Social creatures, geese like marshy areas and tall grasses where they can hide and make their nests. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Hudson.
When you think of working farm animals, you may picture guard and/or herding dogs, barn cats, milk cows, or maybe even ground-clearing goats. But what about geese?
Roxanne and John selling produce in 2015.
SpringRain Farm & Orchard in Chimacum (which is protected by a conservation easement that owners Roxanne Hudson and John Bellow donated to the Land Trust in 2008) is an organic family farm that strives to develop a farming model that mimics a natural ecosystem. There, a gaggle of 75+ geese have been an important part of that system for the last four years.
In addition to providing a seasonal supply of eggs, these talkative herbivores roam various parts of SpringRain’s 26 acres to keep the grass down in the pastures and feed on the weeds and grass that threaten berry bushes, apple and pear trees, and other crops.
“We think of ourselves as an ecological farm,” says John. “So there are annuals and perennials, herbivores and predators, and all the elements you would think about if you were considering functional ecology. We installed nest boxes for migratory swallows as an aerial defense against insect pests. We have ducks that patrol under the orchards to eat bugs and bug eggs. The chickens are a valuable part of the same systems-thinking approach, effective as predators against insects and weed seeds. And, we have the weeder geese.”
Ducks, geese, and chickens all have roles to play (and eggs to lay!) at SpringRain. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Hudson.
The geese feed off the land year round. They only need to be fed grain in January and February, when there is very little growing outdoors. Timing is important to consider when it comes to managing the weeder geese. In winter and early spring, you can find the geese among the blueberry bushes, where they are key for weed control; they also like to hide in the tall grass of this marshy area, sometimes making their nests there. But by this point in the summer, with the blueberries beginning to form, the geese’s blueberry duties are firmly concluded.
“They would be far too tempted to eat the blueberries if I let them in there now,” John explains. “I wouldn’t let them near my lettuce beds, either.”
SpringRain grows a wide variety of organic berries, orchard tree fruits, perennial vegetables, greenhouse crops, and salad greens; produces ethically raised eggs, chicken, rabbit, and duck; and offers value-added products like farmstead jams, syrups, sauces, and pestos. At the core of their farming philosophy is a deep commitment to caring for the land: in addition to the conservation easement on the farm that protects the property as farmland for all time, Roxanne and John work with the USDA to employ conservation practices designed to protect soil and water, and seek to reduce dependence on fossil fuels by harnessing the power of electric vehicles, solar power, and greenhouses.
They also worked with the Conservation District and the North Olympic Salmon Coalition to restore the portion of Chimacum Creek (a critical habitat for salmon) that runs through the property, establishing a 4-acre riparian buffer around the creek, removing the berm around the creek, and planting native trees.
Find SpringRain products at the Port Townsend and Ballard farmers markets, place a delivery order through Key City Fish, or visit their farm stand, open during daylight hours seven days a week, at 187 Covington Way, Chimacum.