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Bailey Farm: Farming into the Future

The house smelled of pork roast and sweet blackberry dumplings. Dad milked the cows while mother tended to the garden out back. The fire crackled from cedar wood collected with grandpa that morning. Coins from the day’s lemonade-stand sat in a pile on the kitchen table. For Cliff Bailey, these were some of his fondest childhood memories. “Happy times,” he called them.

Today, Cliff has the joy of knowing that future generations will be able to carry forward the rich history of his family farm — forever.

Cliff and Rosemary Bailey

Cliff and Rosemary Bailey

A Centennial Farm, Bailey Farm began in 1913 when Cliff’s grandparents purchased 40-acres in the Snohomish River Valley. Five years later, Cliff’s father, Earle, expanded the modest stretch of feed crop and oxen pasture into a full-fledged dairy operation. Together with his wife and children, Earle expanded the farm to the nearly 400 acres it is today.

103 years and five generations from its inception, the farm not only still stands, it thrives. As a nod to the dairy that operated there for nearly 80 years, Holstein cows graze along the hillside in springtime, while silage corn grows below. In the summer months, community members fill the 40-acre U-Pick garden, leaving with buckets of cucumbers, strawberries, green beans, and peppers. Come October, kids ride wagons through the pumpkin patch and chase each other through corn mazes — operated by Cliff’s granddaughter, Annie. Year round, Bailey sells high-quality, aerated compost.

Cliff and Rosemary, high school sweethearts, had the idea to conserve their land while talking with other landowners at a Holstein Association conference in Maine in the 70s.

“The idea stuck with me,” said Cliff. “I think it’s pretty important to keep as much agriculture as we can in the communities where we live. Conserved land is cheaper for farmers, produces better food, and sustains a more wholesome way of life. It just makes sense.”

Strawberry fields at Bailey Farm

Strawberry fields at Bailey Farm

For years, Cliff and Rosemary have watched rich soils of the Snohomish Valley disappear. Thriving agricultural lands seem to turn to housing developments overnight, they recall. For them, knowing those developments are irreversible makes it even more heartbreaking. They remember the days when Kent and Auburn valleys were rolling farm fields, not shopping malls. They would hate to see their property, too, slip into a faded memory.

“We want our farm to continue to serve as the place where community members come for wholesome food, to play with their kids, and to understand what agriculture is all about.”

Because of the wonderful collaboration between PCC Farmland Trust and Snohomish County, Bailey Farm will be able to do just that for generations to come. From Cliff and Rosemary’s three children, who have maintained the farm over the years, down to their months-old great-granddaughter, Kate, there is huge opportunity to keep Bailey Farm an epicenter for agriculture and community in Snohomish County.

Cliff and Rosemary's son, Don Bailey

Cliff and Rosemary’s son, Don Bailey

The Baileys all believe that now is the perfect time to focus on farmland conservation in Snohomish, in order to keep it a thriving agricultural community. We agree. Our goal at PCC Farmland Trust is to build off of this keystone project to launch into further conservation work throughout the region.

When I asked Cliff and Rosemary how it makes them feel to know that Bailey Farm will stay in their family for generations, they looked at each other and smiled. “It’ll be fun to watch,” they said together. “Each of them will carry this on, we know it.”

To learn more about Bailey Farm, visit our farms page.

A special thanks to our funding partners at Snohomish County, and Linda Neunzig for her instrumental work in conserving this farm.

Photos by Molly Goren.

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Sustainable agriculture gains momentum in the Puyallup Valley

Between 1997 and 2007, Pierce County lost nearly 23 percent of its farmland, much of it in the abundant Puyallup Valley. At this time, one quarter of the county’s farmland was slated for development. With the announcement of these startling numbers, PCC Farmland Trust began working with partners in an effort to curb the conversion of some of the state’s best farmland. About 2,000 acres were identified as top priority for conservation.

Between 2010 and 2015, the Farmland Trust invested $4.9 million to conserve 397 acres  —  20 percent of the acreage identified in the long-term goal. Seven family farms on that land produce an array of products, including eggs, honey, herbs, vegetables, pork, poultry, beef, animal feed, berries and hay. They represent a shift back toward sustainable and diversified land management and continued celebration of local agriculture in the region. Across Pierce County, the total market value of agricultural products is $91 million — making farming a critical economic driver.

sustainable ag gains momentum in puyallup valley

Renewed farming interest

Three farm families tell us they moved their farm operations to the Puyallup Valley, in large part due to the conservation work of PCC Farmland Trust and the political support of the county and the City of Orting toward agriculture.

