Farmers have been accused of not doing their part when it comes to preserving the environment on and around their farm. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Farmers in Whatcom County have taken many measures in recent years to not only improve their sustainability but also work toward the betterment of water quality in the county. 

When local farmer Larry Stap noticed a stream salmon use was drying up, he and his co-owner at TwinBrook Creamery made the quick decision to pump their irrigation water into the stream. Well water was pumped into the stream and helped provide the time needed to rescue as many of the remaining fish as possible.

Their story is in more detail here

Appel Family Dairy installed a new floodgate to help spawning salmon. The new-style “self-regulating” floodgates allow fish through, giving them new access to miles of streams where young salmon and other species can thrive and grow large before continuing their journey. They also do a better job of protecting nearby farmland from flooding, creating a win-win for fish and farming, said Corey.

You can read more about the floodgates here.

Ebe Farms has taken steps to preserve water on their potato farms by installing new irrigation systems that waste less water. Greg Ebe said:

“Water is critical to our operation. There’s a lot of competing uses for water. We need to manage it as a finite, precious resource. Drip irrigation makes the most efficient use of the water, rather than waste the water, it leaves it for other uses, such as the salmon habitat. Farming, in general, is the most compatible land use to creating a healthy habitat for salmon recovery.”

Ebe Farms was featured in a video describing the new irrigation system here.

Coldstream Farms was the first clean system installation in Washington that takes waste and turns it into clean water. The farm’s waste creates 4.3 million gallons of clean water that can go back into the river each year. The Nooksack River is a main route for several types of salmon. The Whatcom Land Trust and the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association have spent many hours working on the property to better the area for optimal salmon health.

Galen Smith explains the whole process here

For decades farmers have worked with conservation groups, government agencies, volunteers and students to rebuild healthy fish habitat in Fishtrap Creek. They’ve cleaned up invasive plants and planted native trees to provide stable stream banks that filter water coming to the creek, and even more importantly, provided shade to help cool the water to protect the juvenile salmon growing there.

Rader Farms, which grows red raspberries in the field along a section of the Fishtrap Creek stream, stepped up to allow conservation workers and volunteers to access the area and contributed the additional land needed to expand the riparian area. The farm also did the hard work of cleaning up the non-native plants that had been choking the stream banks.

Many other people and organizations were involved in the project.

Whatcom’s family farmers have been showing strong leadership in environmental performance for years. Some examples are:

  • Restoring fish-friendly riparian zones
  • Helping plant over 1.5 million stream-side seedlings
  • Augmenting stream flow in Bertrand Creek in late summer when natural flow is lowest and  the fish need cool, clean water
  • Protecting water quality so nitrate levels from 50 years ago are now going down
  • Adding fish-friendly floodgates
  • Hosting our visiting winter waterfowl
  • So much more