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.
Thanks to a 2019 Renewable Development Fund grant (RDF) from Portland General Electric, EMSWCD was able to purchase and install a 70kW photovoltaic system at Headwaters Farm. The solar panels were installed on two structures on the farm and began feeding electricity into the grid in April of 2020. In its first year of solar production, the renewable energy system generated 84 megawatt-hours, or enough to offset around 90% of the farm’s annual electricity consumption! This equated to a savings on the farm’s electricity bills of just under $10,000 for the year.The Headwaters solar project was made possible with support from the PGE Renewable Development Fund, which contributed $55,566 towards the $155,374 total project cost. The Energy Trust of Oregon also contributed $23,715. Together over 50% of the project’s cost was covered by the Energy Trust and PGE’s RDF funds, with the balance coming from EMSWCD. Nancy Hamilton, EMSWCD’s Executive Director, said of the project: “We are excited to be generating electricity at the farm and reducing our carbon footprint. And we are very grateful to PGE and their Green Future customers, as well as the Energy Trust of Oregon, for helping to make this solar project happen. The Headwaters Farm solar installation is an important demonstration opportunity for our farmers and visitors to Headwaters Farm, and the wider community we serve. The project also made a lot of sense for us financially.” With the generous support of PGE and the Energy Trust, the Headwaters Farm solar system is anticipated to pay for itself within eight years. The solar panels are under warranty for 30 years and could be productive well beyond that. “EMSWCD is committed to addressing the climate crisis,” says Rowan Steele, Headwaters Farm Program Manager. “Like many other farms, the barns at Headwaters have large roof surfaces facing south with great solar exposure. Between the two roofs we were able to accommodate a solar system that off-set almost all the electricity used on site, including for the irrigation pump, walk-in coolers, and a residence. That means we could generate power without impacting our farmland, which can be used to sequester carbon through cover cropping and other conservation farming practices. The solar system has also spurred investment in an electric UTV that replaced an old gas guzzling farm truck, and we are now exploring the exciting possibility of getting an electric tractor that will reduce our use of fossil fuels even further.”
We are now accepting applications for the Headwaters Farm Incubator Program 2021 growing season! The Incubator Program leases farmland and equipment, provides trainings, and offers other supports to experienced growers seeking to establish a farm business. We encourage all interested individuals to apply!
Visit the Incubator Application page for information about the program and instructions on how to apply! You can also contact Rowan Steele, our Headwaters Farm Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (503) 935-5355. All application materials are due by 5 PM on Saturday, October 31st, 2020.
Watch these two videos to learn how the Headwaters Farm Incubator Program helps farmers as they launch their farm businesses.
EMSWCD’s Headwaters Farm and Mainstem Farm were both featured in the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts (COLT) “State of the Lands” 2020 report! The feature covers our Headwaters Incubator Program, which leases land and equipment to farmers launching their new farm businesses, and details how a graduate of the program is now farming on the adjacent Mainstem Farm, which was acquired by EMSWCD through its Working Farmland Protection Program.
There are also ten other features in the report detailing the work and successes of land trusts and other organizations working to protect vital natural lands in Oregon.
This is a farmer-contributed post in our “From our farmers” series, and was contributed by Quinn Richards of Farm Punk Salads, one of the farmers enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program.
