Friday, February 3, 2012

Cedarnook farms

I had the pleasure of meeting Carri Graden today, who with her husband Travis, operate Cedarnook farms, a few miles east of my farm. 

Carri Graden is very passionate about animal care and husbandry, and is not shy at all about sharing those views.  She is also a strong advocate of the environment as well, which I've found to be the case in most of the small producers that I know.   She is very vocal about issues related to runoff, manure and contamination of groundwater, and she has her hands full with her farm!

Carri has been an avid reader and commenter on my blog, and has spent time talking about my operation on other blogs, as well.   I appreciate your attention, Carri, and I'm happy to return the favor.  I'm looking forward to having many interactions with you in the next few years. 

The land that Cedarnook farms is on, a 5 acre parcel in snohomish county, was purchased in 2007, at a cost of $405,000.  I mention that because it speaks to how hard it is to farm here.  Even land like Cedarnooks is very expensive.  They paid $81,000 an acre for it, and as far as farmland goes, with the stream along one side there's the very real possibility that they'll be required to have a planted buffer area.   Right now the agencies regulating this are talking about either a 150' wide buffer, or a 200' wide buffer, which, in the case of Cedarnook, would mean that they could not use more than half of their property, and that would probably be the end of this as farm.  

Even though they purchased this land in 2007, Carri and Travis have had a long history in agriculture.  In speaking with Travis he mentioned being associated with a Dairy -- which I have the highest respect for.  Dairy farming is the hardest type, and there are darned few dairies left in Snohomish county anymore. 

The salmon stream is the blue line at the top of the picture
the house is at the center, chicken coops are the white roofs at the top, center.

"buffer zones" seem like a good idea on paper, but they have a very real, and very serious, impact on rural land owners.  By the stroke of a pen you can lose half your acreage.  Most landowners hope that they can hide from the regulations by being rural, but as shown by the photo above, the county knows exactly where the streams are.  The only thing we can do be vigilant and political and stop the regulations in the first place.  It's not whether they will find you -- they already know.  They'll just digest you in little pieces at their leisure. 

When land is this expensive, its important to get the most use out of it that you can.   Part of the acreage is a house, equipment area and a yard, leaving about 3.5 acres for the animals.   Those acres are shared by 9 pigs, 2 horses, 4 beef cows and a large number of chickens.  It's fenced and cross fenced, but the animals are allowed to wander around in the entire area and play in the stream. 

Not pretty to the city folks

  As with most farms, Cedarnook has the same sort of stuff that I do around my farm.  The old stock trailer, check.  Pile of wood, check.   Random pile of brush, check.  Most farms do.  If you're a working farm you're going to have areas that just aren't pretty.   Always nice to run across a kindred spirit. 

As with my farm, Cedarnook has a challenge to deal with mud.  At times I've thought that it was just me that had mud problems. 
Looks like my farm

 The problem with cattle is that their hooves cut into the sod much more than do smaller animals, and cedarnook has the same issues I do with trying to keep grass under their animals feet.  This isn't the growing season - so any green that you see here is from last summer/fall.  Once trampled in, it will be set back quite a bit in its growth next year.  We all have different ways to manage our pastures. 

Cedarnook has some really nice Hereford beef cattle.  Here's one peeking at me

 It's interesting to look at the challenges at different farms.  Cedarnook is on a pretty substantial slope; the county maps show a 50' drop in 200' of pasture -- when you cut up the sod, there's a pretty good chance that you'll get some erosion.  I don't have to deal with that on my property; it's about as flat as a board, but it adds to their challenge.   The surface water management department will often force landowners to make stormwater ponds on their property to deal with potential runoff, further limiting the amount of land that can be used. 

Springs mean you can have wetlands in the middle of your property.  Bad news.

 The other issue that they have is that there are springs in several areas, with flowing water.  This is particularly troublesome in our regulatory environment.  Each of these spring areas can be deemed a wetland,  and be required to be fenced off, with a planted buffer around it.  When you have a few acres, it doesn't take many "wetlands" to consume all of it.   As I've found out in my experience with the Washington State Department of Ecology, there are no exceptions.  If they deem it a wetland, its a wetland.  In the middle of a pasture, on the edge, heck, even underneath a manure pit, as one homeowner found out when she tried to remove a manure pit to build a garage.  Ecology deemed it a wetland and stopped the construction.    I had to fight with them for 3 years about this, and finally settled that by giving them 25% of my land.   I'd hate to see that happen here. 

I recognize that

 One thing that particularly reminded me of home was this.  In the picture above you can see some globes...

 On closer inspection, they're old onions and oranges.  I finally asked and yep, Cedarnook is feeding fruits and vegetables to their pigs, too.  As you know from my writings, this is considered by the Snohomish Department of Health to be "improper disposal of solid waste".  Part of the reason that I am fighting with them is to allow other small farms, like cedarnook, to use the food that would otherwise be waste.

