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Our Farm: McIntyre Family Farm

Feb 1st, 2016 | Category: Community

by Matt McIntyre

My wife Jena and I started McIntyre Family Farm a few years ago when we found a place we fell in love with just east of Sedro-Woolley right on the North Cascades Highway.  Even when I first met Jena, she told me about her dream of someday raising grass-fed beef. Life took us in a couple of different directions first, but we kept looking for a place that was right, and we moved from Bellingham to Skagit County to start farming. We had been dreaming about delving into a variety of farming enterprises, and we always knew that the size of the parcel we ended up on would ultimately shape how our business developed. While we looked for land, worked and saved money, we also read, researched interesting crops, and listened to anyone and everyone we could about a variety of potential farming ventures. We enrolled in WSU’s Cultivating Success program to learn as much as we could. We were fortunate enough to purchase a place with enough room to raise cattle; however, land is only one of many factors to consider. There is also the matter of experience and money.

McIntyre family on their farm, summer time. PHOTO BY DIANE PADYS

McIntyre family on their farm, summer time. PHOTO BY DIANE PADYS

We knew we would ultimately want a livestock focused, pasture based operation, so poultry seemed like a natural place to start. Ever since, pasture-raised eggs, broilers, and turkeys have made up the majority of our production and sales. We also started to build a sheep and cattle operation from the ground up. As we gained experience, we also continued to attend workshops, events, and lectures as well as taking part in WSU’s Livestock Advisors program.

We truly feel that even though farming is hard work, you should grow what you like to grow. As part of this philosophy, we have tried a variety of things to see how fulfilling they are, as well as how marketable they are. Through this process, we have raised goats, pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, turkeys and veggies. We have found joy in all of these ventures, as well as found some of the potential challenges, including livestock prices, infrastructure and feed costs, as well as limited processing options for getting products to market. We have enjoyed all of these enterprises and will continue to produce and sell all of them in some capacity.

Jena McIntyre with an Alpine-Nubian goat. COURTESY PHOTO

Jena McIntyre with an Alpine-Nubian goat. COURTESY PHOTO

Our main avenues for sales have been through the local farmers markets (we started at the Mount Vernon Farmers Market, but are now vending at the Bellingham Saturday Market), as well as through Acme Farms+Kitchen.  Our experience at the farmers market has been an especially valuable way to see what sells well, what doesn’t sell as well, and what customer wish we had. There is also nothing better than having a satisfied customer come up to our market booth and tell us that they loved the products that we raised. In addition, we were fortunate enough to be chosen to participate in Sustainable Connections’ Food To Bank On program, which has allowed us to continue our education while providing much needed and appreciated food to our local food bank. We are currently participating in our third and final season of this program.

COURTESY PHOTO

COURTESY PHOTO

As our business moves forward, we still feel very passionately about giving the community access to responsibly raised meat, so we are taking steps to expand our beef herd as well as our sheep and laying hen flocks. In addition, we are expanding our vegetable production. As new farmers, we still work on and off the farm, but we recognize that it takes time to build a strong business.

Like everything in life, farming has proved for us to be an activity that requires balance. It is also something that teaches us new lessons about life and ourselves on a near constant basis. We have learned some hard lessons, and I am sure there will be many more to learn in the future. We have found that we need enough diversity to find what we love, but not so much that we are spread too thin. We feel that we also need to let our ideals, dreams, and personal passions drive us, but not let them weigh us down, or lead us into unrealistic or unwise business decisions. We have found that working where we live can have some amazing rewards as well as some challenges, especially with a baby. We have found that we need to work hard, but not so hard that we aren’t enjoying the life we are building for our family. We are constantly reminding ourselves that we need to take a step back, realize that we are doing what we love, and enjoy the beauty all around us. We will keep working on that one.

COURTESY PHOTO

COURTESY PHOTO

For more information about McIntyre Family Farm, visit www.mcintyrefamilyfarm.com, follow their Facebook page, or call (360) 224-2798. The Sedro-Woolley farm offers poultry, eggs, grass-fed beef, produce and pork.

Published in the February 2016 issue of Grow Northwest

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