Hi blog audience! My boyfriend and I put in a bid for the Reise property. I've attached the Request for Proposals. And then I cut and pasted our bid that we sent in to PCC Farmland Trust below. We'd love your comments!
Divine Earth Gardening Project
bid for Reise Farm enhancement project
Background We approach this project from a land-use perspective as much as an agricultural one, and have been deeply influenced by good growth management choices around this country, and we hope, locally. Specifically, the Alderton-McMillin plan calls for things that we would love to provide or participate in: a local rural economy based on on-farm products that are sold directly to consumers, agri-tourism, recreational opportunities (we offer foraging/wild-crafting/u-pick), farm tours, educational events, nursery sales, value-added products, craftwood, and signage fronting the Foothills Trail that educates people about the natural environment or historical background of the area. Kelda has lived and/or farmed in the Alderton-McMillin area for numerous seasons, and both Kelda and Nick have close family members who live off of nearby Military Road (South Hill). We both strongly believe that the answer to sprawl-based development is to frankly have small clustered villages that are viable, fun, ideal places to live. Both of us use our food-growing background as a means to that end.
Mission Statement Our farm enhancement project demonstrates how regional organic farms can produce and market a diverse blend of products from hedgerow, food forest, polycultures, reduced tillage, woodlot management, and creek restoration wildlife habitat areas. We do this by working with organic growers who produce farm products within the interior of the project site, while we put our efforts to practicing a wider array of food-growing techniques along all edges of the property and in lands not needed by those on the property using more conventional techniques. We intend to market and sell unique value-added goods, be spokespeople for natural farming techniques at a trail-side farmstand, and teach classes about these and other homesteading techniques.
We envision a thriving McMillin based on celebrating, skillsharing, and financially supporting small land-based sustainable businesses such as ours, and of a viable bike-and-pedestrian oriented throughway. Our long-term vision is to host a bike-oriented hostel/B & B that also serves as a learning center.
Management Team The partnership is made up of Kelda Miller, certified Permaculture Designer & Instructor, and Nick Steele, Sustainability Professional.
Kelda trained at the Bullocks Permaculture Homestead and through Jude Hobbs & Tom Ward of Cascadia Permaculture Institute, as well as numerous farm internships and jobs in the Puyallup Valley and elsewhere. She regularly teaches full Permaculture Design Courses; her latest courses being at Bastyr University and The Evergreen State College. She has grown successful no-tillage polyculture non-irrigated gardens for years, and at her last garden selling surplus produce to a local health food store, Jubilee Naturals in Sumner.\
Nick Steele graduated cum laude from PLU in 2011 with a BA in Environmental Studies and minor in Ecology, and with extensive time given to sustainability and food issues on and off campus (management of PLU Community Garden, gaining LEED Green Associate, etc). Since his graduation in 2011 he has worked with WSU extension offices on various aspects of agricultural education, reduced tillage systems, and cover-cropping trials. His passion is to create and support a healthy local economy based in food production, community development, and education. Originally from Puyallup, he also has a background as a Marine Corps Sergeant and as a carpenter.
According to the USDA there were 7,834 registered farmers markets in 2012, a 10% increase over 2011, and many more towns and communities in Pierce County that would like to start markets but lack the farmer-base to do so. While the demand for fresh, local, Organic produce is strong and continues to grow, small scale organic farmers are tired and overworked. There is a great need for more people to steward the land in organic ways, more experimentation with less-intensive techniques, and more material support of education, seeds, and plants to get more communities growing food.
Industry: While the number of small farms in operation are on the rise for the first time in decades, many are getting their start by investing heavily in operational expenses early on, leaving them with high overhead and very little profit to develop their markets. Adversely, our approach is to keep overhead extremely low. We plan to do this by: utilizing manual labor whenever possible, reducing and eventually eliminating off-farm inputs, developing cross-farm partnerships to cost-share for the use of necessary equipment, and providing services with a high return and low input such as homesteading classes, educational outings, and wild-crafting. Additionally, by avoiding the use of equipment whenever possible we are not only reducing our overhead but also hiring labor from the local economy, reducing our farm operation's carbon footprint, and educating farmhands about the holistic land management practices. Our desire is to make this seemingly-extreme approach into a very pragmatic farm setting. There is dire need to demonstrate that other kinds of agriculture/horticulture are possible which can yield quality products. We expect to show that these strategies are not just environmentally and socially responsible but are also economically viable and self-sustaining.
