Tuesday, April 15, 2008

For Jessica Editorial Review.

Cathryn at Summer Run Farm: Strong smart woman who is building community and bringing pleasure to herself and birth to fields that have laid fallow for a generation.

The row crops are all organic and what you'd expect from this post modern farmer. She has done her time teaching and thought-- well-- its a short life-- and I'd rather be outside. Farming satisfied needs she had that couldn't be met with other people's children-- teaching them was good work, important.

So this is her baby-- 20 acres minus the mule. She bought out a man who has been meditating about farming -- but not plowing the land-- for a fair price.

"There are not that many pieces of land left -- 20 acres here is the size I wanted. I did a lot of research finding this place. Then I had to do a lot more once I found it to make sure I could build a barn and my home on it."

The land sits in the Snoqualmie River flood plain. Her land has a creek that once was just ditches running through it. The ditches were built over time with the first settlers making arrangement with each other to clear out some of the water -- the ever present ingredient to all the land out here next to the river.

Ditches hold a certain amount of responsibility to people living with them.

You and I can drive by a thousand acres in the Snoqualmie River Valley and see flat land, farms housing creeping in here and there-- but we seldom give ditches or old creeks a second thought.

Ditches were created to help communicate the flow of water -- especially too much water-- back and forth across the dairies that were here when the first Dutch and Scandinavian settlers came out and buiilt their cow barns.

“When I decided I wanted this parcel of land for my farm, I also contacted Stewardship Partners to tell them I wanted the land certified “Salmon Safe”

The team from Stewardship Partners came out and set out some goals to get my farm in shape for salmon safe certification — including ripping out the invasive blackberry and grass that is everywhere— and planting natives like alder and fast growing shrubs that will shade out the grass along the creek/ditch so that natives can get established again.

“Stewardship and organic certification is not based on good wishes. Salmon safe means my farm is recognized for having good general land stewardship. On the ground— this Salmon Safe certification means some tangible improvements for the farm and watershed. For instance, by working with Stewardship Partners and King Conservation District, I was able to get a road that used to run right beside a fish bearing creek removed — and built a new road that is up to code farther away from my creek. It helped to have King CD and Stewardship Partners working with me on this plan for my farm — got me through reviews with King County government that I couldn’t have managed or would have been more difficult on my own.
That old road was eroding the creek bank, spilling run off from the farm into water— all kinds of stuff that isn’t happening now that we moved the road away from the side of the creek.”

What does that mean? Organic certification and salmon safe farming merge to include crop rotation, cover crops, and participating in long term planning that trades places of crops one after another. So if I plant root crop in one part of my 10 acres, I don’t plant root crop there next year. Some crops — like potatoes need longer rotations. I don’t plant potatoes in the same land for seven years.”

“This year I will plant seven of my 20 acres. A part of it needs to be that way for cover crop and rotation of crops. It’s not like you just say “I’m going to change the soil structure and poof! It is done. You can damage the soil by overtilling. You start seeing the loss of topsoil. Over cultivation leads to killing off— pulverizing beneficial insects. So organic farmers like me use disc or spader, s tine cultivation, harrows — tools that are not damaging. Irrigation is another tool for good stewardship because drip tape or having crops that you aren’t watering at all is important. For instance, my melons, winter squash, and potatoes didn’t get watered at all last year.”

Baerwald’s Summer Run is joining forces with two other women farmers in the Carnation area to expand their Community Supported Agriculture together. Their CSA serves Seattle three times a week with deliveries around the city.

“I found some fellow farmers who aren’t really competitive and are similar to me in commitment level — hard workers all. So the three of us have put together a plan to complement each other— growing a diverse number of crops for our CSA boxes. Of course, we all grow some of the same crops because farming has risks— you can’t tell if your crop is going to grow for sure— and so having another farmer grow kale for instance guarantees that we’ll have it in the box for our customers when they expect to see it.”

The learning curve for farming is ongoing even for someone like Baerwald who has been farming for several years. “I think being a farmer means you have to do an internship with people you hire to come out and fix things. IF I hire someone to fix my tractor, I need to learn what that person is working on. You can be respectful and humble and not walk off when they come to the farm to fix whatever you need fixing— they become your teacher. If I ask a guy to come out and fix my tractor, I ask them “Please teach me what you know” so I don’t have to pay someone to come out and fix it next time.

Stewardship Partners is going to help restore the creek that was a ditch so it is cooler for whatever fish live there. Name of creek?

Greenhouse, cloches, and barns made of storage units for now.

Well drilled to give her fresh water.

Animals that live -- coyotes, bears, elk, deer all come to visit. Geese in the field, lots of birds coming through all year. Compensatory storage for any of her farm animals.

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