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Organic cranberry operation seeks assistance from NRCS to establish conservation efforts

Highlights in Conservation icon

Organic cranberry operation seeks assistance from NRCS to establish conservation efforts

Location icon
Pacific County, Long Beach

Jarred and Jessika, part of the Starvation Alley Farm family operation, take a short break from harvest.

Jarred and Jessika, part of the Starvation Alley Farm family operation, take a short break from harvest.

Project Summary icon
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.

Conservation Partners icon
NRCS and Washington State University (WSU) Extension

Resource Challenges icon
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 organic cranberry bog irrigation system make the application of water and nutrients more efficient resulting in a water use savings.

EQIP-assisted improvements to the organic cranberry bog irrigation system makes application of water and nutrients more efficient resulting in a water use savings.

Conservation Program Used icon
Organic EQIP 2011, EQIP 2012

Innovations and Highlights icon
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.

Results and Accomplishments icon
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.
 

Contact icon

Lisa Schuchman, Resource Conservationist, Longview, WA, (360) 425-1880

NRCS, Fall 2012

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