From Farm to Food Bank

As you walk into the greenhouse there’s a bustling scene - people are eagerly planting and transplanting everything from peppers to squash, and surrounding them is a sea of plant starts, resting end-to-end on makeshift tables. In the center of it all is Reverend Jim Eichner. Reverend Jim enjoys instructing and educating those around him on the correct way to transplant seedlings, and how the farm operates. While this might seem like another day on the farm, this isn’t just any farm - it’s Food Bank Farm, a fully volunteer-supported endeavor that donated 180,000 pounds of produce last year with the help of more than 1,400 volunteers. 

Food Bank Farm is a ministry of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross in Redmond. The farm encompasses ten acres and is located at Chinook Farms, which rents space to the church. Located in the Snohomish River Valley, Chinook Farms is a community-supported farm on Elliott Road in the Cathcart area. Chinook Farms’ specialty is grass-fed beef, hay, and mentoring new farmers. Owners Sharon and Eric Fritch were recently honored as Conservation Leaders of the Year by Snohomish Conservation District (read more about our award winners here).  

Church leaders are working to end hunger in the Pacific Northwest by growing fresh produce for area food banks. Washington is the 23rd hungriest state in the nation and 1 in 5 Washingtonians rely on a local food bank. Food banks have always acted as a vital distributor of food, but getting the freshest produce has always been a challenge. That’s where the idea for Food Bank Farm started. Reverend Eichner wanted to ensure that food banks could be given the first pick, rather than what is left over. 

The 1,500 volunteers that will filter through this year aren’t just parishioners, Food Bank Farm attracts corporate volunteers, seniors, kids, and everyone in between. Each volunteer group is given a task and helps contribute to the bigger picture. While one person or group might be planting squash seeds, another group will continue caring for them throughout the growing season, and yet another group might be responsible for harvesting. Food Bank Farm has a goal to donate a million pounds of produce by 2021. It’s an inspiring place and Jim describes it best, “We have the support of a happy community and it’s just paradise
out here.”

The District’s Lawns to Lettuce Program and Project Harvest will be hosting a harvesting event at Food Bank Farm later this summer. If you’d like to get involved in that event or bring a volunteer group to the farm, visit

Food Bank Farm by the Numbers

  • Founded in 2011 with 12 volunteers, and donated 3,750 pounds of fresh vegetables.
  • In 2018 they estimate 1,500 volunteers, and they hope to donate 200,000 pounds of fresh vegetables.
  • The produce gets delivered to 350 local food banks.
  • The cost per pound of food is under $0.04 because of volunteers.

By Kailyn Wentz, Design & Media Coordinator | From Volume 29: Issue 1 of The Nexus

Putting Manure to Work in Local Gardens

In days past, when one needed fertilizer for a garden or flower beds, they visited the farmer down the road and loaded up! Now, more than likely, it means a trip to a big box store for bags of composted manure trucked in from miles – or states - away. But when you think about the amount of packaging, time and gas required to truck in this resource, it makes sense to try and find more local alternatives. 

When exploring your options, ask around to see if other gardeners you know have a source of composted manure they’re willing to share. Snohomish Conservation District also maintains a list which can be requested by calling our office. The ‘Manure Share List’ includes people looking for manure, and those with too much that are willing to share. Some farmers will load, others are self-load. Bring a friend with a pickup and share a load! Some farms charge a small fee for their manure or to load it, or may have piles only accessible via 4-wheel drive.


You’ve Got It – Now What?

Properly composted manure, allowed to go through 120 to 180 days of hot composting, is best, but you can also get fresh manure and compost it yourself. When using fresh manure, allow it to age (i.e. compost) for six months to avoid any potential problems. Keeping your pile moist, and turning it periodically, will speed up the process. Do not use fresh manure on vegetables, especially root crops, due to the potential of transmitting pathogens. Many people spread the manure in their gardens in the fall and rototill it in spring before planting. Incorporate it to a depth of 6 to 8 inches so you can get the full benefit of the compost. 

