Veteran farmers reinforce profit margins, mentor beginners
By MATTHEW WEAVER
SPOKANE, Wash. -- While experienced small-farm operators attending a recent conference appeared to be most interested in increasing revenue, the newcomers focused on learning the basics of farming.
Paul and Susan Puhek want to increase the number of chickens on their farm. The Otis Orchards, Wash., couple has farmed commercially for 10 years, raising eggs and vegetables on 2 acres. They're looking to expand from 30 chickens to 100, but say demand will still outpace production.
Tonasket, Wash., farmer John Bodkins and his wife may add bees and even yaks to the 40-acre farm they've been running for 10 years. Yaks are easy to raise and provide a niche market for meat, fiber and milk. They now raise grass hay, rabbits and goats.
They were among 90 farmers who attended the Small Farm Conference Sept. 28-29 in Spokane.
Spokane organic farmer Jennifer Wengeler has been raising chickens, turkeys and goats on 25 acres for three years. She has no prior agriculture experience, but always wanted to live on a farm.
Wengeler said her biggest need is for easy access to information or mentors to answer her questions.
"Everything I've done, I haven't known how to do it," she said.
Spokane couple Justin and Allie Hymas, 23 and 22, respectively, are looking to start farming, having finished their undergraduate education at Whitworth University in Spokane. Neither has a background in agriculture, but they're looking to learn what's in store for them, particularly how to be profitable, Justin said.
"I think a lot of young people are really discontented with the system we've inherited of not knowing where our food comes from," Allie Hymas said. "It's really important for us to get back to our roots and become more a part of the process."
Spokane Conservation District: www.sccd.org/smacreage.html