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Welcome, Helsing Junction Farm!

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Guests enjoy Helsing Junction Farm.

A Labor of Love: 42 acres of Thurston County farmland preserved!

Your support has enabled us to protect 42 acres of Helsing Junction Farm, our first in Thurston County.  A true labor of love for everyone involved, it’s taken four years to ensure the perpetual preservation of this special farmland. Your generosity makes accomplishments like this possible—thank you.

Farming in the Independence Valley dates back to the 1800s, and the Chehalis River that runs through it continues to provide critical salmon and steelhead habitat. Our conservation partners in Thurston County, including Capitol Land Trust and South of the Sound Community Farmland Trust, have already protected hundreds of acres in Southern Thurston County as working farm and ranch lands. In partnership with Thurston County Conservation Futures, this project builds upon their successes and will reflect positively on the 10 other organic farms in the town of Rochester.

It is the vision of farmers like those at Helsing Junction Farm, and the land and communities that they sustain, that drive home our mission. We can protect a piece of land, but we depend upon partner farmers to nourish the soil into the future. And to do that, they need supportive communities like you, who understand the value of clean, healthy food, and well-stewarded land.

Sue Ujcic and Annie Salafsky also represent a small but growing number of female farm operators in the US. Just one in seven principal operators is a woman, compared to just one in fourteen in 1992.  They’ve nurtured a very special community around their farm, bringing together their own families, and their long term employees and their families. Helsing Junction Farm is a gathering place, sharing food and farming through music, gleaning, and other events. These farmers believe that everyone should have access to fresh produce—they donate about 20,000 pounds of food to shelters and food banks each year. Through the belief that generosity breeds abundance, this culture of sharing permeates their community. Their online store supports several other local businesses, many of which were started by current or past employees.

Sue and Annie came together as farming acquaintances in 1992, both graduates of Evergreen State College. In a time where Big Ag’s entrance into the organic realm had begun challenging small growers who had found their market niche, farmers like Sue and Annie found a solution in their regional community. In ‘Community Supported Agriculture’, buyers pre-pay for a ‘share’ of the season’s bounty, providing important up-front capital, a guaranteed market, and a direct connection to the people for whom they grow food. Members then receive a weekly box of produce often harvested the day before, along with recipe ideas and updates about the farm. One of the first in the country, Helsing Junction’s CSA now has over 1000 members, and figures their farm feeds around 5000 people.

As if organic farming in a floodplain isn’t challenge enough, Helsing Junction Farm is interested in creating exceptionally nutrient-dense produce. Beyond rotating, cover cropping, and fertilizing their crops, they are also in their third year of applying trace minerals and macronutrients to their soil.

“Farming is a form of mining,” says Annie “It’s extractive.” To sustainably farm a piece of ground for the long term, you have to replenish what is constantly removed from the soil. They have found that this re-mineralizing has provided “increased yield, improved soil tilth, increased soil microflora, better drought tolerance, improved plant health and vigor that makes them more disease and insect resistant, better keeping qualities and increased nutrient density— which we experience as better flavor.”

Sue and Annie take pride and responsibility in their land, their crops, the health of their families, and the families that make up their community. And it matters deeply to them to preserve this way of life for the future.

Thank you, for helping to make this possible.

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February Food & Farms in the News

 

Vintage 1930’s goat. There’s soul in those eyes.

This article is a real “ooooof” to the solar plexus, but a necessary viewpoint and an important conversation to have:  “What nobody told me about small farming: I can’t make a living.”

Between the cells of plants, live endophytic fungi–i.e. the stuff of which mushrooms are made.  What’s really exciting is that they might also help plants ward off disease, essentially functioning as a natural pesticide.

Mushroom mania!  Here’s a fascinating look at how mushrooms are commercially grown on a fungi farm.

NPR takes a look at whether or not farmers market sales have peaked–and why that actually might not be bad news for farmers.

There’s lots to consider when dealing with labels, certifications, and standards.  This Civil Eats article takes a brief look at some of the certifications besides Organic.

With its warming temperatures and ultra-rich soils, Alaska is beginning to attract more farming.  It’s still tough-going, though, and not for everyone.

The very first GMO apples are available in stores, beginning with the “Arctic Golden” and the “Arctic Granny”.  These apples are genetically engineered not to turn brown upon slicing.  Check out the truly overwhelming visual difference for yourself:


(A normal Granny Smith apple is on the left, the Arctic Granny on the right.)

And, finally, a short month of February means not just one fun closing article, but two!  First up, the world’s major cities represented by their (snack) foods.  And in honor of the Chinese New Year (and since there’s disagreement over whether this is the year of the sheep, or the year of the goat) Modern Farmer brings you some old-timey pics of both sheep and goats.

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Healthy Soil, Healthful Food

Walla Walla onions at Williams Hudson Bay Farm. Photo: Melanie Conner

 

“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

Roosevelt’s words might bring to mind images of pavement or resource extraction, yet our most common agricultural practices also are destroying our soil.

