2015 25.4 Farm Walk Summer Highlights

Gleanings From the Farm Walks Program (Summer 2015).

“SUSTAINABLE FARMSTEAD GOAT DAIRY”
MYSTERY BAY FARM / June 15, 2015

It was a micro-Farm Walk at this micro-dairy on Marrowstone Island near Nordland, WA, as five attendees gathered to learn about farmstead goat dairying from farmers Rachael Van Laanen and Scott Brinton. The Farm Walk began in Mystery Bay’s barn, where Rachael spoke about maintaining a goat herd and the general milking process. Currently, the farm has 21 Alpine dairy goats that are milked to make cheese and yogurt.

The basic cycle for their goats starts with fall breeding (they keep two bucks) to provide spring births. They dry their does off by Thanksgiving to give them a two month break from milking. The does give birth in February/March, when the farm begins milking again. Rachael and Scott feed their goats all grass hay, most of which they produce in their own pastures. Mystery Bay milks twice a day—6am and 6pm—using an automated bucket milker. Rachael advised that an automated milking system becomes most cost effective once a milking herd exceeds seven to 10 goats.

Mystery Bay’s milking parlor is attached to the wash room, where the raw milk is passed to be filtered and cooled in a water bath. Rachael explained that it is important to cool the milk as quickly as possible to prevent the milk from “breaking down,” which results in off-flavors. Next to the wash room is the cheese making room. Though attendees could not access this room (or the wash room) Mystery Bay has a large viewing window for everyone to see its set-up. Rachael makes chevre and yogurt every two days, nearly year-round. Depending on the season, she notices a dramatic change in flavor and texture of the cheese in reaction to changes in what the goats browse in their pastures.

Scott then took the attendees through Mystery Bay’s pastures, which he manages through a rotational grazing system. A trained ecologist, Scott manages the pastures as close as possible to how they would naturally be managed in a wild system. Mystery Bay harvests its own grass hay. Since goats need variety, Scott tries to introduce other food sources and encourages the growth of wild rose and blackberry.
The attendees were able to see the vegetable garden where Mystery Bay grows produce for themselves and all the herbs used to flavor their chevre. From pasture to parlor to the final product, Mystery Bay Farm provided an excellent example of how to operate a sustainable dairy operation.

This Farm Walk is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2012-49400-19575. For more resources and programs for beginning farmers and ranchers please visit www.Start2Farm.gov.

“FARM TO RESORT: AGRITOURISM WITH A CERTIFIED ORGANIC GARDEN”
SLEEPING LADY RESORT / July 13, 2015

Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort sits on 67 acres of preserved land outside of Leavenworth, WA. The spot has a rich historical presence and is a hidden gem for travelers who come from across the country. More than 20 farmers and farm interns gathered to hear about the resort’s on-site certified organic garden. The two acre garden provides much of the produce and herbs used in their restaurants, as well as the fresh flowers displayed throughout the resort. Garden Manager Amy Cummings and the resort’s Marketing Director Lori Vandenbrink presented on Sleeping Lady’s environmentally-friendly gardening techniques, farm-to-table application, agritourism and marketing.
Lori spoke about the history of the resort and importance of sustainability to its current owner, which is why the garden plays an integral role in supplying the kitchens on site with fresh produce on a daily basis.

Certified organic by the Washington State Department of Agriculture since 1996, the garden is managed by Amy and staff using natural fertilizers and regularly rotating crops to improve the soil. The garden staff also works to attract environmentally beneficial insects, such as bees and ladybugs, to maintain the health and sustainability of the garden. Currently, the gardening team is preparing to extend the growing season through the use of a greenhouse and cold frames, which would provide fresh, local and organic produce to Sleeping Lady’s culinary team on a year-round basis. Amy discussed how she works with the culinary team to accommodate their needs while balancing what grows well in the climate of Leavenworth and in their garden soil.

The next part of the Farm Walk focused on noxious weed control and composting, both projects led by Amy’s garden team. Compost is made in The Earth Tub, designed by Green Mountain Technologies, specifically for on-site composting of food waste. It’s a fully enclosed composting vessel featuring power mixing, compost aeration, and biofiltration of all process air.

During the walk, Amy spoke about the importance of bringing the community together with organic growing practices and how important it was for their entire business to appreciate the growth of the garden. Throughout the walk, it was easy to see the passion the team had for the garden, and also the sustainability of the entire resort.

This Farm Walk is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2012-49400-19575. For more resources and programs for beginning farmers and ranchers please visit www.Start2Farm.gov.