Proper use of manure in the garden can help not only supply nutrients, it can also help soil aeration and drainage, which ultimately results in healthier plants. Most manure application is based on nitrogen content and how much is actually available to the plants in the first growing season. However, too much manure can lead to nutrient runoff, excessive vegetative growth and in some cases, salt damage. Salts in fresh manure can be high, especially in poultry manure. Poultry manure is also high in nitrogen and tends to be ‘hot’, which can burn plants. To avoid both salt damage and burning your plants, either compost the manure first or wait 3 to 4 weeks after application to plant the area. Some manure is high in phosphorous as well, so you may want to get a soil test to make sure your phosphorus levels aren’t getting too high.

The Variations of Compost

There are many variations of compost – depending on livestock type, bedding used, etc. - but it’s important to know your sources. Ask the farmer if their animals have been recently de-wormed, or if the hay they feed is treated with an herbicide.  Some crops are more susceptible to residuals such as potatoes, peas, carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes. Make sure the manure you haul in is from herbivores (sheep, llamas, goats, cattle, and horses) rather than pigs. (Never use cat, dog, or pig manure in vegetable gardens or compost piles. Parasites that may be in these types of manure are more likely to survive and infect people than those in other types of manure). 

Your composted manure may have bedding mixed in which is fine, it will help improve soil tilth as well. If the compost has not been thoroughly broken down and has a high amount of bedding, it can actually draw nitrogen out of the soil in the composting process, robbing plants of much-needed nitrogen. Horse manure alone has the perfect carbon-nitrogen ratio for composting, although most horse manure is too high in bedding to readily compost. When manure is correctly composted, the finished product is mostly free of odor, flies and some weed seeds, and can be easier to load and haul since it likely has less moisture than fresh manure. The articles in the resource section offer more in-depth information on the use of manure and compost in gardens. 


Share the Love

Did you know that Snohomish Conservation District has a ‘Manure Share’ List? Call 425-335-5634 and ask for one of our farm planners who can email the list to you and offer suggestions on home use of manure. If you have excess manure to share or want to be on the list receive manure, please let us know and we will update our manure share list. 

Real Life Examples

Ready to learn more, take a moment to read about how Cally Ingram Slager and Cadri Curry are helping their gardens thrive with local compost at

Additional Resources


By Lois Ruskell, Public Relations Coordinator | From Volume 29: Issue 1 of The Nexus

Community Harvest

Local food production can mean anything from your own backyard garden to a U-Pick Farm stand, or the acres of grain being produced down the road for livestock feed. Keeping food production local helps reduce the energy costs for transportation, enhances the local economy and supports jobs, and can be a means for neighbors to come together for the greater good of the community. 

There are several exciting opportunities to participate in growing or harvesting food, even if you don’t have your own plot of land. Does your town or city have a community garden? Maybe your local senior center has some garden beds you could assist with. If you are getting ready to plant your own garden, think about adding an extra row just to donate to others or give to the food bank. Do you have extra seeds leftover? Why not share with a friend or participate in a local seed exchange.

Gleaning during the summer and fall is another way to not only help your own family, but also to help your community harvest excess crops from willing farmers for those who don’t have access to fresh produce, or who aren’t physically able to harvest their own. Gleaning can be anything from picking up fallen apples in an orchard to hand picking green beans after a mechanical harvester has been through the field. It not only helps the farmer dispose of excess edible food that is too expensive to hand pick, it helps your community by making use of produce that would otherwise go to waste. 

If you don’t need an entire summer’s worth of produce from your own garden, think about sharing with your neighbors or donate to your local food bank. They are always in need of fresh produce to support their clients. Read on for some other ways that you can help ‘share the bounty’!

SCD’s Lawns to Lettuce

The District’s Lawns to Lettuce program was developed to help teach people how to create and maintain productive gardens, instead of unproductive lawns. We offer workshops and advice for those making the switch. Learn more at

Gleaning with Project Harvest

Project Harvest aims to increase access to nutritious food in Snohomish County by connecting local farmers, food banks, and volunteers to get fresh, local produce into the hands of the food insecure. A new partnership has developed over the winter between Snohomish Conservation District’s Lawns to Lettuce program, and Volunteers of America’s, Project Harvest.