Modern industrial agricultural practices have been impacting our once-rich belowground ecosystem since the early 20th century and we’re just beginning to understand how it’s affecting our health.

When compared with the nutrient value of the foods our grandparents ate, what we consume today has substantially lower nutritional value. According to the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition,” today’s foods typically are lower in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C. It’s now possible to buy an orange that contains zero vitamin C.

Why is this happening? One potential cause is changes in plant varieties. If breeders are focused on other factors besides nutritional value (yield, disease resistance, etc.), then the new varieties may decline in nutrient concentrations. Depleted soil may be another reason.

Farming practices

“Historic farm management practices have degraded soil organic matter, reducing the inherent fertility of the soil,” says Chad Kruger, Director of the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The conventional thinking was that we could replace that lost fertility by using artificial fertilizer. However, there’s now a growing realization that managing for soil and food quality requires more than just replacing the big three nutrients — nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus (NPK) — with synthetic fertilizers.”

Continue reading

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January Food & Farms in the News

Adorable cheese-making.

 

Last month, we visited some nuns on the ranch, and this month, we bring you Brother Alberic, the Cheesemaking Monk of Manitoba!

Our friends, Dick and Terry Carkner of Terry’s Berries are entering a new era, turning over the reigns to Mark and Katie Green and Wild Hare Organic Farm.  We wish them all the very best!

For the young, traveling, and farm-curious, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) has long been a rite of passage. Modern Farmer provides a great basic “Do’s & Don’ts: WWOOFing” for those considering a stint of service.

The issue of aging farmers is always present, but young people entering into farming seems to be especially in the news lately…One idea launched by the National Young Farmers Coalition (petition at link) suggests that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program include forgiving the educational debts of those choosing to go into farming as a profession.

The National Young Farmers Coalition also recently provided this handy “Farmer’s Guide to Working With Land Trusts.”  You can also find a link on our PCC Farmland Trust Resources webpage.

Love almonds?  Or maybe almond butter, or almond milk?  Each month there seems to be more concerning news about the staggering resource drain required to grow almonds.  In California, the impact is especially dire.

Since President Obama didn’t mention much of anything having to do with food or farms during the official State of the Union, Mark Bittman took it upon himself to address the current State of Food in our country.

Humanity in general seems to be playing with some pretty scary potential unintended consequences these days.  Case in point: nanoparticles, or specifically in this case, nanopesticides.  A mix of interesting possibilities and sci fi horror.

Not at all terrifying?  Farmers coming up with awesome farm names like “Neverdun Farm”, “Fruit Loop Acres”, or our personal favorite “Second Cloud on the Left Farm”.

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Supporter Spotlight: Kari Pierce

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Kari Pierce just completed a stint as our all-star office volunteer, helping us out with some research projects and some other extremely helpful work.  Thank you so much for all of your help, Kari!

Please tell us about yourself.

I recently moved back to my hometown of Bainbridge Island, WA after earning a master’s degree in Gastronomy with a concentration in food policy from Boston University.  I am happy to be back in the northwest, pursuing a career in sustainable food advocacy.

Please tell us why organic farming and/or organic food is of interest to you.

As a member of a community, I care about organic food and farming because I believe it is critical to many different aspects of building a vibrant community.  I want our land to be healthy and productive, our regional economies to be strong, and our people to have safe, delicious food to eat.  Organic agriculture is the intersection where many cross-cultural values and goals come together and find success.

How did you first learn about the Trust?

Word of mouth.  I wasn’t back in the Seattle area long before friends started telling me to “check out PCC Farmland Trust!”

Did you have any experiences with farms or farming growing up, or in your family?

I personally did not grow up around farming, but there are deep agricultural roots in my family.  Growing up I heard countless tales from my grandmother of life on the family farm in North Dakota, where her grandparents settled after emigrating from Norway.  My extended family still farm there today. Continue reading

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December Food & Farms in the News

Photo: Lezlie Sterling

Organic Christmas trees.  Kind of surprising it took this long, and that they are still pretty unusual.

Nuns on the Ranch” sounds like it should be a song somewhere, but it turns out it is really a thing.  Nuns on a ranch, raising grass-fed beef, to be precise.

Have you ever wondered about what it is that farmers do during the winter?  (A: Lots of pretty diverse plans and activities.)

You may have seen those popular t-shirts around the Pacific Northwest, the ones that say “Eat More Kale“?  Well, Chick-fil-A thought the slogan was too close to theirs, suing the creator of the t-shirts.  They vastly underestimated the power of kale.

USDA makes glacial progress towards improving the American school lunch, announcing new initiative of Farm to School grants.

Grist, along with Michael Pollan, explore the idea of how we might make the most dramatic changes in the food system–by learning to eat less food, enjoying it more, and making meat a more rare treat.

Women’s Work Is Never Done On The Farm, And Sometimes Never Counted.

