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Conservation Stories: Marshmallow Farm

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Are you wondering what it’s like to work with Whatcom CD? Read on to learn about Jeff and Rebecca and their Farm Planning experience!

Q: What brought you to Whatcom County? A: Jeff moved to Whatcom county in 2004 and Rebecca in 2008. We purchased our property recently in May 2019. We both came here to go to Western Washington University. We love the outdoors, the size of the town, great food and dining, our friends and community that we've built over the years, the beautiful county and Mt Baker. We also have family who live in Bellingham and more family just a quick car drive away.

Q: What types of animals are you raising? A: So far we have 4 cows, 4 sheep and 12 chickens. This year we started a 300 square foot garden and grow cabbage, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, different types of lettuce, kale and lots of herbs (we love to cook). We also have apple trees, pear trees, strawberries, blueberries and of course, blackberries!

Q: How did you first learn about the Whatcom CD? A: Neither of us have raised livestock before, so we needed all the help we could get! A local real estate agent and friend, Heather Kahn, gave us one of Katie's business cards shortly after we moved in. Also, at one point we googled "raising cows in Whatcom County" and the Conservation District popped up. We came across this program's website and scheduled a visit by a "farm planner". Shortly after that, Katie showed up, walked the land with us and gave some wonderful suggestions right away. Initially, we were curious about the program and thankful that it exists.

Q:When you first started working with Whatcom CD, what was your initial impression of the prescribed farm plan or Best Management Practices? A: Being that we were new to raising livestock and managing pastures, the farm plan was our "go-to" document! It was simple, well laid out, and had many resources and additional information. Also, it felt flexible - a lot of suggestions and we could figure out how to make it happen with our resources and hopes for our land.

Q: What aspects of the Farm Planning program were you most interested in? A: Our primary motivators were animal health and water quality. However, keeping costs down and having an aesthetic, functional farm are important to us, too. We do not use harsh chemicals on our land and want to practice regenerative farming techniques.

Q: What changes have you noticed, now that you have installed Best Management Practices on your property? A: So far, the biggest improvement we have noticed is from rotationally grazing our cows and sheep. We bought a solar powered energizer with turbowire to create temporary paddocks, and rotate our cows and sheep every few weeks to new parts of the pasture. After the animals are done grazing and naturally spreading their manure, we mow behind them to keep weeds down. Then the pasture is allowed to rest, grow strong roots and healthy grass for the animals (they are pretty fat this summer!). Learning about how to keep the manure away from our pond and waterways helps keep the animals healthy. Also, it helped keep disagreements at bay and a happy marriage knowing we had a well informed farm plan in place!

Q: Were there aspects of Farm Plan that surprised you? A: The biggest surprise was the amount of resources available for managing your land. The manure spreader, knowledge of what stores to go to for certain items, free farm planning, advice on weed management and products, etc.

Q: Would you recommend working with Whatcom CD? A:Yes, we highly recommend working with the Conservation District! Katie and her insight/development of a farm plan has been a fantastic resource for us. It created a well thought out foundation for our regenerative farming adventures! Overall, the experience was helpful, simple to follow and not overwhelming. The Whatcom CD was easy to work with, responsive and well informed.

Click here to learn more about the Whatcom CD Farm Planning program.

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