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.”
Finding land that suited their business’ development was part good networking and part good luck. Another farm and fellow vendor at the Woodlawn Farmers Market was moving out of the area. When Claire and Pete learned their land would become available, they jumped on the chance to have more space and autonomy. Pete recounted their thinking at the time, “I’ve talked with people who make a lot more money that I do and who have been searching for land for years. When the opportunity arose, we decided we’re not letting this go.” The new site, located in Canby, Oregon, consists of 20 acres of quality farmland. It has been farmed organically for years and hosts a wide range of mature fruit and nut trees, grapes, and other perennial crops. Even more importantly, the new farm came with critical infrastructure already in place, including hoophouses, a small walk-in cooler, storage space, and water for irrigation.
The perennial crops pose a new opportunity to diversify their business, and Claire and Pete are eager to expand their sales outlets. However, establishing on a new site—even one with many resources already in place—takes time and energy. They understand this is a process and that patience will be just as important as hard work and smart decisions. Their goal at this point is to focus on producing one acre of mixed vegetables because, as Pete explains, “that is what we did at Headwaters Farm and that is what we know we can do. Everything else that we manage to incorporate at this time (like fruits and nuts) is a bonus.” In the long term, though, they intend to use the established perennial crops to leverage other sales outlets, like restaurants and a CSA.
What else is next for Udan Farm? Well, keeping in tradition with Headwaters Farm’s practices, they have big plans to support crop diversity on the farm with additional habitat for pollinators and other beneficial species. They also are seeking to work with USDA-NRCS to add more hoophouses and convert the market garden into an efficient, low-input no-till operation. EMSWCD is proud of what Udan has accomplished in a short period and looks forward to tracking their growth and successes.