In 2009, Kim Shelstad and his wife fell in love with a farm in the heart of Orting. While it had the potential to be prime grazing land, it needed substantial cleaning and clearing. The couple restored the property and their hard work will have a lasting benefit now that the Farmland Trust has conserved the farm in perpetuity.

PCC Farmland Trust recently surveyed 250 farmers across Washington to gauge interest in the Puyallup Valley and other regional focus areas, and to identify ways to support new and expanding farm businesses. We, and our partners in the area, are committed to building and retaining the region’s agricultural legacy.

Leveraging community

A strong sense of agricultural neighborliness can be credited for much of this renewed interest. Beyond the rapidly increasing price of land, startup costs can be extremely prohibitive for new or expanding farms. In the Orting area, there are several farmers who share resources, from tractors and equipment to expertise and an extra hand.

As Kim Shelstad began making improvements on his new farm, he joined forces with another recent Puyallup Valley farmer transplant to pool their resources to buy tools and equipment, eventually helping one another build two hoop houses on each of their farms.  Kim recalls reaching out to countless other farmers for support and advice when he first started, and now he gets to pay it forward. He recently hosted a tour for young farmers who will call on his experience as they start or expand their own operations.

When farming communities are fragmented by development, this type of sharing can be limited, or lost. Similarly, without a critical mass within a regional service area, agricultural resources and support can be harder to come by.

Environmental ethic

These and other farm properties also are bringing environmental restoration to the Puyallup Valley watershed. On Farmland Trust conserved properties alone, 6,300 feet of restoration and enhancements have been made by hundreds of Farmland Trust volunteers and experts, improving more than half of all on-farm riparian habitat. Many farms are taking their environmental efforts to the next level, receiving Organic, Salmon Safe, and other sustainability certifications, employing resource conservation efforts, and managing for safe flooding.

In addition to their organic production and soil and water conservation practices, Dan and Kim Hulse have installed solar panels on one of their barns at Tahoma Farms. They produce 10,000 kilowatt/hours of electricity annually, offsetting one-third of the farm’s energy consumption. They are reinvesting these savings in other efficiencies, like converting their 1940s cultivating tractor to run as an electric vehicle. These are all part of an important broadening of the meaning of sustainable agriculture.

What’s next?

The Pierce County community continues to come together to invest time, expertise and resources in advancing the interests of agriculture and sustainability in its most important farming regions, like the Puyallup Valley.  PCC Farmland Trust has an additional 300 acres queued up in the conservation pipeline for 2016 and 2017. Of the 2,000 priority acres originally identified, this would bring our progress to 40 percent. Together, we can sustain this momentum.

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Staff Spotlight: Molly Goren

Molly is our new Communications Manager, whose job it is to educate key audiences about our conservation work and its impact on local farmers and communities. Learn a little bit more about Molly, here:

Molly GorenTell us about yourself. My professional background is in communications and the arts. I spent 3+ years as a project manager at a strategic communications agency in Seattle, helping nonprofits reach target audiences and refine their messaging. I am an avid photographer who pays attention to details, and thrive when surrounded by people who love what they do. I am a third generation Seattle-lite, on a perpetual mission to find the perfect cup of coffee.

Please tell us why organic and local food and farming is of interest to you. After living and working in a subsistence farming community in Uganda, I gained new insight into what it means to know the food you eat. Inspired by that experience, I have broadened my definition of “eating well” to include a greater awareness of the people and systems behind my food. From reading labels more closely to supporting local producers and farmers, I feel closer to my food every day.

What is your connection to farming? Do you have experiences with farms in your family or growing up?  In the fall of 2015, I served as an intern on an organic farm and agroturismo in Tuscany, immersing myself in the worlds of sustainable agriculture and historic preservation. For three months, I lived off of the land — preparing vineyards for harvest, pressing olives into oil, and gaining a deep sense of respect and appreciation for farmers through it all.

What is your vision/hope for farming and food production in the state of Washington? My vision for farming and food production in Washington is that we find a way to tap into the enormous percentage of our food supply that’s wasted in an effort to give more people greater access to healthy food. If you’re also passionate about reducing food waste, check out the blog I co-author with my sister about leftovers.

What are your favorite books or documentaries about food/farming/sustainable agriculture? One of the most influential books I’ve read about food is Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.

Anything else you’d like to share? If you want to stay connected and hear more about the Trust’s work, sign up for our monthly newsletter!

 

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December food and farms in the news

  • Looking to dive into some food and farms reading in the New Year? These 20 top books from 2015 should get you started.
  • “GMOs” have come to represent a set of ideas, but in practice, it’s extremely hard to define them. Here’s why.
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Good tidings and good news

Dear friends,

I’m so happy to be writing to you with more good news.

