Lewis Conservation District Joins Farm Bureau Tour of Agriculture

Lewis Conservation District joined the Tour of Agriculture hosted by the Lewis County Farm Bureau on Monday, July 31st. Education and Outreach Coordinator Kenna Fosnacht and Veteran Intern Chris Volmert loaded on the tour bus along with county, state, and federal lawmakers. Among the group was representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez and County commissioners Scott Brummer and Lindsey Pollock.

Prairie Farms. Photo credit Maureen Harkcom.

Organized by Farm Bureau President Maureen Harkcom, the tour route included stops at six farms in Toledo, Adna, and Chehalis. The purpose was to hear the hardships and obstacles that farmers face firsthand, while learning more about their passion and livelihood. It was an opportunity for lawmakers to make personal connections to farmers and understand their worries about taxes, finding dependable farm labor, development, Department of Ecology regulations, flooding, and plummeting market prices. Each attendee was provided a binder full of farm information and a gift bag filled with local goods, including honey, cow’s milk soap, and hazelnuts.

The first stop was an eight acre property at the Port of Chehalis to discuss plans of future infrastructure for the Southwest Washington Grain Project. Jake Fay, regional director of the Northwest Agricultural Business Center, explained the four phase plan to build grain silos along the railroad. This would bring more profitable farming opportunities to the area by providing a way to transport barley, wheat, and oats.

The next stop was Prairie Farms, where Marty and Rose Swofford have been raising antibiotic-free chickens since 2013, when they purchased the farm from his family. We got a look inside the clean, free range chicken barns while Marty and Rose talked about all of their recent upgrades, including a state-of-the-art computer system that controls temperature, feed, and outside access.

Ceres Farms. Photo credit Maureen Harkcom.

Following this, the tour stopped at Ceres Farms, purchased by Jason and Katherine Humphrey in 2002. Katherine is a fourth generation farmer in the Boistfort Valley and Jason is a large animal veterinarian, and they both wanted to raise their family on a farm. They began by growing vegetables for local processors but have shifted to growing hazelnuts and breeding sheep. Katherine voiced her concerns with the hazelnut market, as prices have continued to decline. Katherine also expressed the impact that flooding had on her property and urged lawmakers to consider the devastation in this area.

Next up, the tour made a visit to Dan Maughan’s farm to learn more about his beekeeping operation. He expressed how much energy goes into caring for the bees, maintaining the 300 hives, and moving them to California during the winter. Dan talked about how the blackberries along his fence lines made for delicious and sought-after honey.

Photo credit – Maureen Harkcom

As we headed back into town, the bus stopped at South Valley Farms. The farm is a partnership between Zach and Jennifer Zucati and Brennan and Janelle John. Jennifer and Janelle are sisters and fourth generation farmers that grow wheat, malting barley, tall fescue grass seed, field pea seed, and a variety of other crops for seed.

Photo credit Maureen Harkcom.

Our final destination was Styger Dairy, where Shane and Jayme Styger recently took over as the fourth generation to raise their family on the 76 acre property. Nestled between the Newaukum and Chehalis River, the organic dairy recently switched to automatic milking robots that have saved them significant time and energy. Previously, all the milking had been done by hand with the help of hired labor. The Styger family discussed the struggles that they have faced being taxed as “farm upgrades” on equipment repairs.

The day ended at the Vintage Grand Room in Chehalis, where a professional chef had prepared an incredible meal using a variety of local goods. The quail eggs, chicken, blueberries, and a variety of fresh vegetables were provided by eight different farms. The group enjoyed the evening of conversation as lawmakers mingled with members of the Lewis County and Washington State Farm Bureau, Economic Alliance of Lewis County, USDA, Department of Agriculture, Port of Chehalis, Conservation District, and Southwest Washington Grower’s Co-op