A trailer of "solid waste" at Cedarnook farms.   The rest of
us would call this food. 

The only reason that small farms like this are able to do this is because they haven't been found yet, but that doesn't mean that they're safe.  It just means that it's a matter of time before someone calls in a complaint.    I don't know if Carri understands that, but I'm glad to be of service to her by resisting the regulators that would otherwise put her out of business.   My fight is your fight, Carri. 

Carri does the same thing I do in freezing weather for chicken waterers.

 It's funny, but even the chickens get some of the produce.  The problem with feeding produce is that it makes the ground really soupy; I've had this very problem.  When the chickens are walking through mud like this they get the eggs dirty, too.  It's a pervasive problem. 


Cedarnook farms has a batch of weaner pigs that are about to be weaned.  Here's a little guy looking up from rooting through the oranges and stuff.  He's having a good, pig time.
A little Hereford gilt on the road, following us as we left.

Carri was a gracious host (you can see her above, on the right center, waving goodbye.  One of her little Hereford pigs followed us as we walked up the road.  It was pretty cute. 

Small producers like Cedarnook are an example of where most of the pigs in this area come from.  We've enacted a web of laws and regulations that make even small agricultural ventures like Cedarnook impossible.  If all of the laws that are currently on the books were applied to the small farms in our area, we would not have any farms left at all. 

Cedarnook farms is a small, diverse farm located near Snohomish Washington that is pretty close to my farm in all respects.

For more information on Cedarnook, you can find them at their link on Local Harvest. 


Hostetter said...


I don't know about Washington but if they force her to plant a buffer in the future why not plant it now. Maybe mulberry or Honeylocust or willow do it now and plan for the potential problem later. Just fence them so they don't get destroyed while they grow to appropriate size. Honeylocust trees produce pods that can be collected or they can be coppiced or pollared so you can cut and carry and feed just like hay. That way they are not losing any property just making the problem the solution. Also if you have wetlands and springs grow some ducks for meat and eggs. Just a thought.

Carri said...

Thank You for the GLOWING report on our farm, we love it and are empassioned to carry on the Graden Farming History. We have decided to Plant Oak Trees for the Buffer and greatly appreciate the information that you have given us as it allows us to work directly with the agencies that ensure we are Eco friendly, and protecting what we rely so heavily on, Mother Nature!!
We are also disgusted by the appearance of the trailers and the farm clutter that we all seem to amass, we are lookig at refusing packaging and trying to find Even Greener ways to ensure a life long farm.

Hannah our adorable all tooo social pig is happily contained with the LBH and the piglets, I think she finally had too many zaps from the fence and gave up!!

I would like to correct your numbers as they are off, on our Pasture
currently we have
5 Polled Herefords, 1 weaned and left on Monday and 1 additional Heifer is leaving Saturday. Of those 2 are going to Butcher and 3 will live happily on our other pasture located nearby, we also use the neighbors 5 acres. They needed to install a heating system(GEO) so unfortunately the pasture has taken a hit since fall.
Pig count there are 5 Gilts and 3 Buther Boys that are going on Friday, so 8 and as the little ones get big enough not to get trampled 4 more will be put on pasture. So a total of 9.
2 Rescued Horses and
between free ranging and being penned 60 hens 1 roo and a pet turkey, we have decided to eliminate the Emu's(already in freezer) and Turkeys(Reggie will stay as the farm Pet) as they are truly filthy and Bird feet do far more damage that Horses and Cows and Pigs combined!!And Yes they are a muddy mess, but you I am sure saw that their nests are full of fluffy hay ( I wont touch the stinky mud!!) We are hoping that summer hurries up because the Chickens are only allowed out on sunny dry(er)days, as they find our garage to be delightful on rainy days...Disgusting!

As far as your blogger NO DUCKS although we love duck meat but the Pooh is EVERYWHERE and the feet are again... well bird feet, NO WAY!
Good Luck on your farm and thanks for the Surprise visit and all of your valueable information, as we watch our farm grow and develop we hope to entice the right wild life(including our Beautiful Bald Eagles that live in our trees!!)
and preserve the land as nature has given it to us... Well at a hefty price but heck its only money!! We are Blessed

Bruce King said...

Carri, you take great care of your animals, and you're welcome. It is tough to farm here, and mud is a particular problem for everyone, me included.

With respect to the planted buffers, if you'd like to get the most value of of that, I'd talk to the snohomish county conservation district about a farm plan. They will work with you on a farm plan which can then be used to fend off other agencies -- like surface water management or the department of ecology. A farm plan is a good first defense against regulations, and your discussions with them will be held in confidence.

The other thing that they can help you with is getting either grant money or cost-sharing to pay for the costs of things like fencing, or compost areas or whatever you decide to do. Money is tight right now; having someone help with the costs is always nice. You'll find them here:

Always nice to meet another local farmer.

Bruce King said...

Hostetter: Planting useful stuff in the buffer is an excellent idea. I chose to plant blueberries in mine.