We stole a couple of days from the garden to travel across to Whidbey Island and then to Bainbridge Island to visit Suyematsu & Bentryn Family Farms. These community commons have a very interesting history starting in 1928 with the Suyematsu family.
This guided walk and talk was organized by Tilth Producers of Washington
Betsey Wittick who runs Laughing Crow Farm explained how some of the collaborations work: the 6 farms formed a Guild to help them work cooperatively. They buy equipment together and share an irrigation system. Their shared farm stand enables them to work out who is growing what so that they are not competing with each other. They take turns to manage the farm stand and take a percentage of the sales. An shared internship program also allows interns to work with the range of different farmers and participate in a variety of practices.
She also grows beautiful raspberries!
Brian MacWhorter of Butler Green Farms has much experience of working collaboratively since he lived in a commune in the 1970s. He said that although farmers have a tendency towards independence, the Guild forces them to work together. Its not always easy and difficulties can arise between personalities. But as long as everyone understands that co-operation is better for business, there is strength in numbers…
We would love to work more collaboratively with the small farms on San Juan Island – a multi farm CSA cooperative, group buying of fertilizer, and sharing equipment for example… The Greenhorns have published a great resource on Farming Cooperatively: www.thegreenhorns.net/guidebooks/cooperativefarming/
Educulture is another wonderful project at Suyematsu and Bentryn Family Farms. Local schools have access to plots for children to grow and learn in the field.
Back at our farm, new woofers Isaac and Sarah have been holding the fort. Getting the tomatoes planted and …