Project Harvest and Snohomish Conservation District will be hosting several gleaning events at local farms throughout the summer. Sign up for the mailing list to stay in the loop for upcoming events and workshops

Plant (and Harvest) a Row

Did you know that you can donate your surplus fruit and vegetables to your hungry neighbors through your local food banks? We encourage you to think about adding an extra row to donate to others or give to the food bank. Join our new initiative and pledge to grow a little extra food this season for food for those in need. Take our pledge to stay in the loop about food bank donation hours and drop-off instructions, to ensure that every apple and zucchini makes it into a belly! Take our pledge at

Your Guide for Fresh & Local Produce

Tilth Alliance’s Puget Sound Fresh Guide is pretty much a one-stop-shop for finding local producers, CSA’s (Consumer-Supported Agriculture) and Farmers Markets. You can also use the app on your phone if you’re traveling or heading to a certain area and you want to stop for strawberries or check out what days markets are held in a new town. Download the app and learn more at

Community Gardens

Community gardens are a great way to give back to the community and they help stock empty food bank shelves. They bring people together with a common goal and help weave community ties in the process. WSU Extension has a Growing Groceries class series that can help you learn the in’s and out’s of gardening. They also have a list of existing community gardens you can volunteer for. 

Check it out at If you don’t see your community garden on the list, contact the Snohomish County WSU Extension Office, at (425) 338-2400 for further information.

Looking for Community Garden Funding?

Need help expanding and improving an existing community garden? Apply for a $500 cost-share grant through Snohomish Conservation District’s Lawns to Lettuce program to help your community-based organization grow and flourish. Learn more at

Happy Gardening!

By Lois Ruskell, Public Relations Coordinator | From Volume 29: Issue 1 of The Nexus

The Changemakers

In April we gathered to amplify and celebrate some of Snohomish County and Camano Island’s greatest changemakers, who are shaping our conservation landscape one action at a time. I had the great privilege of interviewing each of our award winners and left every interview feeling inspired by their stories and dedication. Preparing for the interviews and reading through the nomination statements, I found myself looking for the commonalities. These individuals and organizations were amplifying their changes- seeming to double down on their impacts, spreading ripples throughout their communities. 

Have you ever stopped to wonder how change starts? What I heard most often during my interviews is that it always starts with that first step. At times this step can seem to be nothing out of the ordinary. It could be that you install a rain barrel, start composting, or plant a small container garden. Then, that initial action can easily become the catalyst for something more, as it ripples outward, more varied as we collaborate and share with others. As we empower each other, that initial step can become much more than ever anticipated. 

I hope you take a moment to read more about these changemakers and are empowered and inspired by them to go out and make ripples in your own community.

Read their stories at

To get to solutions you have to understand the reality of the problem.
— Terry Williams

Lifetime Achievement

  • Scott Chase
  • Terry Williams 
  • Monte Marti

Conservation Leader

  • Brea Dormaier
  • Eric Fritch 
  • Holy Cross Catholic Church 
  • Carol McMahon 
  • Holly Small 
  • Robyn Smith
  • Qualco Energy/Werkhoven Dairy
  • Snohomish County Farm Bureau
  • Stephanie Williams
  • Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs

Youth Conservation Leader

  • James Osborn
  • Jarrett Delfel 
  • Emily McLaughlin Sta. Maria 

By Kailyn Wentz, Design & Media Coordinator | From Volume 29: Issue 1 of The Nexus

A Closer Look at Working Buffers

Built off of riparian buffers, working buffers include the following practices:

  • Forest Farming
  • Alley Cropping
  • Silvopasture
  • Short Rotation Biomass

Benefits of working buffers include:

  • Combination of economic production with environmental protection
  • On-farm economic and ecological resilience through diversity
  • Increases in soil moisture and nutrient cycling    
  • Increases in wildlife and beneficial insect habitat
  • Creates a more sustainable system
  • Carbon sequestration

Forested buffers along streams help keep water clean and cool – important for fish, wildlife, and humans, they are the main defense keeping pollution out of our surface waters. Our Working Buffers program allows farmers to widen their forested buffer without losing farmable ground by combining agriculture and trees together. Tree crops such as fruits, nuts, and timber are combined with understory crops such as berries, floral industry greens, mushrooms, and livestock forage. 

