By Jess Sappington, WSU Regional Small Farms
For the first time since COVID, the WSU Regional Small Farms program is hosting on-farm field days called Dirt Talk Farm Walks. These events are for farmers, led by farmers. The inaugural farm walk took place on July 15th at Chi’s Farm in Sequim, Washington. A total of seventeen farmers took part from across the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas to visit the farm and hear farmer Scott Chichester talk about high tunnel production. Chichester touched on layout and spacing, pruning, and twining techniques, venting, resources for high tunnels and much more.
“The farm walk was a tremendous success” says Laurel Mouton, Regionals Small Farms Integrated Pest Management Specialist. “Scott spoke with a depth of knowledge and experience about everything from vegetable variety selection to disease management, the benefits and drawbacks of the different kinds of high tunnels and the economics of high tunnel culture”.
Chichester has been farming in the Dungeness Valley for over 20 years, including many formative years at Nash’s Organic Produce. In addition to farming, he taught Agricultural Science and Biology at Sequim High School. He now works full-time at Chi’s Farm, focused on growing healthy, delicious food for the local community and sharing his experiences with other farmers.
The WSU Regional Small Farms Program, which serves Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties, is helping farmers come together, network, and learn from one another through these on-farm field days. Farm Walk events were born out of the original online version of Dirt Talks that came about during their COVID programming.
“Prior to COVID we had been hearing from farmers for years about the desire to connect with other farmers, learn from their peers and exchange ideas in a less formal atmosphere” says Jess Sappington, Food Systems Program Coordinator for Regional Small Farms. “Dirt Talks ended up being the perfect vehicle for this, both online and now in person, to allow farmers to share information and experiences with each other.”
The 5-acre farm, located in the fertile and sunny Sequim-Dungeness valley, was the perfect setting for the Summers late afternoon event. One attendee commented that, “it’s nice to have an in-person Dirt Talk and really be able to see what other farmers are doing and how their crops are responding.” The program continues to engage farmers in the region who are interested in sharing their expertise with their fellow farmers. The remaining 2022 Dirt Talk Farm Walks include: Low till for Small Farms, Cooperative Farming with Multiple Business Models, and Meat Goat Production and Pasture Management.
To learn more about WSU Regional Small Farms programming and upcoming events visit https://extension.wsu.edu/regionalsmallfarms/