Growers reap benefits from Tilth Producers' farm walks
By STEVE BROWN
For the past 10 years, Tilth Producers of Washington has partnered with other agencies to organize more than 100 farm walks around the state.
Carey Hunter, vice chairwoman of the board of directors, said recent topics have ranged from bees and biodynamic farming at Friendly Haven Rise Farm to unique farm-community partnerships at Suyematsu and Bentryn Family Farms on Bainbridge Island.
The walks give farmers, researchers and students in-depth presentations about different ways to handle challenges. Not all farms visited are organic, she said, but each showcases organic and sustainable practices.
Tilth works with the Washington State University Small Farms Team and the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
"We get ideas of what people are interested in at our annual conferences and from evaluations at each farm walk," Hunter said. "We ask them what else do they want to see and experience, and we get suggestions for where to go."
Three farm walks remain on this year's calendar:
* Aug. 4: J4 Berry Ranch in Mount Vernon, Skagit County, "Integrated green approach to growing and processing organic berries." A conventional apple and raspberry farm has transitioned into a 100 percent certified organic operation. The walk will focus on using satellites for farm design and tractor work, sourcing quality water, marketing to local groceries and strong employee relations. Information: http://j4ranchllc.com/
* Aug. 26: Lincoln Creek Ranch in Galvin, Lewis County, "Pasture-based products to support family, community and environment." The owners will describe their pasture rotation, flood planning for livestock management and composting livestock waste (including offal). Information: www.lincolncreekranch.com/
* Sept. 16: Maple K Farms in Colfax, Whitman County, "Dryland grazing and water systems for grass-fed, grass-finished cattle." The ranchers will explain how they manage their pastures and develop water systems. Information: www.maplekhighlands.com/
Besides farm walks, Tilth fills its calendar with dinners, auctions, festivals, tours, local chef events and conferences.
"Networking is a huge part of it," Hunter said. "I'm fascinated by the people who go and by the conversations you strike up."