Last week we officially bought and conserved the Harman Farm. This week we are sealing the deal on the Shelstad Farm. Together, these 80 acres bump our total acres conserved in the Orting Valley to 397. That’s twenty percent of the 2,000 priority acres we identified with our partners in the region. Thank you for making this possible!

Between 2016 and 2017 we anticipate doubling that number in Pierce County, while also expanding to other priority regions. In fact, this week we are also wiring funds for another easement on 270 acres in another focus area!

Beyond acreage, we are seeing the broader impact of investing in a concentration of sustainable agriculture, and we look forward to sharing that with you in the new year.

This year was the first of several years of acceleration. We doubled our conservation footprint, and we intend to keep or exceed that pace in the years ahead. To achieve that, we’ll need to expand our community of supporters.

This year, several longtime supporters offered a challenge to new donors—a match of $25,000 for first time gifts. There is still $10,000 on the table to be matched by December 31st. If you have not yet made your year-end gift, please help us in this final stretch so we can reach our finish line.

Thank you for sharing in these milestones. We look forward to many more in 2016.

Happy holidays from your Farmland Trust,

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Most popular links of 2015

Your favorite links, by far, were to our very own PCC Farmland Trust stories. Thank you! We’re so humbled.

You can still find all of this content if you scroll back in “The Latest“.

But there were also several favorite articles from our monthly news roundup. We know those can be tricky to dig up, so we’ve compiled a list of the most popular links, according to your Crop-reading community.

Here is 2015, as a journalistic journey:

 

#10 We pondered the vast political appeal of this famous farmer.

#9  We took pride in Washington’s leadership of the farm-to-tumbler movement

#8 …and the innovative folks making those grains so much better.

#7 Then we dove deeper still, into the history that brought us to a place and time where our local Bread Lab is so relevant.

#6. We unabashedly consumed a strong dose of cute farm animal videos

#5 …and balanced it out with an analysis of dietary guidelines and the environment.

#4  We cheered for the profitability of organic agriculture

#3 …and we cried for the bees.

#2 Throughout this journey, we dreamed about the possibility of being farmers ourselves, until we were reminded of reality.

#1 So, many of us—hundreds of us—took to getting involved with and celebrating the work happening in our food and farm communities, like this King County example.

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5 Big Wins of 2015

It has been a banner year! We are counting the ways you’ve helped make it so exceptional. Together, we’ve achieved these Big Wins, and we thank you.

 
harman creekWe expanded our scope:

We’ve adopted a comprehensive approach to keeping farmland thriving forever. Building on our core farmland protection work with landowners, we’re partnering with Pierce County and other organizations on a $10 million grant to find innovative solutions to flood management and long term farmland protection and viability in the Puyallup Valley. We also connected with over 170 farmers to learn more about their land-leasing needs statewide, and how we can support farmers in accessing farmland affordably.

 

_95A0630You showed up:

Between plantings and outreach, administrative support and events, you logged over 400 hours of
volunteer work! More than 100 of you helped convert a blackberry-infested creek bed into a healthy waterway. Over 1,200 of you came to our events, and you’re in good company with over 8,000 online community members. We partnered with over 20 organizations across 3 counties, more than 40 brands at PCC Natural Markets, and over 2,400 donors have already given in 2015. Thank you!

 

three11700633_10154053875534778_8907939152123892588_oWe advocated for public prioritization of conservation:

We worked with statewide partners, such as the Washington Association of Land Trusts and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene to address public funding challenges for farmland conservation. We played a leadership role in the Puyallup Watershed Initiative, as well as several other agriculture-centered groups in our focus areas. These efforts have already yielded new funding allocations for farmland conservation easements—a win for everyone!

 

IMG_5209 (1)We’re breaking the mold:

Our staff members presented our innovative techniques and proven finance model all over the west coast. We shared conservation tools for land access and affordability and gained new ideas for expanding these strategies by putting our heads together with leading experts. We’ve adopted a standard of innovation that is allowing us to accelerate and expand our work at record rates.

 

 

OneUntitled design (15)You helped triple our conservation rate!

In January we closed on Helsing Junction Farm, adding 42 protected acres in Thurston County. Then, in August we shared news of the 36-acre Shelstad Farm in Orting. Now, we’ve just announced our conservation partnership with Harman Farm, for a total of 80 new acres in Pierce County—a new high standard that we know you’ll help us keep up next year, and in the years to come.

 

THANK YOU.

