Looking for small acreage to turn into an integrated sustainable farm.
I'm a young farmer, currently living on and helping start a small farm near Olympia. We raise chickens and ducks, and did a Fall/Winter vegetable CSA last year, and are on track to do it again this Fall/Winter. I also raise dairy goats for milk for myself, friends, and family, and would like to expand to turn that into a profitable business venture. Before moving to my current location, I spent a year working on a 20 acre veg production farm on Whidbey Island. I'm planning on leaving the current farm and starting a new one with my girlfriend, Dominique,
I worked on a vegetable farm as a summer job for a few years when I was a teenager. My first full time farm job was when I first moved to Washington in early 2017. I interned at a 20-acre mixed vegetable production farm on Whidbey Island for a year. I was offered year-round employment, but left because I wanted to get into dairy goat husbandry. I lived with a cousin in Belfair for several months, and raised pregnant goats in her backyard. I took a course in goat midwifery and assisted in delivery. I learned how to milk and make yogurt and cheese. I moved to a friend's property outside of Centralia in June of 2018, where I've been helping him start his farm. We ran a small 6-member CSA last fall and winter, and we've been cultivating a larger area this year for a targeted 20-member CSA.
I'm currently building a tiny house on wheels that we will live in. Other considerations for undeveloped land will be water and electricity. I helped build the solar system that we use at my current location, and have the know how to do it again. We can design all of our roofs with rainwater catchment, which may be enough for drip irrigation in our first year. A well or other water access may be preferable, however.
We will start with soil testing, which will determine how we cover crop, amend, and otherwise improve the soil. We'll engage in practices such as intercropping alfalfa and daikon radishes, which we can then range goats, chickens, and ducks through with movable electric netting. This type of management breaks down plant matter into usable nutrients while further fertilizing the soil, all while feeding the animals.
We will build movable housing for all of our animals before moving onto the site. I already have a small herd of goats and some chickens. We will expand the chicken flock, and start a flock of ducks. We will then get an egg handler license so we can start selling eggs from both of them. The chickens will be worked into a crop rotation with the goats, and together they will be utilized to mow down and scratch up finished crops. The ducks will be utilized at a different stage of the crop rotation; They will be allowed to range through the gardens for slug control, while the crops are actively growing.
We will build infrastructure to grow edible mushrooms, which will be one of the quickest turnarounds for profit, as we can have oyster mushrooms ready for harvest in a matter of weeks, which we will market to chefs, grocery stores, and co-ops.
Although the eventual goal is a no-till operation, it will make sense to do deep primary tillage in the Spring. The scale and timeline of planting will depend largely on the land we have to work with. In late March, we could be tilling with the intention to immediately plant crops for sale, or to continue with cover-cropping, mulching, and animal grazing-based regimens to further improve the soil. We can reasonably expect to fall somewhere in between, more intensively working a small patch of land in order to jump start our vegetable production, while slowly cultivating a much larger area for truly sustainable long-term usage.
That being said, it's reasonable to expect that we can grow a large quantity and variety of flowers for sale in the first year. We will sell to boutiques, florists, and possibly farmers markets. We will also consider selling vegetables to farmers markets in the first year, but we will have to first know the location, as some areas are oversaturated with vegetable farmers to where there's too much competition, or there's only room for growing certain vegetables that are underrepresented locally.
We will shoot for a 25 member Fall/Winter CSA in the first year, which we will begin planting for and advertise during the spring and summer. We will focus on storage crops such as corn, winter squash, potatoes and yacon, as well as cold hardy crops and crops that can be maintained in crop tunnels, such as beets, carrots, spinach, kale, cabbage, brussells, broccoli, parsley, cilantro, turnips, daikon, other radish and turnip varieties, and Asian greens. Additionally, we will plant garlic in the fall, and begin propagating and transplanting perennials such as seaberries and comferey, to create specialized microclimates, feed ourselves, and improve the soil.
All of this will take about two acres in the first year. So ideally, we want four or five acres total in order to have the space to expand our business, while having enough room to always rotate crops and give the land time to rest and heal, while engaging in responsible and beneficial practices such as reforestation.