June 2013

whidbey drawing

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.

farmmap2This land, now owned by Bainbridge City is really a patchwork of different small farming enterprises. The reason we wanted to visit is to see how they operate cooperatively.

view of farm2walkinggroupThis guided walk and talk was organized by Tilth Producers of Washington

view of farmwomanBetsey 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.

drafthorsesFor example, Betsey is the only farmer here using draft horses for her vegetable crops.

white raspberryShe also grows beautiful raspberries!

guy talkingBrian 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…

tomatoes in greenhouseWe 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/

pumpkin patchEduculture 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.

planting tomatoesBack at our farm, new woofers Isaac and Sarah have been holding the fort. Getting the tomatoes planted and …

weeding carrots…weeding our first two experiment carrot beds. We concluded that the tilled bed had far more weeds than the no-till bed.

mikaela seedsWwoofer Mikaela took home some Kale seeds we saved to start her own one seed revolution…

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