State conservation panel tours Jefferson County farms
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
During a farm tour the Washington State Conservation Commission stopped at the Spring Rain Farm and Orchard in Chimacum where they inspected a bridge that was constructed out of an old railway boxcar.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

CHIMACUM — When John Barrow purchased SpringRain Farm and Orchard in 2008, it wasn't easy to get from one end of his property to the other since Chimacum Creek bisected the 26-acre spread.

On Wednesday afternoon, during a tour of Jefferson County farms by members of the Washington State Conservation Commission, Barrow walked them across a bridge that was subsidized by conservation district funds.

The bridge, made from the bottom of an old boxcar that was junked on a neighbor's property, changed life on the farm, Barrow said.

It provided access to the land east of the river for livestock and equipment — about half the acreage.

“Before we built the bridge, there was a cut in each bank, and we'd go across the creek if we needed to get to the other side,” Barrow said.

The 10-member Conservation Commission toured three other Jefferson County farms Wednesday before attending a dinner honoring longtime district Supervisor John Boulton, who retired after 58 years on the Jefferson County Conservation District board.

On Thursday, the commissioners conducted a regular meeting at the Port Ludlow Inn.

The Washington State Conservation Commission, which is based in Olympia, meets every two months, rotating among districts throughout the state.

Commission Interim Director Ray Ledgerwood said it was beneficial for the commission to get a firsthand look at some conservation programs, such as the SpringRain Farm and Orchard's bridge.

With the help of designer Al Latham, Barrow removed the box and wheels from the car's frame, resulting in a 45-foot flat steel surface that fit nicely across the stream.

“This was a cost-effective solution,” Barrow said. “We didn't have to buy any steel beams, and fitting logs would have been difficult.”

Latham took a proposal for the project to the Jefferson County Conservation District, which gave him $8,000, two-thirds of the $12,000 cost.

“If we had to pay for everything ourselves, we probably would have put it off for years,” Barrow said.

“The conservation district can get access to different sources of funding that I, as an individual landowner, cannot.”

Barrow said he is “conservation-minded” but cannot always afford the greenest alternatives.

“Sometimes, conservation measures are expensive,” Barrow said.

“If you get some additional income and [are] faced with either implementing conservation measures or fixing a broken tractor or paying a feed bill, it can be a hard decision.”

This is underscored by the fact that farming, according to Barrow “isn't a high-margin activity.”

Said Ledgerwood: “This is a good example of how we can partner with farmers and work toward a conservation solution.

“These are examples of how animals, soil plants and water can all be taken care of at the same time, and one isn't over the other.”

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at

Last modified: March 21. 2013 6:16PM
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