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Conservation Stories: Elf Sanctuary

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Girl standing next to cows

When the founder of Elf Sanctuary, Mica Hartley, moved to her current property, she had no intention of owning any farm animals. She fell in love with the property itself, a homestead built in the 1880s, on 40 acres, intersecting a tributary of California Creek.

“We had no idea we would start an animal sanctuary when we bought the farm. But since we are animal lovers and we had a barn, one thing led to another and we opened Elf Sanctuary, in 2019. We primarily rescue farm animals but also participate in foster and adopt programs.” – Mica Hartley

With a lot of new ideas, the staff of Elf Sanctuary, including manager Rachel Sisley (pictured), came to the Whatcom Conservation District for help implementing Best Management Practices. Whatcom CD offers free planning and support services to any farm in Whatcom County.

Goat in barn door

“A friend told me about the Conservation District and [the] many resources that might be helpful to our farm, including salmon restoration projects, pasture management and more. My initial thoughts were: I can't believe it is free!" – Mica Hartley

Whatcom CD has been able to partner with Elf Sanctuary through our Farm Planning, Soil Sampling, and Small Grants Programs. Whatcom CD farm planners provided expert guidance on best management practices, and helped fund and design a more efficient manure management system and a gravel access lane.

Girl standing next to new pasture track

“With the help of WCD, we were able to completely replace the bedding system in our barn. Instead of using copious quantities of shavings and straw for our cows, goats, and sheep, we were able to move towards a deep litter method. This reduced our costs tremendously and reduced the quantity of output from the barn. We were changing bedding so often that we were creating huge piles of shavings and straw that had little nutritional value thus making it more difficult to reuse. Our waste from the barn is now a more concentrated manure that is more compostable and more valuable as an organic fertilizer. The animals seem to enjoy the deep litter method also, as it feels more natural.” – Mica Hartley

The Whatcom CD is happy to continue working with Elf Sanctuary, as they continue to improve their farm infrastructure. When asked if they would recommend the Whatcom CD to their friends and neighbors Mica replied, “Absolutely, 100%. For me, [it was about] just having someone who has some knowledge [and] who is available to help me problem solve. Starting out on a farm, I could never have known how many areas of concern I was going to have to deal with: from salmon creeks, to pasture health, to soil testing, to manure management, and other types of system and design issues. We are so incredibly grateful for all of the help from WCD, and everyone there has been so kind and easy to work with. Thank you!”

To partner with us on your farm, reach out to our Farm Planning Staff today: or 360-526-2381 x104.

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