Two weeks ago, Kim and I had the chance to attend a conference in Spokane, hosted by one of our lenders that financed the farm purchase (Northwest Farm Credit Services), to meet with other young and ‘beginning’ farmers. It was great to have two days to focus on the farm business, and explore issues around succession planning (never too early to begin thinking about it, is what we were told), good communication, finance, management, etc. What was striking is that of the 30 or so farm operators – where the average age was 35 or so – we were only one of a handful that were first-generation farmers. The rest were born and raised on the farm, and in many instances so were their parents, their grandparents and even some fifth-generation farmers whose great-great grandparents started farming or ranching the land that they were learning how to run someday.
It’s hard when our kids are only 2 and 4 to even fathom what it would take to make them want to continue farming and to run ‘the family business’ when we’re ready to call it quits. But I can tell you that it’s very encouraging to see a group of young farmers, much like ourselves, that are very eager to keep the family business going. It used to be the aspiration of parents and their kids alike to be able to move off of the farm, into the city. Now, slowly, we’re starting to see a reversal of this trend and even the city kids trying to find a piece of dirt in the country to farm. The best that we can do is to continue to give them nothing but positive experiences from life on the farm and hope for the best – whether that means that they keep our family business going or not.
This Saturday, June 30, from 10am to 2pm. $2/pound and a farm tour at noon. Hope to see you there!
(Re-published comments submitted to Committee Chairman for the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee.)
Dear Representative Sells,
I am writing you hours before the public hearing on Senate Bill 6392 because I believe the definition of small farm is too narrow as it presently stands. The Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small farm as one with gross receipts of $500,000 or less and I believe this is a better revenue cap to put on the small farm definition in the bill.
I am a small, organic farmer in Orting. I grow specialty crops on less than 20 acres and gross about $275,000 a year. I sell the majority of my products direct to the consumer. I am 31 years old, a beginning farmer, that has benefited from the community and network of small organic farmers in this state and region and have the passion and experience necessary to help grow more farmers.
The expansion of the definition would not change the bill substantively, would do more to help family farms and would also help grow the next generation of farmers.
I am not able to attend the public hearing tomorrow morning but if these comments are able to be read aloud on the house floor, submitted to the public record, or otherwise made known to your colleagues I would greatly appreciate it.
Thanks, Victoria, for bringing this issue up via our contact page:
I am a 63 year old disabled woman who is extremely interested in the
CSA concept. I was a member of the Pike Place Market’s CSA for a
couple years while working for King County Metro Transit and really
enjoyed the quality and the knowledge that I was supporting local
farming. Unfortunately, I now must depend on food stamps for my
sustenance and find that it is often hard to buy at farms, farmers’
markets and such with an EBT card. Is there ANY way that I and others
like me who would love to eat wholesome food and support our local
farmers can use the card to participate in the CSA program? I’ve found
it’s often difficult for those on low or fixed incomes to eat
nutritiously and it would be such a blessing to be able to get quality
produce on a consistent basis. I’m hoping you can provide some
positive information regarding this issue.
Well, yes, we do have good news. We began accepting EBT cards about a year ago through our sister company, Terra Organics.
As the distribution partner for our farm, Terra Organics has the authority through the USDA to accept EBT cards. Which means that the farm can’t (yet) take EBT at the farmers’ markets, but you can use EBT to pay for our CSA. To find out more, please call us at 253-627-1581
This question came in via our contact form, but the sender’s email address was not valid, so I decided I’d post it here in the hopes that she returns to our site again but also because it may be an issue that others have wondered about. So here it is:
I am very much interested in organic farming and supporting those who grow organically. However I also like to make sure that the farms that are growing my food are making sure to take care of the soil that they use. I was wondering how your farm ensures that there is little to no top soil loss. How do you take care of the land when you are done with a crop, do you till? If you do till how do you ensure that their is no top soil loss?
Thank you for your help with these questions. I look forward to
hearing back from you. Patricia
And, my response:
Thank you for contacting us. We just put the comment feature on the site and it’s great that it’s already proving helpful.
We strive to maintain good soil health and fertility since it’s the backbone of the operation. First, I should say that we are a new farm, going into our third growing season. We have not yet had to amend the soil since it is an old dairy and nutrient levels were extremely high when we started cropping in 2009. Since then, we have applied, when feasible, rye and vetch as a cover crop. Since we farm year-round, there are always portions of our field that are still in a crop – and therefore bare – or that had a crop harvested after October 1, which is the latest you can seed a cover crop for the winter.
Top soil really doesn’t move around a lot on our farm. Drainage is excellent so there’s not a lot of run-off and the organic matter is so high, and the soil relatively heavy, that it doesn’t blow around either.