There are four working buffer techniques that may fit the goals of your farm: forest farming, alley cropping, short rotation biomass, and silvopasture. Where to use and how to manage these alternative farming methods is specific to each site’s conditions and each landowner’s goals. It can be difficult to balance on farm land use between functioning riparian buffers and productive ground. Working buffers provide ways to expand a newly planted or existing buffer to increase its functions while at the same time earning more income for your farm. 

Illustrated below is an example of alley cropping. Alley cropping involves planting herbaceous and usually annual crops in the ‘alleys’ between widely spaced rows of trees. Trees are selected for their productivity potential and synergies with crops. Highly productive tree or shrub species can be managed for fruits, nuts, livestock feed, and timber. ‘Alley crops’ in-between rows can produce hay, small grains, vegetables, ground cover fruits, medicinal herbs and even vines such as berries or grapes. Combining these two production methods can help farmers cope with market fluctuations and crop failures by diversifying outputs and increasing yields. Alley cropping can either be a long- or short-term approach to maximizing farm production while establishing additional forest canopy in a streamside buffer area. 

Want to see what the other working buffer practices look like? Or have questions about how to get started on your own property, visit or call Carrie Brausieck 425-377-7014.


By Carrie Brausieck, Resource Planner | From Volume 29: Issue 1 of The Nexus

The Power of Partnership

What do salmon have to do with agriculture? The simplest answer is that they both utilize the same estuary - the lowland where our rivers meet the sea. Snohomish County boasts two of the most important estuaries in Puget Sound, which have served fish and farm communities for generations. 

However, these prime areas may face severe risks into the future- with increased flooding due to climate change, salmon decline from polluted runoff, and agricultural pressures from urban development. That is why Snohomish Conservation District participates with local governments, tribes, farmers, and fisheries in the Sustainable Lands Strategy (SLS) to work towards multi-benefit solutions for these complex issues. 

Through the power of partnership, SLS is changing the conversation between historically opposed groups, to find ‘win-win’ scenarios that meet the diverse needs of stakeholders in the floodplain. Can we have both salmon recovery and a vibrant agricultural economy here in Snohomish County? With a little creativity and elbow grease, we’re finding that just might be possible. Learn more about this unique endeavor at


By Kate Riley, Community Engagement Program Manager | From Volume 29: Issue 1 of The Nexus

Saving Salmon on Tributary 64

In the winter of 2014, David New was seeking ways to build a bridge on his property north of Arlington. He invited Wayne Watne from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife out to learn about permitting for a bridge. When Wayne spotted coho salmon in the stream, he suggested David reach out to Snohomish Conservation District to learn what programs were available for Stillaguamish landowners. It turns out that this unnamed tributary of Pilchuck Creek is an important spawning area for coho salmon. Around our office, it is commonly known as Trib 64.

The Problem

David noticed that salmon were getting caught in the weeds of his field. Yes, the field. The reed canary grass, a nasty invasive weed, had grown across the stream, and when at least six inches of water was present, coho salmon would swim over the field. When the water retreated, and due to the increased sediment caused by the reed canary grass, the fish would get stranded and die. This section of stream with impeded fish passage was over 1000 feet long. After this section, though, the waterway was passable for fish once it reached a forested area. 

Like much rural/agricultural land in Snohomish County, this property had been in David’s wife Dari’s family for a few generations. Her grandfather bought the land from a timber company that used railroad lines to haul the logged trees off-site. When an uncle of Dari’s passed away, she and David hoped to buy the property, but a developer bought it first. As luck would have it, or simply the nature of the world, the recession hit and the developer went out of business. He had proposed 60 homes for the property, the New family bought it instead.

The New family’s affinity for fish goes back several years. David recalls the humpy’s (or pinks) from the 2005 run - thousands of them in fact. He said it was an amazing sight to see. In recent years, the numbers have not been near that high so the family hopes with the addition of their habitat project, they will see more fish in the future.

The Project 

For the project, Kristin Marshall, District Senior Habitat Specialist, sought two funding sources - a Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) grant for 6.5 acres and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) for 26 acres. District Engineer Derek Hann was the main engineer for the project and luckily, David New is an engineer as well, so he provided additional designs as an in-kind contribution.

