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Cedarville Farm: Growing for 23 seasons

Sep 28th, 2011 | Category: Community, Farms

by Jessica Harbert

Tucked off the scenic Mount Baker Highway, Cedarville Farm continues to serve Whatcom County in the midst of the farm’s 23rd season. With nearly seven acres of land, Cedarville has the longest running Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Whatcom and Skagit County, providing fresh organic food for 19 years, also making Cedarville one of the largest running CSAs around. The farm now provides fresh food to 200 families, and sells to local markets and restaurants.

Cedarville Farm owner Mike Finger addresses the crowd at the Bellingham Farmers Market during the Eat Local Month proclamation on Sept. 3. PHOTO BY CYNTHIA ST. CLAIR

With a CSA, consumers connect with local farms providing them season-long financial support in return for a season of locally, and in this case organic, food, explained Mike Finger, owner of Cedarville Farm.

Cedarville grows a variety of crops including artichokes, zucchini, strawberries, raspberries, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, edamame, to name just a few.

The farm has seen amazing growth since its start over 20 years ago, but continues to be manageable with a crew of seven people. Cedarville would not be where it is today without those seven employees, Finger said, and with such a small crew, it becomes somewhat of a farm family. Finger said he enjoys the size of the farm, and hopes to keep it sustainable while maintaining the number of families served in the CSA.

Cedarville began its CSA in the fourth season at the farm with 58 shares, Finger said. Of those beginning shares, 12 continue to participate in Cedarville’s CSA 19 years later.

“Our CSA has nearly tripled in size and our other accounts (local co-op, farmers market, restaurants) have probably increased similarly,” Finger said. “Overall we gross about six times today what we did in our first year.”

Since the start, Cedarville has lengthened its farm season along with the CSA options, now up to 30 continuous weeks in two seasonal options and two different share sizes, Finger said. The crop list now includes 40 distinct vegetable and herb types, plus options for fruit, eggs and meat.

“It’s the most affordable and direct way to provide the community with healthy, local food,” Finger said of the CSA. “It’s helped small, local farms to become established and to survive and in that way has made a contribution to local economy. It’s a personal and an honest way to grow and distribute local food that creates and fosters community.”

Cedarville Farm includes a team of seven farmers and offers the longest-running CSA in Whatcom County, and sells a variety of produce to grocers, restaurants, and at the farmers market. COURTESY PHOTO

In the Northwest, weather is frequently a topic of conversation. And Finger said the farmer’s perspective on the weather is much different than others. A mid-summer day of rain is what Finger refers to as a “million dollar rain,” which could help make or break certain parts of his crops and finances. The ever-changing weather is a big part of the unknown for a farmer, but rather than worry about its variable nature, Finger welcomes the constant changes and challenges farming in the Northwest provides. Working with high tunnels on the farm is an inexpensive and lo-tech method to help over-winter crops and get the most out of the seasons while stretching things out, aiding in growing crops in less than ideal weather.

“Every place has its challenges,” Finger said. “You accept them and do the best you can. Long, often cool, often wet springs make it difficult to get some crops off to a good start. Our generally dry summers put a premium on irrigation. Our sometimes very cold winter storms can complicate the goal of year round production.”

This year is no different, with the challenge of summer coming later than usual and since the warm weather’s arrival, the scarcity of rain. But nonetheless, Finger said this growing season is proving to be fruitful.

“It is one of the things we all love,” Finger said. “We sow, plant, weed, water, harvest and sell. The circumstances are always changing.”

Finger was one of the founding board members of the Saturday Bellingham Farmers Market, and Cedarville and its CSA are also a part of the market, with shares available specifically for market goers to pick up their allotted produce every Saturday in town.

COURTESY PHOTO

He discovered farming as a neat combination of physical labor and critical thinking, he said. Finger had finished college and wanted a career that kept him out of an office, so he decided to farm organically, and raise a family in a farm context, he said.

“I like to work,” Finger said. “It’s one of those things I realized about myself. And being out here the whole season is satisfying.”

Cedarville Farm is a family business, with Finger as the primary farmer, along with his wife Kim Finger and his children Emily, 22, Wes, 20 and Sarah, 16, who are all busy studying in various locations and are not currently working on the farm.

Although Finger and his wife Kim are definitely partners in the farm, she is also a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham and financially plays a huge role in the existence of the farm, Finger said.

This year Cedarville also raised chickens, nearly 350 this season, to sell the organic meat as a part of the CSA’s offerings. The chickens are available both at the farm and the Farmers Market.

For more information about Cedarville Farm, visit Cedarvillefarm.com, call (360) 592-5594 or e-mail Cedarville322@mac.com. The farm is located at 3081 Goshen Road in eastern Bellingham.

Article published in Grow Northwest magazine Sept/Oct 2011 issue

Food Safety Farm Walk Oct. 10

Join Tilth Producers, Washington State University and the Washington State Department of Agriculture at Cedarville Farm on Monday, Oct. 10, from 12:30 to 4 p.m. for a farm walk focused on food safety practices and planning for a Good Agricultural Practices audit. Good Agricultural Practices, or GAPs, are a set of food safety guidelines designed to help farmers address food safety from the farm to the market. GAPs certification is a voluntary audit process to encourage sound food safety practices. This farm walk will discuss how farmers can get started with food safety assessment and planning, and determine if GAPs certification is a good fit for their farm. GAPs practices include developing a food safety plan for the farm, training farm employees about this plan and farm food safety practices, as well as documenting farm practices to reduce the risk of microbial food safety hazards on farm products.

Farmers Mike and Kim Finger will share their first steps toward meeting GAPs, share practices that are already in place, and talk about which practices make sense to integrate in the future. Washington State Department of Agriculture GAPs auditor, WSDA Food Safety personnel, and WSU Extension representatives will also be present to answer questions and discuss further strategies for implementing these practices.

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