NORDLAND, Wash. – Historic Twin Vista Ranch, part of Washington State University agricultural extension, recently earned certified organic status.
A high proportion of farms in the area are organic, so it made sense to convert Twin Vista, said Laura Lewis, director of WSU Jefferson County Extension.
“Farms in this area are generally small, on average around 40 acres,” she said. “The more we can help them succeed and thrive, the better we all are. And this farm is perfect for providing that necessary support.”
For example, many local farms are interested in growing organic quinoa, she said. Research by WSU professor Kevin Murphy is showing them the best varieties and management practices.
“Quinoa can get a lot of weeds,” Lewis said. “His team discovered geese ate the weeds that grow alongside quinoa, but didn’t eat the crop itself. So it’s a fantastic organic solution to a potentially big headache for farmers.”
Conserving, sharing heirloom varieties
One goal for Twin Vista is to be a repository for heirloom breeds and varieties, such as rare “red poll” cattle and older varieties of cider apples, chickens, pears and more. So when farmers need them again, Twin Vista will be able to provide seeds or stock.
The farm has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Plant Germplasm System and the Organic Seed Alliance to collect, store and grow these older or more difficult-to-source varieties.
“We’re working to help preserve and conserve a variety of animal and plant species,” said Lewis. “And we can then make those available to farmers in the area.”
Sharing successful, sustainable practices
A working farm for more than 100 years, the 26-acre Twin Vista Ranch was donated to WSU three years ago by owner Lisa Painter with the understanding that it would be a public farm focused on sustainable practices, Lewis said.
“We work closely with the small farms in the area,” she said. “We don’t want to be competitive with them. We can try different techniques or plantings and let them know what is successful and what doesn’t work. It’s the traditional model of an extension farm, and we’re really lucky that Lisa donated it.”
Lewis and her team host an annual tour that draws around 500 people to the farm. The WSU researchers share information – like weed-eating geese – and explain in small groups why a resource like Twin Vista Ranch is helpful.