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Fish-friendly agriculture: Applegate watershed program encourages farmers to use practices that cut down on erosion, pollution

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Medford Mail Tribune, April 2004

"Sound agricultural practices can be a real benefit to the environment, to local ecosystems as well as communities and farmers," said Tim Franklin, manager of the Yale Creek Ranch in the Little Applegate River watershed. The farmer organized the Salmon-Safe Applegate program for the Applegate Watershed Council. The program promotes fish-friendly farming: sound agricultural practices to reduce erosion and pollution into streams...

Read the article at the Mail Tribune.

Fish-friendly agriculture

An Applegate watershed program encourages farmers to use practices that cut down on erosion, polllution

By PAUL FATTIG
Mail Tribune

For some hard-line environmentalists, Tim Franklin’s words may sound a little fishy.

"Sound agricultural practices can be a real benefit to the environment, to local ecosystems as well as communities and farmers," said the manager of the Yale Creek Ranch in the Little Applegate River watershed.

The farmer organized the Salmon-Safe Applegate program for the Applegate Watershed Council. The program promotes fish-friendly farming: sound agricultural practices to reduce erosion and pollution into streams in the greater Applegate River watershed.

Franklin, who has a master’s degree in watershed science, says farmers who help restore watersheds for fish are also helping their economic bottom line by providing a healthy habitat for crops and livestock.

"Economics and ecology have to go together," he stressed. "If you can’t make it work economically, it’s not going to happen. But if you don’t have a sound ecological base to your system, it’s not going to work in the long run."

Spawned three years ago, the program now has 14 farmers participating from the Applegate Valley, offering everything from organic beef and bison to herbs and vegetables on some 2,000 acres certified for the program.

Basically, farms certified by the Portland-based Salmon-Safe Inc. program use practices that enhance ecosystems or, at the very least, avoid harming the environment.

"We know that farming is a major economic challenge," said Franklin, a native of Iowa. "To go that extra mile to be fish-friendly, to make ecological restoration on your land, is asking a lot."

The World Wildlife Fund is offering grants to pay for the steps needed to help certify farmers for the program.

The 90-acre Yale Creek Ranch, owned by Richard and Linda Schaeff of Ashland, was certified as Salmon-Safe last year. Its 15 head of beef are certified as organic and grass fed. The farm also produces specialty vegetable seeds.

"Our real emphasis in the program is on family farms," said Franklin, who lives on the ranch with his wife, Beth, and their two young children. He has been managing the spread for five years.

Franklin moves the herd from pasture to pasture to avoid overgrazing throughout the spring and summer. Fences keep the cattle away from the stream.

A flock of chickens by the house will soon be moved to the pasture in a mobile pen that will allow them to pick and scratch at will. That will include taking apart the cow pies while looking for bugs, Franklin said.

"The chickens will help maintain soil fertility," he explained.

The cattle, which are sold as beef, are kept in barns come winter. The straw from the barns is later composted and returned to the pasture as a soil enhancement.

"We believe that Salmon-Safe gives those small organic farmers an additional competitive edge," Franklin said. "We’re just starting to grow our market presence."

That’s where Kris Hoien, owner of the nearby Spirit Gardens organic farm and organizer of the Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative, comes in.

The cooperative was formed last year by farmers. Some are already certified as Salmon-Safe; the rest are working toward certification.

Hoien has broadened community-supported agriculture, also known as CSA, at her farm to include four other Applegate Valley farms, all members of the cooperative. Basically, a CSA program is based on subscribers who invest in shares of fresh produce. The CSA expects to have nearly 200 subscribers this year, offering everything from apples to winter squash.

"One of the largest benefits of the local program to local farmers is the marketing aspect of the product," explained Hoien, vice president of the co-op.

Meanwhile, consumers supporting farmers that employ fish-friendly practices benefit the entire region, said Zach Stevenson, who works for the World Wildlife Fund’s Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion.

"We recognize that the Applegate watershed has some of the best salmon habitat in Southern Oregon," he said. "We are working proactively with the ranching and farming community to increase Salmon-Safe practices."

The WWF committed more than $60,000 to the Salmon-Safe Applegate project in the past three years, including $12,000 in grant funds available this year to help provide technical assistance to farmers and ranchers.

The Salmon-Safe program is spreading to the middle Rogue sub-basin, with 12 farmers and ranchers expected to join this spring, Stevenson said. Another 10 are expected to join in the Applegate Valley.

"Our goal is to establish a large enough co-op to market products to help consumers establish a bond with those producers on a regional basis," he said. "We believe people will want to support the fish-friendly program."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com

 

Salmon-Safe certification

To be certified as a Salmon-Safe farmer or rancher, a property owner must meet specific standards established by Portland-based Salmon-Safe Inc.

Certification criteria includes maintaining soil health, biodiversity, riparian health, water quality and related issues.

The program is supported by the World Wildlife Fund, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other groups.

For further information, contact Tim Franklin at 899-9982 or Dan Kent at Salmon-Safe Inc. at 503-232-3750.

Information is also available online at www.salmonsafe.org.

Information on community supported agriculture is available by calling Kris Hoien at 899-1824 or online at siskiyoucoop.com

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