The Adopt A Stream Foundation was our contractor, and over the years, we’ve had all of our crews - Washington Conservation Corps and the Veterans Conservation Corps - on site. An assortment of volunteers has happily come out to plant native trees and shrubs and enjoy the bucolic scenery as well. David mentioned being “so grateful” for all of our help, and he specifically named District habitat specialists Ryan Williams and Carson Moscoso as being really “great to work with.”

Through CREP, there will be four years of crew maintenance provided to the New family for keeping the reed canary grass down, and there will be check-ins for at least the next decade. Our goals with this project are the long-term health of Pilchuck Creek with the re-establishment of a forest canopy, a vegetated streamside, and by facilitating fish access to spawning areas. The challenges remain the ongoing battle with reed canary grass and the migrating channel. Rivers and streams tend to go where they want - hence this project was based on what was naturally occurring, instead of trying to re-route the waterway.

We are grateful to the New family for their willingness to work with the District and our project partners for critical salmon habitat. The side channel created on his property will benefit salmon for years to come -enabling them to reach spawning grounds that were inaccessible before the project. Many layers of work have already been done on the property - this is a well-loved and utilized
family legacy. 

If you’re looking to restore your property like David, contact our Habitat Team for a site visit or just call or email with your question. We’re happy to help out. Contact us at 425-335-5634, email, or visit

Enjoy the garden, the orchard, the forest land. Learn the names and characters of the plants and animals. Share the legacy you are given with others.
— David New

What's the Deal with Reed Canary Grass?

Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) is a noxious weed. Contact the District’s Habitat Team if you are dealing with reed canary grass on your property at or 425-335-5634 to schedule a site visit.

  • It is a major threat to natural wetlands.
  • It out competes most native species as if forms large, single-species stands.
  • Dense stands have little wildlife habitat value.
  • Its invasion can cause siltation in irrigation ditches.
  • Reed canary grass can spread by seeds or by creeping rhizomes. The species will also produce roots and shoots from the nodes of freshly cut stems.
  • Pesticides are minimally effective.

By Kari Quaas, Media & Outreach Specialist | From Volume 29: Issue 1 of The Nexus

The Gallons Add Up

The Gallons Add Up

The newly installed stormwater projects at these six schools will help divert and filter an estimated 436,700 gallons of stormwater each year! This number is based on an estimated 10 refills of the rain barrels and cisterns, which is the average usage rate. All of this adds up to cleaner, colder, and clearer streams and untold numbers of happy salmon. 

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Puget Sound Starts at My School

Puget Sound Starts at My School

Several schools recently finished up their participation in a National Fish and Wildlife funded grant, Puget Sound Starts at My School. This program involved 658 students in the planning, design, and installation of stormwater projects on school campuses. In total, the projects completed through this grant will divert and filter an estimated 435,769 gallons of stormwater every year!

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5 Tips for Winter Horsekeeping

5 Tips for Winter Horsekeeping

As the days grow shorter it’s time to prepare for the dark, wet days of winter. We know the challenges that await us in these winter months: rain, mud, darkness, and cold. The constant, never-ending rainy days can make chores difficult and alter the routines of our horses, but planning ahead can make the winter manageable, and safe, for horses and horse owners alike. Here are our top five tips for winter horsekeeping in the Pacific Northwest. 

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Agriculture Resilience & the Photovoice Story

Agriculture Resilience & the Photovoice Story

Traveling the back roads of Snohomish County, you’ll pass a variety of scenic farms. Farms have been a crucial component of the landscape, history, and economy of this county and most of Puget Sound, and will hopefully remain so. The types of farms and the products grown vary and farm stability relies on resilience to adapt to changing markets, climatic variations, consumer preferences and rising land and equipment costs. 

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Is Your Home Firewise?

Is Your Home Firewise?

As Westsiders here in Washington, it’s difficult to imagine the threat of a wildfire as we tromp through the rain and mud for close to eight months of the year. But due to our beautiful dry summers, the landscape can dry out quickly, presenting a window of time where a grass or forest fire can pose a serious threat to property and lives.

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