Organic cranberry operation seeks assistance from NRCS to establish conservation efforts
Organic cranberry operation seeks assistance from NRCS to establish
Pacific County, Long Beach
Jarred and Jessika, part of the Starvation Alley Farm
family operation, take a short break from harvest.
Starvation Alley Farm uses two different Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
contracts to improve soils, establish a pest management plan, improve irrigation
efficiency and water quality.
NRCS and Washington State University (WSU) Extension
Traditionally, viable cranberry operations along Washington’s coast rely heavily
on chemicals to manage insect and disease prone cranberry bogs. These systems
also use a great deal of water for irrigation and harvest. Exposed surface
waters are common around the bogs and often become contaminated with
nutrients and chemicals. The Oakes family, owners and operators of Starvation
Alley Farm, is breaking away from traditional cranberry farming methods in an
effort to diminish the chemical dependency while maintaining a productive
cranberry growing operation. They are doing this by increasing the health of their bog soils and
establishing alternative nutrient and pest management strategies while striving
towards USDA organic certification.
EQIP-assisted improvements to the organic cranberry bog
irrigation system makes application of water and nutrients more
efficient resulting in a water use savings.
Organic EQIP 2011, EQIP 2012
The dual generation family-owned and operated farm understands that the key to
growing healthy vines with a strong resiliency to common cranberry pests and
diseases is to promote a healthy, microorganism rich soil. To improve soil
health with organic methods, the family brews their own compost tea and applies
the microbe rich solution to their bogs through the irrigation system.
Starvation Alley Farm approached NRCS for assistance in improving their
irrigation system and creating nutrient and pest management plans to help with
their overall farm health and production. As we discussed the operation and
looked at resource concerns, they also decided to construct a compost facility
and install drainage water management to help protect surface waters from
contamination through the application of compost and compost tea fertigation.
This innovative family is also exploring other alternatives to traditional
cranberry farming including establishing test plots of various alternative weed
control methods and test plots of companion planting soybeans to provide
additional nitrogen and organic matter for the cranberry vines.
Starvation Alley Farm is already experiencing positive results from
improvements to the irrigation system. Irrigation water and compost tea is
distributed more evenly across the bogs and vines are responding with
improved growth. The compost facility will protect water quality by providing a
covered and protected area to carry out the compost process of the pruned vines.
This compost will be brewed into tea and returned to the fields for nutrients.
The family’s next focus is to improve pollinator habitat around the bogs to
attract numerous types of beneficial insects including cranberry pollinators.
Lisa Schuchman, Resource Conservationist, Longview, WA, (360) 425-1880
NRCS, Fall 2012
< Back to... Highlights in
< Back to... News