Sequim is a good example of the issue: the town is located in the rain shadow of the Olympic mountains and enjoys an unusually high number of sunny days. This has made it very popular among retirees, which inevitably led to spiking property values and a lot of ill-conceived development. As it happens, this is also one of the most fertile farming areas in western Washington. The Dungeness River delta has created a rich plain of alluvial soil – in marked contrast to the clay-heavy, thin top soil in the rest of the state. A lot of this exceptional farmland has been lost to development. PCC Farmland Trust buys properties, or conservation easements on properties, that ensure they will be organically farmed in perpetuity. Delta Farm was one of the first acquisitions.
We were familiar with Delta Farm from the delicious carrots they grow there, a very popular item at our local coop. Visiting the farm itself proved very interesting and educational. Among Washington organic farms it is definitely a leader in terms of production methods, variety of produce, and product marketing. At the same time, it was very apparent that farmers have to work extremely hard and – at best – make a very small profit. Nonetheless, the farmers we talked to seemed to love their work and country life, and would not trade it for a city job. It’s great to see that the Farmland Trust is helping at least these folks live their dream.
We also came away with some pointers for our own small-scale vegetable production, e.g.
- Phacelia is a great companion plant for Brussels Sprouts: It encourages Lacewings which helps keep down pest populations.
- Beet starts do really well if started in a cloche and transplanted as bare root starts (clip all but the innermost leaves to minimize transplant shock)
- Beet starts are more hardy if they are cut short once or twice before transplanting
It was a fun event. Hopefully Farmland Trust is successful in attracting more donors and protecting more farmland in the region.