Karyn Williams and the original Red Dog, Rupert Dandelion
Local organic farmer Karyn Williams has just purchased her farmland four years after she began cultivating it, as the second step in an innovative financing arrangement she had with the Jefferson Land Trust. Four years ago Karyn took possession of 23 acres, named it Red Dog Farm, and began working it.
But financing the land purchase would have been difficult at that time, so the JLT bought the land and leased it to Karyn with the understanding that she would buy it from them in five years when the farm was established and she could qualify for a farm loan. Now Karyn has obtained a loan for first-time farm owners through the Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The farm is one of several small organic farms south of Chimacum, in an area with fertile soil and a rich agricultural heritage. Preservation of such farmland is a priority of the JLT, so a conservation easement was placed on the land as part of the financing agreements. Most of the land is preserved for agricultural use, while that bordering Chimacum Creek is protected for wildlife habitat. With the easement, the land can never be sold for any other uses.
Karyn cultivated 5 acres the first year and now has 18 acres in production. She has put in a barn for washing and packing produce, four greenhouses, a trailer for her home, and a Farm Stand always stocked with produce for sale. The farm has a summer crew of up to 11 workers.
Always the businesswoman, Karyn plants a diverse variety of vegetables but focuses on crops of high value to her customers. These include a salad mix with as many as 13 varieties of greens, strawberries, tomatoes, basil, bunch greens, Hakurei turnips, radishes and cut flowers. Customers include restaurants, caterers, Port Townsend Food Co-op and Aldriches. She sells at local farmers’ markets and offers the Red Dog CSA and Dog Bones programs so people can get discounts by buying in advance.
Living on the farm, Karyn is never far away from it. “I love what I do and I want to give it my all,” she says. While she plans as much as possible, seasonal changes require her to be flexible, able to adjust her plans to align with the reality of the situation.
Karyn says Jefferson Land Trust was “instrumental in making this farm a reality, giving me the opportunity to set up my business and ease into farm ownership. And the support of the Land Trust members was a benefit I had not foreseen but greatly appreciate.”
Owen Fairbank, president of the JLT Board, says the financing arrangement entered into four years ago was a relatively innovative and untried method to bridge the gap between young farmers such as Karyn and the financing they need to buy their own farms. JLT combined its Kilham Revolving Fund with a loan from Enterprise Cascadia to purchase the property, and “This worked out exactly as we had hoped,” he said. As the funds used to finance the Red Dog Farm are repaid he looks forward to the JLT entering into similar arrangements with other potential farmers.