In the Mailbag…
In the mailbag this morning here’s a letter from Sally Spicer of OrcaSong Farm on Orcas Island…
I am writing this letter to beg the San Juan County Land Bank to invest the funds necessary to save the San Juan County agricultural institution that is Coffelt Farm. Only with the Land Bank’s help can we rebuild Coffelt Farm and help it be what it so desperately wants to be: a self sustaining, non profit farm that is dedicated to passing on the traditions and practices of the farmers who came before. This country, this county and this island cannot afford to lose another small farm due to a lack of proper infrastructure and funding.
I had the very good fortune of spending my first year on Orcas Island, 1/16-1/17, as a farm hand at Coffelt Farm. During this year, I learned more about livestock and dairy farming than I ever could have in a classroom. Six days a week, I was milking cows by 5:45 a.m. The rest of the day I spent doing various tasks: learning how to build and repair fencing, moving animals, feeding animals, collecting eggs, helping to shear sheep, haying, raking, bailing, lambing, farrowing, calving. The list goes on and on. It was an incredible learning experience, indelible in my growth, that I hope exists for greenhorn farmers forever!
One of the most challenging aspects of the farm was the trailer that I was offered to live in. It was infested with rats and mice and the stench of rodent urine was palpable. There was no dry place to disrobe outside in the winter, no shower (I was offered Sidney Coffelt’s shower in her personal house) or real bathroom (I was offered a portapotty). I had a single burner and a fridge that didn’t work. Two years later, nothing has changed on the farm. There is still a porta potty and there are even more trailers than there were before. It looks like a junkyard. The Land Bank’s investment would ensure that farmhands had a safe, working, livable space to rest and eat in between long farm days. We all know that there is an employee/low income housing shortage on Orcas Island so on-site employee housing is crucial to ensuring that the farm can hire and keep farm hands.
The Land Bank’s investment would also help rebuild the crumbling farm infrastructure. There are countless repairs needed on the farm: to buildings, tools, tractors, and fencing but no money to address them. How amazing would it be for Coffelt Farm to have an operating commercial kitchen where cooking and food preservation classes could be held for the community? A commercial kitchen could also provide farm revenue by renting it to members of the community.
Please invest in Coffelt Farm before you spend that money to purchase new land. Please don’t let this farm close its doors- there is literally not another one like it. Who will you buy your meat, eggs and milk from?
Orcas Island, WA