Customers: While there is not presently a large customer base for polyculture-grown, heavily-mulched crops as compared to more normal organic crops, our strategy is two-fold:
For the locals we would create niche value-added products and atmosphere that cater to very localized needs. (When biking along the trail, stop for a Seaberry 'Lemon'ade while strolling through medicinal herb gardens that supply local herb shops).
For out-of-towners we would create a destination location for learning from and seeing many of these techniques in action and in a marketable setting. We believe many will be curious, from local tribes and restoration ecologists, to foresters and farmers.
(Three Sisters Farm in Pennsylvania also has a permaculture-heavy focus that supplies local markets but draws attention and tourism from the wider national community).
In order to sell flowers, herbs, food, and other agroforestry products we will be hitting strong a market that is 1) either educated about how our farming practices are different than others or 2) we can produce things cheaper because of our lower inputs.
Competition: Currently we know of no such an operation in region which aims to provide the specialty services similar to this plan. The nearest neighbor would likely be the 'Community By Design' project planned for oustide Portland, OR.
While there are a number of small scale Organic farms in the Puyallup River Valley, we believe there is plenty of room for growth and an extended market reach to the neighboring hills. Rather than compete with other local, Organic growers, we hope to develop a local food niche for our techniques and products.
We have a wide array of approaches we could take, and though a framework is sketched below, the reality is that until we are on the land growing products and meeting neighbors and customers, we won't really know exactly what will make this project sing. We consider this flexibility as a strength rather than a weakness. Additionally, just for our curiosity we will likely practice some of each of these even if some end up not creating many marketable products.
*Permaculture CSA shares that pay off in a diversity of products through a multi-year period.
*Medicinal and value-added perennial herbs (Not currently available locally)
*Vegetables grown within polyculture, reduced tillage, and food forest settings
*Specialty juices: seaberry, aronia, autumn olive, currants, oregon grape, etc
*Specialty nursery crops: perennial vegetables, locally successful fruits and nuts
*Honey and other bee products
*Seeds: locally adapted to our 'tough-love' techniques and prolific self-seeders
*Cover-crop seeds specifically grown for the Puyallup Valley
*Wild harvested berry farm wine
*Hops and grains on a contract basis for suppling local brewers (Station U-Brew, Powerhouse)
*Year-round flower production (though winters mean calendula, violets, & rosehips!)
*U-pick/foraging licenses to gather products from hedgerow, food forest, and woodlands
*Coppiced woodland products: structural bamboo, basketry willows, furniture & craft wood, etc
*Extensive mushroom cultivation within woodland and shaded areas
*Chickens, turkeys, and other livestock raised within agroforestry and silvipasture systems
*Workshops that teach all areas of our operations
*Bicycle barn: an area to park your bike, do repairs, relax, purchase a farm-made beverage, and learn about all the exciting things going on at the Reise Farm
Our strong, clear, continuous goal is to be known as the place to get specialty products and advice about how our techniques can prosper locally. Our end goal is that we would have many dedicated local customers who would begin to practice our techniques in their home gardens and be continuously spreading the news about our project to others.
