Monday, March 10, 2008

Photo of Andrew with wife and kids. Stout has all photos we need
Picture of the Snoqualmie buffer
Plants growing

DRAFT Full Circle Farms interview with Farmer Andy Stout.

Full Circle Farms

Full Circle Farm is the first farm in Washington State to earn Salmon Safe Certification.
The Farm achieved this Certification on July 9, 2004.

Farmer Andy Stout has a farm and a river runs through it-- literally -- several months every winter

“We're basically sitting in the Snoqualmie flood plain. The river comes in every winter and sits on saturated ground until later in spring."

Stout and his team work the soil, digging in organic compost for fertilizer, seed and a lot of sweat and toil-- turning the fertile muddy farm land into a cornucopia of organic vegetables and herbs.

Full Circle Farm's one of the largest community supported agriculture (CSA) in America -- with 5000 people subscribing to a year of abundance from Alaska (via mail order), Oregon, and all over Washington. Full Circle Farms now has CSA drop offs in over a hundred locations. Full Circle brand brown boxes are filled with beautiful color and great taste: carrots, beets, rainbow kale, root crops like potatoes and carrots, and spinach to name a few.

And Stout’s green acres are growing abundantly in strong sales, too. In addition to the CSA, Full Circle’s delivering organic vegetables to 50-60 restaurants, 15 grocery stores, 15 farmer’s markets, and five wholesale customers.

With annual sales over $5 million, Full Circle manages to grow crops nearly year round thanks to the Seattle area’s mild climate. Stout has 175 of 300 acres in production in 2008.

Each winter the land rests, each spring the snows in the Cascades flood, and the Snoqualmie River pours up up and over its banks onto Full Circle's hundred acres.

The river laughs at our human boundaries, renaming places in a flash. Or so it seems. Come by Stout's Full Circle Farm in early February and you might call it Stout's Pond for all the water that sits on the field-- inviting blue heron, eagle, redtail and ducks to search for food in the large new water body left by Snoqualmie's periodic floods. The only thing missing is the old man and a fishing pole.

Keeping water clean is at the heart of what makes Full Circle Farms vegetables to great. Griffin Creek runs along the north side of the farm. Farmer Andy set aside land along the Griffin Creek for a conservation easement. A berm was built up to give the salmon stream -- with wild coho and pinks running up it getting retrenched banks and woody debris added.

The farm then replanted the berm with willows.

“We set aside set aside another 4 acres near the Snoqualmie River that Stewardship Partners is replanting so we have a good size buffer.

Jones & Jones, a landscape architecture firm volunteered two members of their team who designed an interpretive trail along Griffin Creek -- all the way out to the new native plants that are along the river bank. We had volunteers from Stewardship Partners and Starbucks come out and help clear out the invasives and start planting natives along the berm we built. The trail is a five year work in progress— but over time— people coming to visit us can take a nature walk from Full Circle barns out to the edge of the river. ”

“We installed a fish screen and new pump in the main irrigation line coming out of Griffin Creek. Water is pumped 100 feet from the creek— and fish can’t get through the screen so they can’t get sucked into the pipe anymore. That project alone was $13,000 cost sharing.”

Water is kept clean through out Farmer Andy's operation.

Here are some highlights:

Irrigation is being built into the ground, cutting down on disturbance of soil moving portable irrigation pipes.

Almost all of the tractors and other gear uses biodiesel to cut down on toxic waste and oil dripping into water.

Farmer Stout is building a new compost building this year that is covered -- complete with forced air to give him completely usable organic fertilizer in 6-8 weeks.

The farm’s 300 acres is a rich reservoir for biodiversity -- from signature blue heron, eagles nests -- a good sign for plenty of salmon. And lots of smaller wildlife calls the farm home, too. In addition to ducks using the farm for a base when the flood waters have made a pond on part of Stout’s property, kingfisher, even cougar have been sighted along the creek. In addition to the big animals and birds, freshwater mussels, caddis flies and other favorite fish bugs are abundant.

All this biodiversity occurs because farmers along Griffin Creek have changed the way they work with the land— and logging practices upstream have had to mitigate some of the damage done to stream banks, clearcuts.

Cultivation practices have changed on the farm to reduce run off and erosion of soil.

The main buildings are greenhouses and a couple big barns have gutters and drains that have gravel under them-- allowing the natural filtering of land to help keep water clean.

You put it all together and you get this: fresh and delicious organic food for your table that sustains local ecosystems, too.

Full Circle has grown and benefited from the rich natural resources left in the Snoqualmie River Valley. The land benefits from being a dairy for years before Stout transitioned it to organic certified farming. The farm does a big part of composting cow manure from area dairies— hauling over 100 dump trucks a year of crop growing composted cow pies.

Best management practices appear to thrive on this farm. Manure is hauled in from a nearby dairy and composted, Griffin Creek's berm has built up and protected the soil from erosion, and a deep understanding of living with a big river has paid off for Farmer Andy, the land and wildlife he enjoys working.

“It is exciting to make a difference on this land with our family farm. We have lots of work left to do.” Stout and his team mentor people interested in going organic — including some local Viet Namese Hmong farmers wanting to go organic.

Stout’s growing visible in the politics of food regionally, too. He was recently appointed by Washington State to a USDA planning commission to help direct what food policy will look like in the years to come. “ Imagine if USDA policy promotes fresh local fruits and vegetables to be purchased by local schools. We’d make a world of difference in the health of thousands of kids right here in our community.”

With two kids of their own, Andy and his wife Wendy have a big stake in making sure all our kids grow up with healthy affordable organic food.

Full Circle’s Stout family promises many years of cultivation ahead.

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