Jeremy Sanford. Photo: Dennis Lussier
When Jeremy and Angela Sanford first heard about the opportunity to relocate their family to a piece of land just outside of Orting, Washington, they jumped at the chance. Jeremy credits Angela’s grandmother, Marline McClane, with encouraging the couple to take the leap and start their own farm business. Serendipitously, Marline is deeply familiar with the valley, having grown up just down the road and fondly recalls spending many of her early days picking hops at a neighboring farm.
“Grandma is a huge support. She’s the gasoline in my car,” Jeremy says with a grin.
Growing up on a conventional farm, spending his high school days as a member of Future Farmers of America, and even participating in the rodeo circuit for a bit, Jeremy has spent the past 7 years working on an organic farm on Whidbey Island developing his skills as a farmer and envisioning the day when he would be working his own land. In July 2012, that day finally came and with the stroke of the pen the lease was signed and Sanford’s Farm was born.
“It felt kinda like a homecoming, you know? We knew we had to be there.”
Backed by a strong family network supporting their endeavors, the Sanford’s and their 3 kids moved onto their 27 acres of prime agricultural soils in the Orting Valley and immediately began work to prepare the land for the 2013 growing season. The farm, part of the 100 acre Orting Valley Farms project, was preserved forever in 2009 when PCC Farmland Trust and Pierce County purchased the development rights from the old Ford Dairy, utilizing funds secured through the Washington State Wildlife Recreation Program (WWRP) and Pierce County’s own Conservation Futures program. Today the Orting Valley Farms project is home to 3 organic farm businesses operations, including Little Eorthe Farm, Tahoma Farms, and now Sanford’s Farm. Jeremy states that knowing he would have the support of PCC Farmland Trust and other organic farmers in the area fell in line with his desire to incorporate education and sustainability into his farm plan, and would ultimately help him fulfill his goal of not only participating in, but helping to grow a farm community.
With the 2013 growing season rapidly approaching, the Sanford’s are chomping at the bit. Having already spent most of the winter raising and harvesting roughly 100 broiler hens and a couple of turkeys, Jeremy has another batch of baby chicks staying cozy under heat lamps until spring arrives and they can emerge from the barn. Sanford’s adult layers are steadily producing gorgeous farm fresh eggs and as soon as weather permits and it’s safe to sow, he’ll have over 5 acres planted in specialty row crop vegetables.
As if all those new farm responsibilities weren’t enough to keep him busy, Jeremy has also been eagerly participating with PCC Farmland Trust, Pierce Conservation District, and EarthCorps, helping to organize an upcoming volunteer restoration event at Sanford’s Farm. Taking place on March 9th, over 100 volunteers will descend onto the farm, grab a shovel, and work to reestablish 650 feet of a native riparian buffer along a tributary to the neighboring Carbon River. These efforts will not only enhance habitat for fish and other wildlife but will also improve the conservation values of the farm– something that Jeremy is all about. After the event, participants will be encouraged to stick around for a farmer-led tour of Sanford’s Farm and hear firsthand Jeremy’s long-term vision and plans for the coming years.
–Brenda Campbell, Stewardship & Community Education Coordinator