Pricing: Our products are diverse, as are the time and materials that go into them. We hope to make specialty juices at an affordable price in order to invite trail-users to interact with our project. For products where there is no local equivalent, we will likely charge a premium. (Example: $20/lb for salad greens grown outdoors in January consisting of corn salad, chickweed, violet leaves, arugula, mustard, spinach, fava bean leaf, and chervil is what we've been told people would pay for our products in the past). For products where the inputs are staggeringly minimum we could easily price things competitively (Example: U-pick all-you-can-gather raspberries in November, or nettle tops in April, $10/day)
Publicity: We have many local networks (followings) that we are already involved with or created. Everything from the Sustainable Puyallup group, the customers at Jubilee Naturals and Tacoma Food Co-op, Fresh Fridays in Parkland, the permaculture clients and students we've worked for thus far, and many others. We anticipate that our challenge will be filling demand rather than looking for markets, at least to begin with.
Plan of Operations
Unlike more conventional organic farms we will have very low need for weeding, irrigating, and even planting (beyond the first few years). Our operations will very much change according to the seasons and throughout the day, and we anticipate there will be a lot of interns who are interested in this kind of varied work. Examples of daily work: moving animals into new paddocks, pruning, mulching, transplanting spreaders or self-seeders, processing berries-barks-herbs, harvesting that day's flowers-salad mix-vegetables-fruit-mushrooms and preparing for sale, propagating plants and selling them, giving farm tours and teaching classes, being a friendly face at the farmstand in order to impact buying and gardening choices locally.
Our project would not get a big yield the first few months, or even the first year, which will give us time to develop products that succeed well locally. After systems are running, our adventure will be to find the right uses for our products that can reap a profit without setting the ecosystem/farm back to an earlier successional phase.
Our biggest startup costs would be fruit trees, nut trees, perennial plants, and fencing materials to create paddocks and double-fenced hedgerow areas. Our equipment needs are minimal, we can lease both first tillage to get gardens established (and need very little tillage thereafter) and commercial kitchen space until we can build our own.
Plants: $8,000We plan to buy in bulk from Lawyer Nursery, as well buying clearance stock from Raintree, Burnt Ridge, and One Green World at the end of their season (June-ish), as well as do lots of propagating ourselves. Depending on the weather, we may choose to not plant out until fall of 2013, or plan to use irrigation that first summer.
Fencing: $2,000. We plan to start small with portable electric fencing, $200
We believe we can fund startup costs by asking for 10 pre-paid CSA shares from the community for $1,000 each. We would provide products in payment for a multi-year period.
An in-depth budget plan can be made available upon request
Additionally, if we both retain part-time employment at our other jobs until our systems start to heavily yield, we are confident we will not need to take out a loan in order to pay the lease price.
For land purchasing, <<<<personal financial information omitted for Patch blogpost>>>>
Classes/Workshops: ($40/25 students) $1,000/month
Dried herbs and (50+ lb month) and other herbal products:$1,000/month
Nursery stock and seeds: average $500/month
Flowers: average $200/month
Specialty salad mix, edible flowers, etc: $150/month
Fruits & Nuts: average $400/month
Specialty juices: $600/month
Mushrooms: average $300/month
Grain (by-product of reduced tillage) $400/year (We'll want to eat most of our yield & not sell!)
Coppiced wood/willows, bamboo: $1,500/year
We believe there is money available because aspects of our project imminently help the community. We anticipate receiving small grants for creek-side restoration, pollinator habitat, trail-building (a spur that serves in emergencies for people to bike/run at least 50' up the hill), etc.
We anticipate that our Break-even point will come very quickly as far as meeting our input costs (within the first two years), but that our Break-even as far as buying the property will be a 20-year journey.
We want to see McMillin be a place, not just a place to travel through, that has land-based wisdom and practices that are celebrated, and a culture unique to itself among the valley towns. We want to join in this endeavor by adding techniques, practices, and experimentation to our local food markets. We value an agriculture that can do more for our land than is currently being practiced, and that we can be better stewards on this earth than the options that are handed to us. We begin to re-create a better stewardship that our ancestors once had. Our goals are to provide our local community with food and other products that are exciting, delicious, medicinal, and dear. We don't need our business to grow fast to achieve these things, just steadily and with always an eye on our end-goal and 100-year vision. We look forward to working on this either at this current opportunity or sometime in the near future, and we will happily add our touch to the valley that we love as family.