Farm News

April Joy Farm: An Evolution

photo of farmer in her field

Lauren Ruhe, the first official April Joy Farm Apprentice.

The April Joy Farm Apprenticeship Program

April Joy Farm is officially the first Clark County farm approved by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries to train aspiring farmers. The goal of the April Joy Farmer Apprenticeship program is to develop successful, (and dare we say, joyful?) organic farmers for our community. Brad and I are deeply interested in supporting a new generation of land and food stewards by sharing our knowledge, networks and the passion we have for our profession. Our apprenticeship is a part-time, 18 month position that will provide a diversified learning experience through a broad exposure to many aspects of farm management. We are determined to help develop new agrarians who will be leaders and whose farms will serve as working, healthy models that connect land stewardship, ethical food production and the enrichment of community. Our Department of L&I Certificate authorizes us to host up to three interns per season. Budding farmers are welcome to contact April for more information or an apprenticeship application.

Meanwhile, we are especially pleased to introduce our first April Joy Farm Apprentice! Clark County native Lauren Ruhe has been gardening since she was a little kid. She writes, “I spent most of my childhood playing outside, as well as watching and helping my mother in her garden.” As an adult, Lauren is even more passionate about growing food. She is interested in pursuing farming as a career so she may contribute to the health and well being of both humans and our natural environment. “I am eager to take the next steps towards learning the skills necessary to have a successful farm, and I would love to take part in educating and providing organic produce for our community by establishing and maintaining my own organic farm.” Brad and I are beyond excited to welcome Lauren to the farm. We look forward teaching and growing—together.

Washington Soil Health Commission Grant

soil health committee logoApril Joy Farm and The Clark Conservation District have been awarded a three year grant from the Washington State Soil Health Committee to study soil health at our farm. This unique and collaborative effort will include renowned Washington State University soil scientist Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs and the thirty-five students in her Organic Soil Management class. Together, we will work to understand how diversified farmers can both protect and improve soil health while reducing costly, unsustainable and potentially contaminated off-farm inputs. This fall, Dr. Carpenter-Boggs’s class will utilize real-life data from April Joy Farm to learn about the chemical, biological and physical characteristics of soil health. Then the students will be asked to provide nutrient management recommendations for three critical areas: cover crops, crop rotations and organic materials (compost, manure, and crop residues). The soil health baseline and recommendations will be compiled into an April Joy Farm Soil Health Roadmap. The farmers will have the opportunity to learn alongside the students, and thus develop their own ability to understand and document soil health changes over time.

In addition, by leveraging the work of a past WSU/AJF partnership, WSU will utilize their Organic Farming Footprints (OFoot) model to provide AJF an updated Carbon Footprint analysis. (AJF was one of five focus farms WSU researchers used to develop their model.) This is fantastic because it means we will be able to quantify the projected carbon emissions of each potential soil health management recommendation and thereby more strategically improve our land while reducing our farm’s overall carbon footprint.

In the subsequent years of the grant cycle, The Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) and Oregon Tilth will work with AJF, WSU, and the Clark Conservation District to develop a Soil Health Toolkit. The Toolkit will include a case study of our findings as well as practical recommendations for diversified organic farmers eager to better understand and improve the health of their working soils. This Toolkit will be utilized in conjunction with the USDA Nutrient Management Plan for Organic Systems, Western Implementation Guide. Across the state, we plan to share our findings and assist other farmers in the development of their own Soil Health Roadmaps.

We wish to extend a big thank you to CSA member and Clark Conservation District Manager Denise Smee for making this grant possible.

The funding from this grant will allow Brad and I the incredible opportunity to establish baseline soil health measurements, learn how to improve our management practices, “close the loop” by reducing off farm inputs, and help other diversified farmers who are eager to do the same. We can’t wait to set up our Farm Soil Lab and go back to school!

Salmon Safe Certification

“Salmon-Safe works with farmers to encourage the adoption of ecologically sustainable agricultural practices that protect water quality and wildlife habitat in West Coast salmon watersheds.

The Salmon-Safe farm certification program is focused on management practices in six primary areas: riparian area management, water use management, erosion and sediment control, integrated pest management and water quality protection, animal management, and biodiversity conservation. Our standards were developed over a two-year period with biologists, agronomists, and farmers, and have been tested in the field since the late 1990s at more than 700 farms in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, and British Columbia across a variety of crops.” ~Salmon Safe Certification

Thanks also to the Clark Conservation District, April Joy Farm is the first Salmon Safe Certified Farm in Clark County. Salmon are a keystone species of our region. By implementing sound management practices that improve habitat and water quality for salmon, we in essence are improving the quality of life and viability of thousands of other Pacific Northwest species.

As part of a Clark Conservation District grant, we will be installing a four bay ASP (aerated static pile) composting facility to more efficiently process our organic materials (manure, crop residues, produce scraps). The new composting facility will have a carefully designed water management plan that will sustainably manage all runoff thereby protecting the water quality of our creek and drainage swales that flow off the farm and into Whipple Creek. The composting facility will be an excellent addition to our farm, in more ways than one. We are looking forward to churning out batch after batch of rich, organic compost!