Read the latest news from Headwaters Farm here! This section includes pieces that farmers enrolled in the Farm Incubator Program contributed, as well as Headwaters news and contributions from EMSWCD staff.
Udan Farm, Headwaters Incubator Program’s first graduate
Pete and Claire St. Tulnoynum came to the Headwaters Incubator Program (HIP) in 2015 with a couple of seasons of farming under their belt, some produce management experience, and a good understanding of what makes for healthy soil. Using the Lloyd and Woodlawn Farmers Markets as their primary retail outlets, they were able to establish Udan Farm and transition their business onto leased farmland in just two years.Participants in HIP are given up to five years to launch their business, but Udan Farm’s experience is essentially how the program is designed to work: a farm enters the program and works to refine production practices, establish markets, build farm networks, make investments, and then leaves for their own site (either leased or owned) to continue growing the operation. Or, as Pete explains, “Headwaters Incubator Program was extremely good for us. We got to experience what it was like to work together as a couple, we gleaned ideas from other farmers, and we were able to get the business running.”
This is a farmer-contributed post in our “From our farmers” series, written by Brindley Beckwith and Spencer Suffling of Tanager Farm, both enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program. In this piece, Brindley and Spencer explore options for produce outlets and find a good option in a community venue!
As we were gearing up for our first season with our very own farm and purchasing all the seeds we wanted to grow, we stopped many times and said out loud, “but where will all the veggies go?!” This was both fun and frightening to think about. When you begin the journey of starting your own market farm, you have to think about the various outlets for selling vegetables. Did we want to be a CSA Farm (Community Supported Agriculture)? Or sell to local restaurants? Maybe do wholesale or farmers markets? There are many options, and all are very unique. We knew it was important to understand what the need was, but we also wanted to consider what we would enjoy. So why not try them all?This is not always the best approach, but we felt that with the support of the Headwaters Incubator Program we were able to start slow (and with limited start-up costs) while getting a feel for the diversity of the Portland Area markets. We learned along the way about where the need was and what we loved to do!
This is the sixth in our “From our farmers” series, which was contributed by Sue Nackoney of Gentle Rain Farm, one of the farmers enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program. Originally written in February, this piece features several clever ways Sue and other farmers at Headwaters are conserving resources and reusing materials!
As the days lengthen and we come out of our own hibernation, the urge to get into the soil starts, but usually it is still too wet and cold to do much this time of year here in the northern climes. Here are a handful of ideas to conserve, reuse and re-purpose for the farm or garden that you can do indoors before the busy garden time begins.
This is the fifth in our “From our farmers” series, which was contributed by John Felsner of Springtail Farm, one of the farmers enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program.
The challenges of producing food are innumerable: prices for land, materials, inputs, fuel, and insurance always seem to be rising; the uncertainties and rapid transformation of climate and weather patterns; eking out a living in a fickle market, and the list goes on. When my partner Heather and I made a decision to start a small family of our own, we were familiar with the difficulties of market gardening, as well as the satisfaction and promise it provided. What we were entirely unfamiliar with were children. What we’ve discovered since having one—and what has been both rewarding and unfathomably challenging—is that the hardest part of raising a healthy child while producing food is learning to manage relationships. Because, like good, honest food production, a child demands a full, healthy community in order to thrive and meet his or her full potential. The highest hurdle for us with raising a child and farming is making time for everything that needs to be done day in-and-day-out. An off-farm source of income has always been the mainstay of our farming work, but this presents additional challenges.
This is the fourth in our “From our farmers” series, and was contributed by Emily Cooper of Full Cellar Farm, one of the farmers enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program.
There’s a buzz around Headwaters Farm this year, and it isn’t just the bees. With 13 farms leasing land at the incubator (up from 8 last year), the activity here is more evident than ever before. And along with the sounds of the rototillers, irrigation headers, and tractors, there’s another sound that’s harder to hear, but more persistent than any other. It’s the sound of community, and it starts with “Good morning!”I love farming at Headwaters, and the biggest reason is the community. With so many people here, it’s guaranteed you’re going to bump into someone as you go about your work. Maybe you share the wash station and get to see what variety of radish someone else is growing – or what pests are eating their carrots. Maybe you see a new tool someone is using, and stop to ask how they like it. Maybe you pause in the barn to bemoan your overabundance of tomatillos, and someone else magically has a customer who wants them. Or maybe you just say hi as you pass at the port-a-potty. (I’m lucky enough to host this hub of activity next to my field.)
Healthy farmland is a microcosm of a heathy ecosystem; an abundance and diversity of life above and below the soil helping to make nutrients available to plants, ward off pests, pollinate crops, and contribute to the local food web. As the average farm size has grown, there has been a decline in both the quality and quantity of habitats that host farm ecosystems. Other farm practices like broad herbicide application and the reduction of flowering plants have also had negative impacts on beneficial native insects and honey bees.Headwaters Farm serves as a demonstration site for several approaches to restoring on-farm habitat. The most prominent of these is the restoration work being done in the Dianna Pope Natural Area. This undisturbed area has great habitat and forage value to beneficial insects and is relatively close to the farmland. However, other habitat work is being done within and directly adjacent to fields actively in production. In partnership with the Xerces Society, EMSWCD is developing three defining habitat features: pollinator meadows, hedgerows, and beetle banks.