Starting a farm these days is much different that perhaps it used to be. With a competitive marketplace in the Portland Metro area for small scale farming, we at Farm Punk Salads see a couple of things as key to developing a farm. We see identifying and cultivating a niche market, getting specific about the crops we grow, cultivating financial literacy, and building a personality within our brand to make our farm memorable as our main ways to building our business.We wanted to make a farm that got people excited about eating salad, for it was our experience falling in love with salad that inspired us to focus on salad. Salad has all the things that we love so much. It’s raw and fresh, its quick and easy to make, it is what we are passionate about growing, and pretty much any diet supports eating lots of salad. It felt like the universal thing there was a need for in Portland and something that we could pair with a value-added product to give consumers a whole package. It was because of this that we chose to start a salad specific farm and produce a line of salad dressings. Before we started our farm, we spent a lot of time thinking about what we might want to grow and how we think we might sell the vegetables. To grow crops is one thing and to sell them is often another. It was in the distance between these two points that we saw was a hang-up point for many small farms. After our time working on another Portland CSA-based farm, we took it as an opportunity to collect feedback from folks. What did they like about their CSA? What would they like to see improved? One of most common things we heard was “But what do I do with it?” or “I just don’t have enough time to cook all of these things.” We saw salad as an opportunity to create a product for people that would be quick and convenient but still support local food. “Let’s be a one-stop-salad-shop,” we thought. Let’s create a CSA that has all the needed ingredients to make a meal without a trip to the store.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the final 2017 Census of Agriculture figures in mid-April; statistics for all of Multnomah County are available here. The census findings highlight the importance of EMSWCD’s working farmland protection efforts, as Multnomah County lost 15% of its farmland from 2012 to 2017 – or about 2.5 acres a day.
Farmers in Multnomah County are on average 2 years younger than their peers across Oregon and the US, which is reinforced by our Headwaters Incubator Program for new and beginning farmers. And with the average per-acre value of agricultural land and buildings increasing 75% in Multnomah County to the second highest of any county in Oregon, the importance of our work to improve access to affordable farmland is greater than ever.
This is a farmer-contributed post in our “From our farmers” series, written by Catherine Nguyen of Mora Mora Farm, who is enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program.
Mora Mora Farm is a single-farmer, half-acre, diverse vegetable operation that just wrapped up its first season through the Headwaters Farm Incubator Program. Mora Mora grows produce to sell at one weekend farmers’ market and for a handful of friends in the city. When people find out that it’s just me running the farm, doing everything from seeding and harvest to bed preparation and marketing, the normal response is, “Wait. You’re doing this all on your own?!”The decision to begin as a single-farmer operation simply stemmed from my own personality. I like being able to see the whole picture: production and sales, starting up my farm and setting up systems to maintain it, figuring out where operational weak points are, and how I can optimize the system as a whole. I knew if I ever wanted to have ownership of a farm and manage people well, I’d better know what the heck I was doing and why. Of course, being a single-farmer operation comes with its challenges:
This is a farmer-contributed post in our “From our farmers” series, written by Nicki Passarella and Irina Schabram of Amica Farm, both enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program.
Amica Farm is the product of two female friends who forged a bond through hard work, sweat equity and a deep love of agriculture and community. We work with one-half acre of land, growing an extensive array of annual vegetables, herbs and strawberries to sell directly to our community at two weekly farmers markets.As first year farm business owners, having the opportunity to utilize the Headwaters Farm Incubator Program (HIP) has already proven invaluable in our first months of participation. The obvious places of gratitude to start with include land, water, propagation space, and the ability to share orders to get bulk pricing and keep shipping low. There are also scheduled learning sessions with industry professionals about farm financials, record keeping and more. A less tangible benefit is the community with other farmers at Headwaters and the direct support from EMSWCD staff we are experiencing.
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 Emily Cooper of Full Cellar Farm, who is enrolled in our Farm Incubator Program. In this piece, Emily explores three different ways farmland can be passed from one owner to the next.
As I finish up my third year at Headwaters, I have naturally started thinking about what comes next. Although my husband’s off-farm job makes it possible for us to get a conventional mortgage, the cost of land in the Willamette Valley is generally much higher than any loan (and resulting mortgage payments) we could afford. Leasing land, while attractive for financial reasons, frequently comes with strings attached, and presents the possibility of friction with a landowner-landlord who doesn’t fully understand what it means to share their property with a working farm.For those reasons, I have felt a little bit stymied by the options open to me. Earlier this month, though, I had the chance to attend a session on non-traditional ways to secure land tenure at the Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference. After the skillful presentation of Carrie Scrufari of Vermont Law School, I left with my head full of possibilities, questions, and a little more hope for the future of my farm.
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.