 

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Meet Dave and his family farm…

Letter headerDear Friend, 

Since 2009, I have watched PCC Farmland Trust protect land in the Puyallup Valley, where my family has lived and farmed for nearly 140 years. The Trust is a respected partner in our tight-knit community, so last yearbegan working with them to ensure that an important piece of my family’s history—forty-four acres on the Carbon River—would remain farmland forever.

In the late 1800s, my great-grandfather bought a farm at the base of Mount Rainier and divided it between his two sons—my grandfather and my great uncle. My great uncle’s half was sold in 1957, while my grandfather’s land remained in our family, continuously farmed for 105 years. My father and grandfather grew wheat, peas, barley, and potatoes, as well as hay for livestock. The woodlands at the back of the property are still home to elk, deer, bears, cougars, and bald eagles.

I have seen a lot of change in the valley during my lifetime and I value all that the Trust has done to help protect this beautiful and abundant place. I support PCC Farmland Trust and I am proud to partner with them to preserve this land as farmland forever. I know it is what my grandfather would have wanted.

Dave points to where the resident elk bed on the edge of the farm.

Dave points to where the resident elk bed on the edge of the farm.

To me, this land is about more than one family—it represents a community’s past, present, and future. I want to ensure that this land is accessible to new generations of sustainable and organic farmers who will produce healthy food, take responsibility for nearby wildlife, and conserve natural resources. It is a simple dream, but an important one, and I know that PCC Farmland Trust will make certain it is realized.

Successful conservation of this farm gives me hope. Like you, I know that fertile farmland is a precious and limited natural resource. That is why I want to see more successes like this as PCC Farmland Trust continues to grow. Your gift is a worthwhile investment in the future of sustainable farming throughout the Puyallup Valley and beyond. Thank you.

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P.S. All first-time gifts made to the Trust by midnight on December 31st, will be matched, up to $25,000!

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Supporter Spotlight: Ryan Mello

Ryan is a partner and friend to the Farmland Trust, invaluable in supporting our efforts in Pierce County. He is the Executive
Director of the Pierce Conservation District, a key partner in the Pierce County Ag Roundtable and Puyallup Watershed Initiative, and serves as a Tacoma City Council member and dedicated leader across the south sound.

Meet Ryan…

Tell us about yourself.  Ryan Mello

I grew up on my grandparent’s cattle farm in Hawaii, so I was raised learning about working, honoring, and protecting the land.  This greatly influenced my love of working lands, and my interest in dedicating my career to protecting and enhancing them.

Why is sustainable food and farming of interest to you? 

I love that farms and working lands are so grounded in heritage. There is the personal heritage and appreciation on the part of those working the land, but also the shared value that is felt by those in the surrounding community. I believe that access to healthy, locally-sourced food is critical to the health and well-being of our communities.

What is your favorite thing to grow?

Growing food is really hard! I haven’t had time to try my hand at gardening in a while, but tried to grow tomatoes, peppers and zucchini this past summer. I quickly realized that growing food takes a lot of skill and care, and that I was better off leaving it to the experts and supporting them at our local farmers markets.

Do you have a fun farm story or experience you’d like to share?

Well, I certainly had some shocking and memorable experiences from helping my grandfather with the “necessary tasks” of cattle ranching, as a child. This was thirty years ago, but it was, and still is, vividly clear to me how dedicated farmers and ranchers are—they put in very long hours, doing difficult tasks.

What is your vision/hope for farming and food production in the state of Washington?

My hope is that family farms will be prosperous. By prosperous, I mean that farmers should be able to make a living from their farm and not need to hold off-farm employment, allowing themselves and those around them to live plentiful, vibrant lives. My hope is that the land base will not be fragmented, for all the reasons that a disjointed base makes farming more difficult. I want to see family farms as a respected and celebrated part of our local economy, as well as a critical driver of our community’s health and the health of the environment, bringing benefits as sinks for carbon and polluted rainwater, and preventing sprawl.  I hope that the Farmland Trust can someday achieve all of their farmland conservation goals in the Puget Sound.

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October food and farms in the news

  • You’re not imagining it—there is in fact a growing interest in information about food in the US. Here’s a summary of what polled Americans care about most.
  • Until recently, much of the herbal medicinals available medicinalswere imported from far-away, untraceable farms. These farmers are looking to fill a gap for local, organic botanicals.
  • Our friends at National Young Farmers Coalition teamed up with our supporters at Clif Bar to make this beautiful video summing up the current state of transition in the family farm.
  • It’s not just transition between generations of farmers that’s a challenge. The transition to organic certification is a difficult and expensive stretch for many. With demand for organic outpacing supply, why aren’t there better incentives for conversion?

 

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