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Latest from Young Farmers

Matt and Jen Schwab, WA

Matt and Jen Schwab own and operate Inspiration Plantation in Ridgefield, WA.  Inspiration Plantation is a 24 acre diversified family farm that specializes in pasture raised animals.  

We raise chickens (for meat and eggs), turkeys, lambs and pigs.  We also plan to raise a few ducks, geese and squab this year.  Matt studied horticulture and worked as a landscape contractor for 14 years and Jen still manages a successful family business.  We got into farming after inheriting the property in 2004 and looking at ways to generate an income from the land.

Around that same time Matt read “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, followed by books written by; Joel Salatin, Wendell Berry, Masanobu Fukuoka, and Bill Mollison.  Over the next few years we attempted to grow nursery stock on the farm but because we didn’t live on the farm and we both had full time jobs we weren’t very successful.  In 2008 we decided to sell our house, move to the farm and create a new life for ourselves.

What difficulties have you had, or are you overcoming, and how?

Finding insurance companies that work with small scale poultry processors, getting a good interest rate on our home loan because of our farming and navigating the rules and laws associated with trying to run a small scale diversified farm.  We are slowly and clumsily navigating our way through these issues and in the process building relationships with folks who are helping us out.  Raising capital has been challenging.  Our customers have helped through taking part in our meat CSA.

Have you made use of any Federal USDA programs?

We put in an application for CSP and then decided our time would be more effectively spent farming and marketing.

What other existing programs have been useful?

We have taken advantage of a local property tax deferral that lowers our property taxes for continuing to farm.

What are the important potential actions that should be taken to help beginning farmers?

We think the most important actions are those that level the playing field between small and big producers.  Any barriers that can be lifted that limit a small producer’s access to markets would be helpful.  Some examples of this; allowing increased volumes of raw milk sales direct from the farm and allowing small scale meat producers clear guidelines for selling their products.  Another way to level the playing field would be to remove subsidies.  Access to subsidies is not scale neutral.  It is more difficult for a small farm to navigate through the level of bureaucracy necessary to get funds.  If it is easier for a small farmer to make money they won’t need handouts.  I think incubator farms are a great idea and affordable healthcare would also be helpful.
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