This is the third in our “From our farmers” series, and was contributed by Pete Munyon of Udan Farm, one of the farmers enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program.
Hi folks! Pete from Udan Farm here. I just wanted to take a minute to share a little of my excitement for ground-up ecology-building at Headwaters Farm with you. The folks from EMSWCD have done some awesome work restoring the native species to our little section of Johnson Creek, and now we're looking forward to doing the same with the dirt in the Udan Farm field.We all know that all animal life on earth depends on plants, but we don't hear as often how plants depend on bacteria and fungi to help them structure the soil, get nutrients from the soil and air, and hold water in the soil. After several decades without promoting biotic activity, our soil has been taken pretty far from its natural state. To improve conditions we'll be growing a variety of native wild flowers around the edge of our field, and soil building with ground covers underneath our crops. To help support these plants and our crops, one of our first activities this season was to spray our field with Actively Aerated Compost Tea (AACT).
This is the second in our “From our farmers” series, and was contributed by Sue Nackoney of Gentle Rain Farm, one of the farmers enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program.
Ever since Jim and I started Livin' Spoonful, where we make yummy raw food crackers and cookies, we were committed to 100% organic ingredients. In our minds, there was no other way to be offering food to people that was truly nourishing, with the intention of helping them to thrive. That was almost 13 years ago.Today, with our feet on the ground for our first season at Headwaters, we are finally realizing our vision of growing our own food ingredients for the crackers. It has been such a joy to be able to start Gentle Rain Farm and be a part of this amazing program and opportunity.
This piece was contributed by Brian Shipman of Wild Roots Farm, one of the farmers enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program. This is the first in a series "From our farmers"; stay tuned for more Headwaters news soon!
There's a simple, overused saying that I frequently refer to when making decisions on the farm or in the garden: timing is everything. In the spring, time moves erratically, in fits and spurts that are dictated by our transitioning weather. After spending much time in the winter laying plans and plotting calendar schedules for the upcoming growing season, it is so exciting to see the days lengthen and temperatures rise. All the plans we make in the off-season are so important in the spring, when we don't have time to waste thinking about numbers, dates and so on. There are basically two modes to a farmer's year: on- and off-season. For most farmers, winter is off-season – time for rest. The spring is the crucial transitional period when we know the countdown has begun – and it can be a challenge to remain patient knowing the work that lies ahead!
What I took away from Field School 2014by Rowan Steele, Farm Incubator ManagerOn October 3rd the farm incubator world descended on Headwaters Farm as part of the National Incubator Farm Training Initiative’s (NIFTI) annual Field School. The three-day event included two days of meetings, lectures, discussions and networking, and ended with a day of farm tours and onsite presentations.As with any conference, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of topics, interactions, ideas and the general “nerd-fest.” The 2014 NIFTI Field School was no different—a complete inundation of everything that is beginning farmer development. It has taken a few weeks just to process the experience. In fact, I think it might take a full off-season before the content can be fully synthesized in relation to the Headwaters Incubator Program (HIP).
It’s been a great season for the Headwaters Farm Incubator Program; one that has seen both the farm and its farmers grow by leaps and bounds.This year there were eight farm businesses operating at Headwaters Farm. These businesses range from small scale medicinal herb operations to multi-acre vegetable production for restaurant sales. The diversity being produced onsite is evident in the range of markets where these products are sold. For example, several incubator farms practice Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)—subscription farming directly to the consumer—some of which are even forging a new approach to this model by providing bulk ‘canning shares’ of complementary preservable crops, like dill, pickling cucumbers, and garlic. Still Other farmers go with more traditional routes like selling at farmers markets or to local retail outlets.
The USDA recently released the preliminary results for the 2012 Census of Agriculture, a statistical overview of national and state agriculture. Oregon’s results in a nutshell: we have an aging farmer population with fewer individuals engaged in farming. Here are a few key takeaways, with further explanation below:
- There were eight percent fewer farmers in Oregon from 2007 to 2012, with six percent less males and 15% less female farmers.
- The age of farmers under 44 years old decreased 22% between 2012 and 2007.
- The number of operators who have been farming for nine years or less — how the USDA defines a “new farmer” — decreased by 25% from 2012 to 2007.
- The age of farmers under 44 years old decreased 22% between 2012 and 2007.
- The average age of Oregon’s farmers is now just a hair under 60 — over two years older than it was in 2007 and exactly two years older than the national average.
It takes a lot to get a farm business off the ground. Growing skills need to be honed to specific microclimates, markets must be explored and established, and there are business and legal structures to develop, budgets to put together, and weed and pest management strategies to define, to name just a few essentials. However, much of this can’t happen without sufficient capital to make the initial investments in land, equipment, and farm infrastructure.Our goal with the Headwaters Incubator Program is to identify individuals with farm experience, but who lack the capital necessary to launch their own farm business. To do this, the District makes available tools, equipment, and infrastructure essential to successfully producing in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, these items are so critical that the majority of staff time and budget for Headwaters Incubator Program’s inaugural season was committed to developing these basic assets, including a barn, greenhouse, irrigation system, wash station, and walk in cooler.
Today we added a whole new set of photos to give you a look behind the scenes at Headwaters Farm, with pictures of cover crops, events at Headwaters, conservation practices, the construction of our new barn and more!