Meet Your Local Farmer

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If you could say the words diverse and specialized in the same sentence, you could be talking about SpringRain Farm and Orchard in Chimacum. The Food Co-op Produce team was invited to take a tour of the 28-acre farm. The greenhouses were warm and lush with the earthy smells of living things though it was a cool overcast day. John Bellow and his partner Roxanne purchased the undeveloped land in 2008. They began their project with volunteers and a crew of interns participating in a hands-on learning program John named F.I.E.L.D. Now they have an all paid crew and in peak months bring in additional berry pickers to help with the harvest. John’s philosophy from the start was to bring specialty crops out of season. As this approach evolved they have developed their specialty markets including fruits and vegetables, an on-site Farm Stand, a thriving protein program with a processing unit, an orchard, microgreens, and ten greenhouses for winter crops. There is an additional green house in the works along with a cold storage shed for cider, apples, pears made with the Co-op’s old produce cooler insulated panels. During the Co-op remodel Laura, our produce manager offered up the panels to the first farm to speak up. 

As we walked around the farm we heard bits of J.B. wisdom:

Agriculture and Conservation can coexist. John is proving this. With the creation of a conservation reserve and easement, Jefferson Land Trust controls the usage of their farmland. Restoration for Chimacum Creek that runs through the property increases habitat for salmon spawning. A beaver dam down stream caused flooding and a greenhouse had to be moved to higher ground. He has granted easement for a portion of the proposed Rick Tollefson Trail bordering his land which connects HJ Carroll to the ballfields and allows for people to observe various farming activities.

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Do what you love & provide what others are not.  John loves figs and he’s experimenting with three varieties. He also loves wasabi and is cultivating that as well as water chestnuts and passionfruit! John is germinating ginger and turmeric to bring to market, along with traditional winter crops. He experiments with varieties before going into production and propagation.

Work with what you’ve got. Integrated systems exist in a good farm model. Everything in constant motion, in harmony through a dance of cycles. To control weeds he uses sawdust, those crazy floppy guys that whip in the wind to deter the birds from the blueberries, the chickens run free all day keeping the weeds down and the insects at bay ­- and the soil aerated. Each night he scoops the birds into many camper trailers functioning as chicken coops.

Farm smart. John is not just a value-added farm but he’s an innovator. He is creating a fan pump system to heat and cool the in-ground greenhouses, and he has learned that sometimes you need to switch up the plan as you evolve your market. John explained the timing challenges of the microgreen market. The greens must be fresh and if they go past their date, they become expensive rabbit food. Their berries have just 48 hours to sell and if they don’t, they go in the freezer to be made into jam. Same goes for fresh crops like basil, arugula and nettle which are made into pesto to extend their life. SpringRain looks to the future for other ways to lower their carbon footprint. They drive electric vehicles on the property, using a solar panel to charge the vehicles and has plans for a wind turbine.

Partner with others.  The meat products are sold through Puget Sound Food Hub and other deliveries are coordinated with Key City Fish Company’s trucks. Less trucks on the road equals less carbon emissions.

At the end of our tour, John said with a smile, “Here, eat a Nasturtium just for the joy of it and remember to get outside and breathe some fresh air.”

Farm Name: SpringRain Farm & Orchard

Owners: John and Roxanne Bellow

Origin: 2008

Acres: 28

Products: Berries; raspberry, gooseberry, currents, ustaberry, blueberry, strawberry, salad greens, duck and chicken eggs, meats; duck, chicken turkey, rabbit, basil, pepper, cucumber, eggplant, shallots, Delicata, Red Curry and Kabocha squash, heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, apples, pears, cider, microgreens, jam, pesto