To always keep something living on the land is a guiding principle for the farm. With organic and Salmon Safe certifications, as well as a full complement of biodynamic practices, there is a whole farm philosophy and spirituality aspect that influences their decisions. More than 30 percent of the farm’s 170 acres is in riparian habitat, forest and infrastructure-related acreage. The farmers removed invasive plants while widening the riparian corridor with native and harvestable shrubs and trees, and then fenced it off to keep their rotationally grazed cattle from overly impacting the area. The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) provided cost share funds for that work and also for a large fish friendly culvert that now protect cutthroat habitat.
Mimicking nature, they encourage western pond turtles with logs anchored in the middle of their pond. As self-described “bird nerds,” they enhance bird habitat on the farm with nest boxes for wood ducks, bluebirds, tree swallows and barn owls, and leave snags as woodpecker hotels and places for raptors to perch.
Of the land in production, about 71 acres are in permanent pasture, and roughly 46 acres in rotational fields of which 1/2 are in vegetables and 1/2 in pasture any given year – a 6-year rotation is as follows:
Year 1-Vegetable followed by a winter cover crop
Year 2-Vegetable (of a different family) followed by a cover crop
Year 3-Vegetable (of a third family) followed by a grass/clover permanent pasture mix
Year 4-Combination of forage making (hay/bailage) and cow pasture
Year 5-Combination of forage making (hay/bailage) and cow pasture
Year 6-Combination of forage making (hay/bailage) and cow pasture
The 3 years in pasture give the ground a rest from tillage, allows organic matter to build, and breaks disease and insect cycles. Striving for continuous cover with this long rotation, they enhance the soil and protect water quality for the fish and other aquatic species downstream.
Getting to know the land in all its nuances has helped them support biodiversity. The land has informed them where the crops should be grown, where to enhance natural processes, what should be protected, and—how to have a productive farm in harmony with nature.