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Organic Operator Beats the Weather with the Help of EQIP and a Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative

Highlights in Conservation icon

Organic Operator Beats the Weather with the Help of EQIP and a Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative

Location icon
Whitman County, City of Colfax

Project Summary icon
With the help of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative, a small family run organic farm installed a Seasonal High Tunnel. Unpredictable frost events and the physical location of their farm limited what crops they were able to grow. The extended growing season allows them to include a variety of crops in their rotation in a sustainable manner.

Conservation Partners icon
Grey Duck Garlic partners Jane Fluegel, Susan Fluegel and Edna Hastain, farm manager Chris Bailey and the NRCS Colfax Field Office.

Resource Challenges icon
The farm's location is in a river bottom, which results in weather patterns that are not conducive to sustainable crop production due to unpredictable and unseasonable frosts. This severely limits what crops can be included in a rotation.

Limited water supply restricts production of non-irrigated crops. Water management is needed to ensure plant health and vigor. The farm is located in close proximity to the South Fork of the Palouse River and the area is sub-irrigated. Due to this, management of applied nutrients is important to ground water quality.

Conservation Program Used icon
Grey Duck Garlic is a small family-owned farm located along the South Fork of the Palouse River. Jane Fluegel came to NRCS for assistance in helping her overcome the resource challenges that were preventing her from bringing to harvest all but a limited variety of crops. Due to a detailed business plan and experience gained from years of field work, they were successfully producing certified organic garlic for market. They had not been successful in growing other row crops due to climate and water limitations. After some discussion, it was determined that Flugel was a strong candidate for NRCS' EQIP Organic Initiative. A Seasonal High Tunnel would extend and even out the growing season so that more cold-sensitive row crops could be brought to harvest. A nutrient management plan was also included so that Grey Duck would have a plan in place to manage the addition of nutrients as needed by various crops integrated into their plan. Grey Duck had looked into high tunnels in the past, but as a small operation who depended on family labor to make the business work, the cost was prohibitive. A 2160 square foot high tunnel was installed to NRCS standards and specifications using EQIP cost-share dollars. It was located to facilitate farming activities, weather patterns, drainage conditions and access to transportation.

Innovations and Highlights icon
Grey Duck Garlic is a family business dedicated to sustainable farming while seeking to continue to operate in an organic and holistic manner.  A small on-site herd of cows, serves as part of the pest management program after being taught to eat invasive weeds, as well as contributing to the nutrient management plan by providing a local, organic source of nutrients. Grey Duck has invited local plant and animal specialists to inventory the flora and fauna located on the farm. The results of these studies are considered and integrated into the farm's nutrient and pest management plans. Research is ongoing into plant genetics to develop the best varieties for the conditions.

Results and Accomplishments icon
By combining the producer's resources with those of NRCS' Organic Initiative, Jane Fluegel's family-run business demonstrates that sustainable organic operations are a viable farming alternative. The addition of the high tunnel and pest and nutrient management plans to their existing operation has brought a new level of resource stewardship while maintaining the ability of the operation to also be financially viable. With the ability to grow more frost sensitive crops the family has begun plans to build a processing kitchen with the intention of producing locally grown processed foods. This is a classic example of how a few dollars invested in resource conservation has the potential to ripple out through the community in many positive ways.

Contact icon

Colleen Winchester, Resource Conservationist, Colfax, WA, (509) 397-4301 x111
 

NRCS, Winter 2012

 

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