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Sheep on a farm

Small Farm Program

Whatcom Conservation District staff are available to assist you with farm management options and help you understand current environmental laws that have been put in place to protect water quality and habitat associated with critical areas. Implementing a farm plan that incorporates "best management practices" will help ensure compliance with environmental laws and can also make your farm a better place to live economically and aesthetically.

Whatcom Conservation District is a non-enforcement subdivision of the State of Washington and is supported by grants. The District is charged with the duties of protecting the soil and water of Whatcom County, particularly in relation to farming and animal keeping practices, through technical assistance and outreach events. We are here to help you.


How can we help you?



Everyone can have a Farm Plan or a Farm Assessment. Why might you want a Farm Plan?


Farming sustainably is good for everyone and it can also be profitable. Many Farm Plan participants enjoy increased efficiency and profitability as a result of increased environmental sustainability. What opportunities exist on your farm? You can request free, confidential, no obligation and voluntary farm planning services from the Whatcom Conservation District.

Step 1 - Call or visit our office to meet a farm planner and schedule a visit. We come out to your property to walk the land with you and learn about your agricultural and land management goals.

Step 2 - We then research and assemble information and resources to help you reach your goals.

Step 3 - At a second plan delivery meeting we review the checklist and farm plan map to see if there are any revisions required and present resources to help you move forward towards your goals.

Step 4 - Upon completion of a farm plan with the Conservation District, you are eligible for small reimbursement grants to help with installation of new resource conservation practices on your farm, if current grant funding allows. Examples are gutters on farm buildings, covered manure composting storage, heavy use areas, fencing to keep animals out of waterways, and establishment of grass filter strips.

What is a Standard Farm Conservation Plan?


A livestock farm plan in Whatcom County is based on a do-it-yourself planning workbook. [Standard Farm Conservation Plan Workbook (PDF Version)] This is a 29-question checklist and an action plan. The checklist, action plan and a map of practices are the essentials of a farm plan in Whatcom County. This process will show you how your current or planned conditions align with the Whatcom County Critical Areas Ordinance, and with conservation of natural resources on your land. You can find more information on best management practices in the online booklet “Tips on Land & Water Management for Small Farm & Livestock Owners in Whatcom County, Washington” (18mb).  You can view a PDF of the booklet (18mb) or Print Version (18mb - formatted for easier booklet printing).

Tip booklet
Ponies on a farm
How is my farm classified and what type of Farm Plan can I use.jpg
Why might you need a Farm Plan?

In Whatcom County, a Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) exists that regulates land use or development within critical areas and their buffers.  Within the CAO, there is a Conservation Program on Agriculture Lands (CPAL) section (WCC 16.16.8) that establishes guidelines to ensure that critical areas are protected from potential negative impacts of agricultural activities.  CPAL guidelines establish that ongoing agriculture activities are permitted within critical areas, and/or their buffers, upon implementation of an approved farm conservation plan in accordance with the CAO.

Learn more from Whatcom County’s Farm Plan webpage or below are two commonly asked questions taken from Whatcom County Farm Plan Frequently Asked Questions.

Flock of Sheep
Q5: Should I have a farm plan?

A5: If you would like to use critical areas (wetlands, streams, critical recharge areas) on your property for on-going agriculture activities, you need to have an approved farm plan on file at the County. 

Q6: What if I choose to not have a
farm plan?

A6: If you decide to not create and implement a farm plan, you may not impact water bodies, wetlands, critical aquifer recharge areas, or their buffers. Animals would be restricted from these areas.

Farmer leaning on paddock

“We keep all our manure contained to protect clean water, it’s important to us.  WCD enhanced what I would have already done and gave good direction to the placement of the fences.  The design work, overhead maps, and materials estimates were vital to the success of this project.”

Keep reading about Glen and other landowner’s work with the WCD on our Farmer’s for Clean Water page.

Best Management Practice Factsheets


We use the term “best management practices” or “BMPs” when referring to various methods for preventing or reducing potential pollution that could result from an agricultural activity. The term originated from rules and regulation in Section 208 of the federal Clean Water Act.



For more information on these programs and more contact:

Corina Cheever
360-526-2381 x104




Additional Resources

Most of these links open as a PDF




Other Livestock

Soils and Nutrient Analysis
  • General soil questions and soil type information available at the WCD office

  • Soil and forage, manure testing- local analysis available at: Analytical Laboratories

Funding Opportunities

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