WSU course in Gardiner aims to educate new farmers on management; gets under way Jan. 22
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Kellie Henwood, small-farms coordinator for WSU’s Jefferson County Extension program, tends to sheep at the school’s Marrowstone Island facility. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

GARDINER — A nine-week course on small-farm management especially aimed at new farmers will begin later this month in a collaboration between the two Washington State University Extension offices on the North Olympic Peninsula.

“It’s about growing a community of farmers,” said Clea Rome, director of WSU Clallam County Extension.

The “Cultivating Success: Sustainable Small Farming and Ranching” course, which costs $250 for each farm, will meet from 6 p.m. to
9 p.m. every Wednesday from Jan. 22 to March 9 at the Gardiner Community Center, 980 Old Gardiner Road.

“We mean to provide an overview of farming operations for people who want to be in the farming business and are looking for ways to transition into that life,” said Laura Lewis, director of the WSU Jefferson County Extension office.

“We will give them the knowledge they need in order to get started.”

Lewis said the central location was chosen to serve prospective farmers from Jefferson and Clallam counties.

Small Farms Coordinator Kellie Henwood said she hopes that 15 to 20 farms will participate in the course. Five had registered as of Thursday.

“Anyone who works on the farm or is part of the owner’s family can attend as many sessions as they want so you can have different people attend to learn about their areas of interest,” Lewis said.

Weekly presentations by area growers, organizations and university specialists will address direct marketing, value-added processing, production planning, agronomy and livestock production.

“One of the strongest components of the class is to form a cohort of people interested in similar farming enterprises and the opportunity to meet with successful farmers in the area,” Rome said.

“Many of them have taken the class in the past,” she added.

Included are three intensive Saturday field trips to nearby farms to learn about different styles of successful small-farm enterprises.

The course is meant for those new to farming, but it also could benefit experienced farmers, Lewis said.

“If you already have a farm and want to gain more scientific knowledge or want to learn how to grow your business, the course can help you,” she said.

Lewis said the wisest path for a new farmer is to develop a specialty.

“There are several niche markets such as artisan cheeses, fruit preserves, salsa and cured meats, and there is also a tremendous opportunity for aquaculture, the farming of shellfish,” she said.

Instruction in growing marijuana is not part of the curriculum, Lewis said.

“We receive federal funding, and until WSU decides it is OK for us to be involved, we will not provide any specific advice about growing or processing cannabis,” she said.

“But someone who wants to grow cannabis can still take the class and gain general knowledge about farming.”

For more information or to register, phone 360-379-5610 or visit www.jefferson.wsu.edu.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 09. 2014 6:52PM
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