Community Partnerships Help Osprey Hill Farm Grow Sustainably
Osprey Hill Farm, owned and operated by Geoff and Anna Martin on Saxon Road just south of Acme, have had an incredible year despite the challenges of the pandemic. Thanks to partnerships with Whatcom Land Trust and Whatcom Conservation District, Osprey Hill has expanded their produce farm, developed a farm plan, and constructed a waste storage and composting facility.
Osprey Hill is a hard working family-owned and operated livestock and organic market vegetable farm. That has been in operation in the south fork valley for almost 20 years. In a typical year, they raise around 8 sheep ewes, 12 lambs, 400 laying hens, and 5,500 meat birds. They also operate Osprey Hill Butchery in Acme, a Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) inspected poultry processing facility. They process their own birds and rabbits, as well as an additional 15,000 to 20,000 birds per year for fellow farmers in the area.
Produce Farm Expansion with Support from Whatcom Land Trust
Geoff and Anna were interested in expanding but weren't finding nearby property that would fit the bill. Until they discovered that Whatcom Land Trust owned a property adjacent to their farm and were looking for the right farmers to buy it. “The Trust's primary goals for the property are enhancing conservation around the stream that bisects the property, and to protect precious farmland from redevelopment,” explains Whatcom Land Trust Conservation Manager Alex Jeffers.
Whatcom Land Trust had purchased the property in 2014. It was previously a poplar tree farm owned by Pacifica Poplar. Whatcom Land Trust's mission includes the protection of agricultural and open space lands in Whatcom County for future generations by securing interests in land and promoting land stewardship. To date, the Trust has protected 1,804 acres of working agricultural lands to ensure local food security in Whatcom County's agricultural corridors. They've protected more than 24,000 acres total in Whatcom County since the nonprofit was established, in Lynden, in 1984.
“We’d been eyeing that property for almost 20 years,” remembers Anna. “The property went up for sale in April 2020, about the busiest time of year in the farming season. We were just too busy to even think about it.” But they eventually called the Whatcom Land Trust and discovered that this sale represented a win-win situation for all. Working with county and federal agencies, the Whatcom Land Trust was able to protect the tributary stream and the Martins were able to protect the farmland for perpetuity and purchase the land at an affordable price.
Composting Help from Whatcom Conservation District
“Our butchering business solves a need for a lot of small farmers in our area,” explains Anna of Osprey Hill Butchery’s of their vital role in the local farming community. “They want to raise livestock but have no butchering options. So, we started our butchery business in 2014. But at the end of a butchery day we have over 100 gallons of offal, or waste material, that we can’t sell for human consumption. We needed some way to deal with that.”
In partnership with the Whatcom Conservation District, Osprey Hill completed a comprehensive farm management plan and constructed a waste storage and composting facility with 53 cubic yards of storage. “Now with offal and dairy solids from Coldstream Farm down the road, we layer the materials daily and end of the year we have a beautiful, rich compost that we’re able to spread on our farm and share with others,” adds Anna. The composting also prevents waste run off to the stream, a tributary to the South Fork Nooksack.
Whatcom Conservation District makes small grants of up to $3,000 available for eligible Best Management Practices on farms who have completed a site assessment and developed a farm management plan with their farm planning staff. Commonly funded projects include manure storage, fencing, and heavy use area footing.
Through creative partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies and organizations, farms like Osprey Hill can weather challenges and even continue to grow and expand. “We love farming with a light footprint, in the same way as ‘leave no trace’ when camping,” adds Anna. “We really want to think strategically about how we’ll continue to adapt to a shifting climate. I think we can achieve our environmental conservation goals and farming at the same time. We need to be creative and reinvent how we’re producing food and living on the planet. But it’s totally doable.”
By Lorraine Wilde on behalf of Whatcom Land Trust with Aneka Sweeney of Whatcom Conservation District