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Small Farms Course in Grays Harbor County

Highlights in Conservation icon

Small Farms Course in Grays Harbor County

Small farms course is about building community

Image of Monte Hooper, of Lily Lane Farms, shared marketing strategies with the class.

Monte Hooper, of Lily Lane Farms, shared marketing strategies with the class. Photo taken by Cindy Burton.

Location icon
Chehalis Basin, Grays Harbor county, Elma

Project Summary icon
A 13 week class is a long commitment for anyone with day job. But for 27 Grays Harbor small acreage landowners, representing 465 acres, its just the beginning of a life-long relationship. Even before the last class, participants asked for more; more time together, more networking and more opportunities to contribute to the local agricultural community. "The real success of this class," noted Washington State University (WSU) Extension educator, Don Tapio, "Is that nobody wants it to end." The class, "Sustainable Small Acreage Farming and Ranching" is a collaborative product of Cultivating Success . Tapio and Columbia-Pacific Resource & Conservation Development (Col-Pac RC&D) coordinator, Cindy Burton, worked with Cultivating Success to bring this course to Grays Harbor County for the first time in February 2009. Putting their own twist on the curriculum, Tapio and Burton brought guest speakers to address local zoning issues, taxes, water rights and organic certification. And when it was time to share farm plans at the last class meeting, the most common threat was a newly sparked desire to exercise good stewardship on the land. A close second was the desire to "stay close" and continue to work together in support of local agriculture. This work includes staying in touch through an e-mail network by rotating Farm Walks between their properties and seeking creative ways to establish a Grays Harbor County agriculture website up and running. These new farmers are all about building and strengthening their agricultural community.

Conservation Partners icon
Washington State University Extension, Grays Harbor Noxious Weed Board, Small Business Administration, Columbia-Pacific Resource Conservation & Economic Development District.

Resource Challenges icon
Small acreage management is like an elephant in the living room -- conservation issues too many/big for anyone to want to acknowledge, let alone tackle. Small farms classes offer motivated landowners an opportunity to learn some good conservation practices and some sound economic tactics. Interest in this course is on-going, but the WSU Extension has had the time to offer this class for 15 years. They needed a partner to help them pull it together. That partner was Col-Pac RC&D --- we had the time and energy to get the ball rolling. Once the course was up and running we were able to attract Grays Harbor Noxious Weed Board and Small Business Administration.

Conservation Program Used icon
Resource Conservation and Development Program.

Innovations and Highlights icon
When we got this class up and running, my earliest thoughts were on "how many businesses" would this class generate.....but by the end of this class, the most exciting thing for me to hear was just how many people really got it --- changing their current management to adopt some conservation practice discussed in class. All 450 acres -- with some promise of improvement in management, and without EQIP. Proof to me that there are many avenues to share our message -- not just one or two programs.

Results and Accomplishments icon
The 27 individuals represent over 465 acres, in parcels from 3-127 acres in size. These folks are now tied into a network (includes agricultural professionals) to assist/support their goals to work towards sustainable agriculture. They have a community of existing, successful farmers in the county that they can tap into as needed. And their interest in conservation and innovative methods puts them in a unique position as up-and-coming potential new leaders in the agricultural community. Future of the project -- class is over, but we will still hold Farm Walks throughout the summer.  The class as a group is working towards getting a website for county-wide agricultural producers and we plan to continue to stay abreast of new ideas and opportunities through our e-mail network. Like Don said -- nobody wants it to end.

Contact icon
Cindy Burton, Columbia-Pacific RC&D (360) 249-5900, ext. 110

NRCS, Spring 2009