“BEHIND THE BREW: ORGANIC HOPS PRODUCTION”
PERRAULT FARMS / July 27, 2015

Twenty-six farmers and agricultural professionals came together at Perrault Farms to learn about organic hops production. Located in the Yakima Valley, Perrault Farms is a family business and Jason Perrault, fourth generation hop farmer, along with his cousin Tim, led the walk. Jason shared that Washington, Idaho, and Oregon account for 100% of the U.S. hops production, with the Yakima Valley providing 75% in itself. It was wonderful to be on one of the few large-scale organic hops productions in the state.

Jason and Tim led attendees through an organic hop yard just beginning to develop flowers as they spoke about the management of organic hops. In total, Perrault Farms has 1,500 acres in hops production, and 45 acres in certified organic hops. The organic hops are used mostly by craft brewers in Washington, Oregon, and in New York.

The biggest challenge with growing organic hops is pest and disease management: aphids, mites, and powdery mildew. Management of nitrogen is also difficult in organic hops as hops plants use up nitrogen very quickly during their growth phase. For a quality product, nitrogen needs to be managed intensively which can be hard to do with organic products and methods such as cover crops and compost applications—two forms of fertility that Jason does employ. After about five years of being organic, Jason said he finally sees the ecosystem of his organic yards balance so that pest and disease issues became less dramatic. Jason is active in breeding hops varieties that provide a high yield as well as resistance to pests and disease.

Jason has begun to adopt many of the organic practices within his conventional blocks as well. He plants cover crops within his alleyways to build up soil health and provide habitat for beneficial insects. Whether organic or conventional, the Perrault hop yards are always monitored for threats of disease and pest pressure. Jason has identified people in his crew to do pest counts weekly as part of their Integrated Pest Management plan, which tracks both populations of beneficial insects and pest insects.

The Farm Walk included a tour of Perrault’s new processing facility, which will see its first hops harvest this August and September. Attendees were able to taste beer produced with Perrault hops in their tap room. Jason believes that now is the time to sell and grow organic hops, especially with the increased responsiveness to unique varieties and organically grown hops from the craft brewing industry.

This Farm Walk is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2012-49400-19575. For more resources and programs for beginning farmers and ranchers please visit www.Start2Farm.gov.

“ORGANIC PEST MANAGEMENT IN APPLES AND PEARS”
LEACH ORCHARD / August 3, 2015

Near Zillah, WA, 21 farmers and agricultural professionals gathered at Leach Orchards to learn about organic pest management in apples and pears, plus drought issues that have faced the Yakima Valley this season. Hosted by orchardist Scott Leach, the Farm Walk hit all the high points of what it means to be a certified organic orchardist. On-hand to lend their expertise regarding organic tree fruit production was Tom Unruh (USDA-ARS) and David Granatstein (WSU).

Tom Unruh spoke about biocontrol in tree fruits and the decade-long research he has been completing—often times right in Scott’s orchard. Biocontrol he spoke to included traps, lures, and mating disruption. Scott utilizes pheromone canisters timed to mist mating disruptors in his orchard blocks between dusk and midnight when moths are active. He stressed that this is just one tool of many to control pests and that he hires an orchard consultant to place canisters and recommend other courses of pest control. As far other production practices, Scott applies gypsum and a prilled organic fertilizer for his NPK needs. He also uses a copper product to help control blight.

A large portion of the Farm Walk was dedicated to addressing the drought this season, and how that has affected Scott in his management. Early on in the growing season, he dedicated time to replace old sprinkler heads to fix leaks and prevent loss of water. Scott prioritized what tree blocks needed water the most and generally irrigated every other tree row, every other day. He predicts that water issues and water rights will continue to be at the forefront of issues for growers no matter the seniority and no matter the irrigation district.

Based on where he sees the market going and what he likes to grow, Scott plans to replace his fresh apple blocks with apricots and pluots. He doesn’t want to have to compete with large apple growers. David Granatstein shared that the organic apple market has seen a 70% increase in the past two to three years and pears and cherries have seen about a 60% increase. This is a promising outlook for mid-sized organic growers such as Scott.

This Farm Walk is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2012-49400-19575. For more resources and programs for beginning farmers and ranchers please visit www.Start2Farm.gov.

“FRESHLY PRESSED: WASHINGTON’S FIRST CERTIFIED ORGANIC CRANBERRY FARM”
STARVATION ALLEY FARMS / Aug. 11, 2015

A stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, Starvation Alley Farms welcomed 17 farmers and community members to learn about organic production of cranberries and value-added products. Owned and operated by Jared Oakes and Jessica Tantisook, the pair took attendees on a tour of their two businesses –the cranberry bog and the juicing facility. Cranberry expert Kim Patten (WSU) and his lab technician and cranberry grower Chase Metzger joined the walk to answer questions about production of this North American native fruit.