We are tilling once in all fields just before seeding or transplanting, but after that we use discs and other tools to cultivate. There are pieces of equipment out there that can prepare the ground better than a tiller, but we don’t have any of them yet.
In addition to the green manures, we will be using a mixture of chicken manure and straw that is composted before it is applied to the fields, to continue to give back and build up the soils.
Thanks for your interest and let me know if you have any additional questions.
Tahoma Farms is a 40-acre, diversified organic farm located 30 miles southeast of Seattle in Orting, WA. We grow mixed vegetables and small fruits for wholesale, grocery, home delivery CSA (www.terra-organics.com) and farmers markets. Tahoma Farms was established in 2009.
The production manager at Tahoma Farms oversees crop production, coordinates sales, and works in cooperation with the field manager to bring crops to market.
The ideal candidate is willing to make a multi-year commitment to the farm. A minimum of a one year commitment is required, beginning as early as January 1. Workweeks range from 40-50 hrs per week March-December and 30-40 hours January-February. 2 weeks of paid vacation is provided in the first year.
This position’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- Planning for crop production based on a marketing plan, including creating a planting plan and field map and ordering the appropriate seeds and supplies to fulfill the plan based on the budget provided.
- Implementation of production plan, including greenhouse production and management, coordinating with the field manager and keeping appropriate records. Also, regular field walks with field manager to assess upcoming planting needs and field work.
- Maintaining all records necessary for WSDA organic certification and ensuring the farm stays within the guidelines of the certification.
- In cooperation with field manager, assess and manage soil and crop health, including bi-annual soil tests, determining soil fertility needs, pest and weed management, irrigation needs and crop protection from weather (remay and field hoophouse management).
- Coordinate farm sales, including maintaining regular contact with existing customers and seeking out new ones, taking phone and e-mail orders and creating invoices. Also, regular field walks with field manager to create availability and price sheets.
- Create and implement a food safety program, including but not limited to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and a recall procedure.
- Coordinate packing shed by overseeing packing and processing of harvest in order to improve efficiency of packing and cleanliness of product. Control quality of product leaving the farm.
- Coordinate community relations including representing Tahoma Farms at farmers markets, coordinating the CSA, leading farm tours, work on special events throughout the season, coordinating farm communications (website, blog, newsletters, update Facebook and Twitter regularly)
- Work with local extension agents on research and grant projects.
- Research, order, and maintain supplies as needed including boxes, bags, twist ties, labels, pallet wrap, office supplies and specific parts, tools or inputs as requested by team members.
- Make deliveries when needed
Desired qualifications include:
- Prior Farm Management experience, preferably using organic methods
- College Degree in Crop Sciences or related field, or ability to demonstrate knowledge and experience in production systems
- Computer/Technology (Quickbooks, Excel, Word)
- Bilingual (English, Spanish)
- Ability to lift 50-lbs repeatedly
The production manager’s weekly schedule is variable depending on the season, but typically runs from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday-Friday. Candidates who are also available to work on Saturdays, or who have flexible schedules to accommodate the farm’s varying needs, are preferred.
Salary depends on experience. Year-end profit sharing based on the outcome of the year’s profitability.
Interested applicants should submit:
- Cover Letter
Send application packet to:
mail: Tahoma Farms
PO Box 5966
Tacoma, WA 9841
Contact Dan Hulse for more information: (253) 314-8813
On May 17th, we had a great turn out for the first ever kids day at Tahoma Farms. Despite the threatening rain, rain puddles, and mud, we were able to venture out into the field and tasted test the first carrots of the season, wander through the greenhouses and look at the baby plants, and plant sunflower seeds in the Children’s Garden. A lot of fun!
I hope more of you can join us for the next kids day on June 24th at 10am. We will be talking about the summer solstice and how it affects growing food, as well as getting our hands dirty in the newly planted Children’s Garden. Good times are sure to be had by all (especially if you bring rubber boots and maybe a change of clothes for the little ones!).
Title: Terra Organics Community Day
Location: 21108 Orville Rd E, Orting, WA 98360
Description: All Terra Organics customers are invited to visit Tahoma Farms for a tour and the opportunity to meet and visit with your farmers.
Start Time: 11:00
End Time: 14:00
Title: Kids Day at the Farm
Location: 21108 Orville Rd E
Description: Bring your kids to the farm for the opportunity to learn more about where their food comes from! We will be planting the Children’s Garden today.
Bring a snack or lunch to eat after the formal gathering time is over.
Start Time: 10:00
End Time: 11:00