant starts. (Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News Group)

One-man Whidbey Island farm gears up for spring

The pandemic has brought a longtime farmer out of retirement.

A self-described “micro-business” that was started by a longtime South Whidbey resident years ago has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts.

Michael Nichols started Whidbey Green Goods back in 2006 with the goal to provide the freshest produce and plant starts to other fellow South Whidbey residents. About 10 years ago, he started out with an Excel spreadsheet and 600 clients and came up with the idea of bringing the farmers market to the doorstep.

He believes he may be one of the first people who created an online store where shoppers could find fruits, veggies, plants, flowers and more. The online store is six years old.

“We were doing this a long time before a whole lot of people were doing this,” Nichols said.

After falling ill, Nichols made the decision to retire from the business in 2018.

However, he came out of retirement when the pandemic hit last year and the demand for no-contact shopping soared.

“Fifteen minutes after the guy in Everett was pronounced sick, I had two people call up within a few minutes of each other, going, ‘Mikey, Mikey, we want to stay out of the damn grocery stores. You gonna do the delivery service?’” he recalled with a laugh.

Nichols has found the revitalization of Whidbey Green Goods to be a “blessing in disguise” and a much-needed distraction during COVID-19.

One big change for the business has been that clients are now required to meet Nichols halfway. Instead of doorstep delivery, customers can pick up their purchases at drop-off locations in Langley or Freeland. They are also invited to come pick up a box directly from Whidbey Green Goods in Clinton. They can even pick their own produce from “The Hovel,” which Nichols lovingly refers to his hoop house as, where things grow.

“My friends are my clients and my clients are my friends,” Nichols said. “They know I’m trying hard and they know I appreciate their support for the endeavors I have.”

He joked that he has known “half the island” since his move to Whidbey in 1983. His wife at the time saw an ad for a women’s clothing store that was for sale across the street from Payless Foods.

“We came up on a Monday and by golly when we walked out of here on Monday evening, we had bought the store, gotten a loan from the friendly banker to buy the store, we found a place to live and we had taken 40 bucks playing pinochle,” he said.

Nichols has been into farming and gardening most of his life. As life progressed, he has scaled back. Although he does grow a number of vegetable starts and crops — including basil, tomatoes and snow peas — he also gets the goods from a variety of Whidbey farms that may have a surplus. For other things that aren’t specific to the Pacific Northwest climate — such as avocados or bananas — he purchases them from an organic produce distributor.

If orders are placed on the web store for whidbeygreengood.com by 2 p.m. on Wednesday, clients can find the food in Nichols’ driveway as soon as 8 a.m. Thursday morning. He boards the first boat bound for “America” in the morning and picks up produce from a distributor near Paine Field.

“One thing COVID did was make local food very precious,” Nichols said.

Spring plant starts are currently available at Whidbey Green Goods for 25 percent off. Nichols is preparing for warmer weather and needs to make the space for summer goods. Within the next few weeks, he will have vegetables available.

The Hovel is open by appointment Monday-Thursday and open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday. For information, email wggmike@gmail.com.

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