The walk began at Starvation Alley’s 10 acres of certified organic cranberry bogs. When they began transitioning to organic, the bogs presented plenty of pest and disease challenges. For example, there is no organic control for twig blight, so Jared and Jessica have had to live with it and burn really bad areas of bog affected by the fungus. They hand weed in the winter and have found it difficult to deliver enough nitrogen to the plants with organic products. Jared shared that they have essentially been completing research while trying to run a farm business—a costly but necessary situation to becoming productive organic cranberry growers. Jared and Jessica also described the process of flooding the fields from a pond on site to ‘wet harvest’ in September and October. These harvested berries are washed and frozen at a certified processor in Portland. Freezing berries allows them to juice year-round.

The second half of the Farm Walk was spent at Starvation Alley’s juicing facility in town. Complete with a cute storefront for tourists, the facility includes a commercial kitchen where juice is processed and bottled. They currently juice their own organic berries for certified organic juice as well as berries from local and transitioning growers (like Chase) for a non-organic juice that they call “Local Harvest” juice. Even though it’s not organic, Jared and Jessica feel it important to support local growers.

Attendees were able to see some berry juicing in action, while Jared and Jessica described the process of research and development they went through to develop a cold-pressed juice. This included the food safety protocols that allowed them to sell into institutional markets. They also sell at farmers markets in both Seattle and Portland and have found a large niche market with bars that use their juice to create craft cocktails. On the whole, Jared and Jessica are keen on innovation whether in clever production practices in their bogs or unique marketing partnerships for their juice. This Farm Walk not only offered a peek into the challenges of growing organic cranberries, but into what it takes to grow a farm business.

This Farm Walk is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2012-49400-19575. For more resources and programs for beginning farmers and ranchers please visit www.Start2Farm.gov.

“BUILDING COMMUNITY: NISQUALLY TRIBAL COMMUNITY GARDEN PROGRAM”
NISQUALLY TRIBAL COMMUNITY GARDEN / Aug. 25, 2015

The Farm Walk at Nisqually Tribal Community Garden was the first time Tilth Producers had visited a Tribal farm, and it didn’t disappoint. More than 35 farmers and community members gathered at the farm property near Dupont, WA, to hear stories from staff involved in maintaining the garden for the larger Nisqually community. The presenting staff included Caitlin Krenn (Community Garden Program Supervisor), Carlin Briner (Production Supervisor), Grace Ann Byrd (Field Tech), and Janell Blacketer (Field Tech). To add to the discussion around tribal food sovereignty, Valerie Segrest of the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project was in attendance to lend her perspectives and share details of her own work.

Carlin began by acknowledging how what makes the garden special is its stories and not so much the production. With one acre in vegetables, one-third acre in berries, a ‘Little Garden’ containing natives and perennial herbs, and three acres planted with a 100 year old orchard, the garden is a community effort through-and-through. Carlin spoke about the Nisqually Tribe’s long history of community gardens. At the start of this project in 2007, Caitlin and Carlin explained that the design process for the garden came without a big plan or vision—at least in the beginning.

The Tribal Council requested that they begin gardening on the site, so they installed raised beds and, every year since, have expanded and planted crops based on the needs of the community. Carlin shared that informal discussion guides the goals of the garden from year to year, though they recently completed facilitated community meetings to develop a two year strategic plan. Funding for the garden is provided by the Nisqually Tribe, so they have some flexibility in programming based on the needs of the greater community.

The Nisqually name for the garden means ‘Place to Gather Spirit Power,’ an apt title given all the services it provides for the community. The produce grown in the garden is distributed primarily to the elder center as well as a weekly garden stand at the community center. Janell described programs with elders and youth where she shares recipes to make preparation of new vegetables easy and appealing. Grace and Janell also spoke to the use of herbs and collection of wild plants (such as nettle) to create medicines and body care items. The garden also serves as a resource for other community garden projects in the Nisqually Tribe, with the staff helping to answer production questions and sharing plant starts. The community nature of the garden lends itself to be used by other Tribal programs: substance abuse rehabilitation, seasonal job training, and youth education.

As the garden staff took attendees around the property, it was apparent the wealth of food and community that this garden provides. They are hoping to expand to a larger piece of acreage nearby to incorporate more rotations into their vegetable production. The intended expansion also supports the goal to meet greater food demands of the Nisqually community.

This Farm Walk is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2012-49400-19575. For more resources and programs for beginning farmers and ranchers please visit www.Start2Farm.gov.

Summaries by Angela Anegon, Education Coordinator for Tilth Producers, with the exception of the Sleeping Lady Resort summary, written by Member Services Coordinator Kate Nagle-Caraluzzo. 206-632-7506, angela@tilthproducers.org, kate@tilthproducers.org.

Tags: Community Garden, Cranberry, dairy goats, Farm Walk, Hops, Juice Processing, Leach Orchard, micro-dairy, Mystery Bay Farm, Nisqually Tribal Community Garden, Orchard, Perrault Farms, Pest Management, Rotational Grazing, Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, Starvation Alley

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