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Beginning Farmer Grows Organic Produce—and a Community

Posted by Ron Nichols, NRCS Washington in Conservation
Feb 21, 2017
April Jones also raises Tamworth heritage hogs as part of her operation, providing four acres of pasture for a breed she describes as being hearty and having a good personality. The rust color of the breed's skin makes them less prone to sunburn, which is an important characteristic for pastured hogs, she says.
April Jones also raises Tamworth heritage hogs as part of her operation, providing four acres of pasture for a breed she describes as being hearty and having a good personality. The rust color of the breed's skin makes them less prone to sunburn, which is an important characteristic for pastured hogs, she says.

April Jones went into farming to grow good food, and she has succeeded. Unexpectedly, along the way she’s also managed to grow a community.

Jones owns and operates a 24-acre, certified-organic farm near Ridgefield, Wash. The farm includes one and one-half acres with an array of different vegetables, table grapes and herbs; four acres of pasture for her Tamworth heritage hogs; six acres of hay; and a variety of apple, fig, cherry, pear and plum trees. The rest of the farm consists of riparian and field buffers that provide habitat for hawks, kestrels and other natural pest predators.

Through a community supported agriculture (CSA) membership program, where consumers subscribe to portions of the farm’s harvests, Jones provides more than 30 local families with 25 weeks of vegetables, fruits and herbs annually. Cultivating that sense of community has resulted in a following of loyal customers who value both the quality of her produce and the relationship they now have with the local farmer who helps feed their families.

“Recently, I had a customer come to me with tears in her eyes and say, ‘I’m expecting my first child, and I can’t think of anything better to feed them than your vegetables,’” Jones says. “You have no idea how happy that makes me.”

With help from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Jones is taking care of her land for the future generations to come. Jones had read about NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) organic initiative through various listservs and agricultural publications.

Through the organic initiative, EQIP dollars can be used to implement six core conservation practices designed to improve natural resource conditions: crop rotation, cover crops, nutrient management, pest management, prescribed grazing and forage harvest management.

Qualifying as a “beginning farmer” in the program, Jones received special assistance from NRCS to seed cover crops for her hog pasture and plant vegetative hedgerows to protect her organic crops from pesticide “spray drift” from surrounding properties.

“I wasn’t going to do it any other way. I feel an inherent responsibility to do what I can to not step on Mother Nature’s toes,” Jones explains.

Anitra Gorham, an NRCS resource conservationist in the Brush Prairie office, says seeing young farmers like Jones enter the market is very satisfying. “April’s drive and commitment to her projects seem to ensure not only her success, but also the long-term sustainability of the local food movement in our area,” she says.

Organic producers, those transitioning to organic, and producers with gross organic sales under $5,000 have the opportunity right now to apply for Organic Initiative funding but they have to hurry. To receive funding during fiscal year 2011, applications must be submitted by May 20th. For more information on where and how to apply, go to the EQIP Organic Initiative Web site.

Check out more conservation stories on the USDA blog.

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April Jones’ certified-organic farm produces 1.5 acres of mixed vegetables.
April Jones’ certified-organic farm produces 1.5 acres of mixed vegetables.
Category/Topic: Conservation

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Anna J-C
Mar 31, 2011

April - you are my hero! We need more farmers like you. Continue to go for diversity and "not stepping on Mother Nature's toes".

Apr 01, 2011

Do you have to put rings in the pigs noses to stop them from rooting and ruining their pasture? thanks

Apr 04, 2011

Hi Bruce,

April does not use rings in her hogs’ noses. Instead, she rotates them frequently to minimize the damage they cause. She also reseeds the area they use regularly with a rye/hairy vetch cover crop to help protect the soil.

Thanks for your interest in this great story!
Sarah Graddy
NRCS Public Affairs Specialist

Jim G
Apr 05, 2011

This story makes me happy. The concept of incorporating space in the farm layout for birds that prey on crop destroying insects is beautiful. That's called balance. April all the best to you. I love shopping my local Farmers' Markets for their wonderful produce and also to support the local microeconomy.

Apr 05, 2011

April, Loved the article - very impressive!
Did you have a farming background before you started your organic farm? If not, how did you get started and what major obstacles did you have to overcome?

Buggy Ridge Farms
Apr 06, 2011

Wonderful article Ron! I love to see this type of success story and USDA's financial incentives targeted toward organic and beginning farmers. We raise the same type registered Tamworth hogs as well as grassfed Belted Galloways and their crosses with Angus and Shorthorns and grassfed goats. We are also beginning farmers and transitioning toward organic certification. My day job is NRCS District Conservationist. The majority of my latest EQIP applications that were approved recently for contracts went to beginning and organic farmers.

Alex Guzman(Philippines)
Apr 08, 2011

Hi April I am from the Philippines,i like a person who always
prioritize the natures benefits before other things because
i believe if you take care of nature and nature will take care for us..keep doing that rewarding initiative..

Apr 11, 2011

this is an awsome story its good to see people out there workin hard love thiss

April Jones
Apr 11, 2011

Hi Heather,

I would say I had a 'rural agriculture' background. I grew up on a small farm; my grandparents on both sides farmed as well. I started farming full time because I loved this piece of land and was I able to purchase it. Owning land is quite possible the biggest barrier to entry most Farmers of my scale face. Starting a farm successfully requires knowing yourself, knowing your land and knowing your neighbors (i.e. markets). The goal is to find that beautiful interface between your passions and strengths, the resources of your farm and the needs of your community. Obstacles I faced included adequate capitalization for the business, finding affordable health and farm insurance, and figuring out how to provide for the labor needs of the farm. I believe obstacles will arise in any pursuit worth doing, but in those challenges lie hidden opportunities. That's the joy and the reward of it all! AJ

May 31, 2011

Where would a good place to start be for a person wanting to grow 1 - 2 acres of organic vegtables? I need an idea where to go for any funding that I can receive to start a small organic farm. Thank you for any help and ideas. Bless you keep doing what you are doing many people believe strongly ion what you are doing.

Chris Downs
May 07, 2012

Hi April, I currently live in Monument Colorado, but grew up in Washington state for quite a bit of my life. Graduated from Central Valley High School, and we had a garden while growing up. I studied with a Veterinarian who hired me and let me teach myself to ride and train his horses to accept riders and trail ride. It was fun! I currently have a Permaculture website, and what you are doing is FanTasTic!!! It is so great to others with the passion to take care of our land and share in the joy of Producing healthy fuel for our bodies while protecting our most precious resource of the Earth! without it, were we going to go? My Blessings to you and all that you do. I spent some time with a young man who is taking horticulture in california. I hope that you get a chance to share with some of the colleges, He was already defeated in his mind about growing and eating organically. You are one of the lights of hope our younger generation needs. I wrote a story about my short visit with him. it is on my blog under "the blessings of permaculture". I hope to meet you one of these days when I come home to visit!

Thank you