Modern Farmer features some agricultural comedians yukking it up about all things farm-related.

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7 Ways to Give the Gift of Farmland

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7 Ways to Give the Gift of Farmland

The best gifts to give and to receive are those that make a difference in the world.  Luckily there are many ways to support the Farmland Trust this season.

  • Take a loved one to the Local Chefs for Local Farms dinner at Joule in January
  • If you’re shopping on Amazon, sign in with this Amazon Smile link, and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to PCC Farmland Trust.
  • Find out if your employer has a matching donation program.  Learn more.

If you’re shopping at any PCC Natural Markets:

  • Fill an 100% organic cotton PCC Farmland Trust tote with small gifts
  • Pick up a veggie tray or Powers PCC Farmland Trust wines for your holiday party (10% of the proceeds from each platter and $2 of each bottle of wine benefit PCC Farmland Trust)
  • Tuck a Chinook Book into a stocking (a portion of purchase benefits the Farmland Trust)
  • We would be remiss, of course, to not suggest a direct donation to PCC Farmland Trust as the easiest and most impactful way to celebrate the Holidays.

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When you give a gift to the Trust, you can also opt to receive a PCC Farmland Trust note card to personalize for your gift recipient.  Just check the “Make my gift in the name of someone special” box on our online donation form.

Whichever way you choose to give, we at the Farmland Trust wish you the happiest of holidays.

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Agricultural History in the Puyallup Valley

The Puyallup was long the site of hops farming in the shadow of Mt. Rainier.

For thousands of years the Puyallup Valley was home to a group of Native Americans, whom the nearby Yakima Tribe called the “pough-allup,” or “generous people”.  The Puyallup Tribe’s generosity was in part made possible by the abundance of forests and fish, berries, game, nuts and other foods found throughout their river valley home.

It wasn’t long before white settlers also noticed the great wealth of this land, including its potential for logging, trapping, and farming.  Hudson Bay Company trappers were active in the area starting around 1830, and by 1852 the first homesteaders began staking their claims.

The Puyallup Valley’s relatively mild climate and its proximity to Mount Rainier made for excellent growing seasons and alluvial soils; with the addition of some enterprising farmers, an agricultural boom was soon born. 1865 marked the introduction of hops-farming, which was to become the dominant crop and primary identity for the region for many years. Hops didn’t just become a local success—for about 20 years, the Puyallup Valley became the hop-growing epicenter of the world, producing huge yields and even huger fortunes. When a devastating pest epidemic destroyed all of the hops in 1891, farmers turned to berries and flower bulbs as their primary crops.  Continue reading

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November Food & Farms in the News

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Sue Ujcic of Helsing Junction Farm. Photo: Audra Mulkern

(On account of our walk down memory lane with our Top 10 Links of 2014, this month’s Food & Farms in the News is a bit abbreviated…)

We’re thrilled that PCC FT friend and “Photography On the Farm” instructor, Audra Mulkern, has been all over the national press lately.  Huffington Post and Grist are just a couple of the places you can read more about her Female Farmer Project.

We like to talk about how well a sharing economy can work for a community of farmers.  Some farmers in Maine are even applying the principle of sharing to farming equipment.  Modern Farmer takes a look at this clever tool-lending library.

Bringing another meaning to the word “cloud” in relation to agriculture, NPR’s The Salt blog takes a quick look at big data, farming, and who owns the information that gets uploaded from the tractor to the cloud.

Congratulations, Happy Birthday, and Kudos to Tilth Producers of Washington–they turn 40 years old this November!

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10 Most Popular Links of 2014

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Jack Johnson goes All in for Farms.

Looking back over a year’s worth of monthly “Crops of News”, the most popular links turned out to be a blend of diverse and often funny content.  We enjoyed a lot of quirky things like farmer selfies, and a farmer playing the trombone for his cows, but we also seemed to want to keep informed, get educated, be moved, or join in.  Without further ado (and presented in no particular order) the 10 most popular links of 2014.

* This first one squeaked in at the end of 2013, but people really seemed to love reading Modern Farmer’s article about the origins of farm-themed idioms, like “black sheep”, “get your goat”, or “high on the hog.”

* One word: felfies.  (Farmer + Selfie)

* This one was a personal favorite…Vox had a series of 40 maps that “explained food in America”.  Not sure if that aim was reached, but some of them sure were fascinating.

* We reflected upon the considerable legacy of Gary Fisher.

* We met our new Board President, Rick Vanderknyff.

* We learned all about our long-time supporter and former board member Bill Appel.

* We went All in for Farms, as did Jack Johnson (above)!

* Everyone seemed to want to read all about PCC Farmland Trust’s accomplishments in 2013, and flocked to our 2013 Annual Report.

* In a slightly more controversial news piece, an author at Modern Farmer implored us to please Stop Romanticizing Farms.

* And last, but not least, who couldn’t be charmed by this video of a farmer playing Lorde’s “Royals”…on his trombone…to his cows:

 

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