Big Plans for a Small Cow at Summer Run Farm

Cathryn Baerwald’s Summer Run Farm is known for its produce and certified-organic garlic, but this Snoqualmie Valley farm has recently had the opportunity to diversify in a unique way, with the addition of a diminutive bovine whose large brown eyes are as sweet as the milk she produces. Her name is Petunia.

Petunia is a six-year-old miniature jersey cow, standing only 42 inches tall at the hook. She traveled from Nebraska and arrived at Summer Run Farm a few weeks ago, and has settled into her comfortable barn overlooking her own five-acre pasture on the property. Petunia and Cathryn have formed a fast bond, although it was a bit of a winding road before their paths joined in the milking stall they now share every morning.

A basket of unused calf bottles sits atop a refrigerator in the barn. As she busily sanitizes and prepares the milking equipment on a mild January morning, Cathryn explains that when she set out to obtain a miniature jersey cow, she had intended to bring home a calf – not an adult cow. However, after seeing a photo of Petunia on the breeder’s website, those plans changed. Petunia had been sold previously, but was brought back to the breeder’s farm after she was severely neglected by her owner. Petunia’s breeder had no intentions of selling her again, but eventually relented, and Cathryn brought home to Summer Run Farm the cow whose crumpled-up photo she had been carrying around for quite some time.

Caring for an adult cow whose milk production is at its peak is a much different game than caring for a calf, as she originally had planned to do, so Cathryn comments that she’s had to learn a lot very quickly. Petunia is milked every morning, and Cathryn can now complete the whole careful process – cleaning and sanitizing the equipment, milking Petunia, storing the four gallons of milk Petunia produces daily, and cleaning the equipment once again – in about an hour.

Cathryn explains that most produce farmers don’t have an hour to spare in their busy schedules to spend milking a cow every morning, which brings up the question of why one would take on this task. Cathryn’s aim in bringing Petunia to Summer Run Farm was to assess potential on-farm uses for raw milk, especially as livestock feed (for pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc.) and trial runs as a natural fertilizer and pest repellant on the fields, with the ultimate goal being a healthier, more sustainable and self-sufficient farm. A miniature jersey cow is the ideal candidate for such a situation, since their small size makes them less resource-intensive and their physical impact on the land is much lighter. Additionally, the feed-to-milk-production ratio is higher for a miniature jersey than a full-size cow, so they will yield a greater amount of their sweet, high-cream milk on proportionally smaller quantities of feed. Cathryn expects that the milk Petunia produces will be plenty for the farm’s needs.

The Humanlinks Foundation/Tilth Alliance grant Cathryn was awarded not only helped with purchasing Petunia, but also with purchasing the milking equipment and a fertilizer sprayer, which will be used to apply the diluted raw milk (with fats and cream removed) to sample crops of non-edible plant parts, grasses and flowers. Cathryn plans to evaluate the success of these trials in terms of reduced spending on fertilizer, shipping, and tractor fuel; increased vegetable yields and quality; decreased pest damage to plants and improved health of other animals on the farm.

Cathryn acknowledges that keeping a cow for the purposes of using the raw milk on-farm may be an endeavor more of interest to homesteaders than to produce farmers, but she stresses that it is possible to make it work for the farmer’s needs. She plans to dry Petunia off so that she’ll be out to pasture and not in need of milking during the busy produce season for Summer Run Farm. Once Petunia has been bred back and has a calf at her side, Cathryn will then have the option of milking her or not, depending on the needs of the farm at the time.

In the meantime, Cathryn and Petunia will continue their morning milking routine. Once the equipment has been cleaned and the milk added to the fridge whose shelves are already filled to capacity with beautiful golden milk frozen in bags, Petunia gets a good brushing with her required scratch under the chin before being let out to pasture for the day.

Cathryn sees the addition of Petunia to Summer Run Farm as a turning inward; a step toward making the farm more self-sustaining. She hopes that her experience will be an example to encourage other farmers to pursue grant funding for their own projects, and for others who may want to look into the benefits of cow ownership and the use of raw milk on their own farms.




The submission period for 2018 Tilth and Humanlinks Foundation Farm Grants is now open. The application deadline is January 31st. For more information:

Story and photos by Lainey Piland

WSDA Licensed Poultry Processing at Crooked Shed Farm

Poultry processing building and digester at Crooked Shed Farm

Tucked beneath a bigleaf maple tree on Laile Fletcher’s Crooked Shed Farm, a tidy, unassuming two-room building is big news for poultry farmers in the Snoqualmie Valley. This new facility, along with Laile’s recently-obtained WSDA Food Processor License and USDA Co-Pack Exemption, mean that farmers in the Sno Valley and surrounding areas now have a convenient and viable local option for processing their chickens, turkeys, ducks and rabbits for resale.

With the next-closest WSDA-Licensed processing facility more than a two-hour drive away, Laile Fletcher is stepping in to fill a crucial need for local farmers. In speaking with her about the new facility, one quickly gets the sense that this project was motivated not only for the benefit of her own farm, but even more so by the needs of the local farming community. “My goal was to support small farmers in the valley,” she notes, and “to provide a reliable, year-round service that folks can build or add on markets for the farms they have.”

Recalling how she embarked on this venture more than a year ago, Laile explained that when she decided to raise poultry to diversify her farm income beyond the fleece goats, Dexter cows, and Tamworth pigs she was already raising, she struggled to find someone to process her birds, so “I then decided that I would look into that, having helped other farms [with processing] and done some myself.”

After reviewing the Green Book (WSDA Handbook for Small and Direct Marketing Farms), visiting local markets, speaking with other farmers and “calling or emailing WSDA a ton of questions,” Laile decided to pursue the WSDA Food Processor License to process her own poultry. Additionally, the USDA Co-Pack Exemption allows her to process poultry and rabbits for other farmers, which can then be sold frozen, whole, or in cuts, at farmers markets, butcher shops, retail outlets, or to restaurants anywhere within Washington state.

Laile Fletcher shares the story of Crooked Shed Farm with SVT staff

With this license, Laile can process up to 20,000 birds per year, and an unlimited number of rabbits. Unlike many processing facilities, Laile’s has no requirement for a minimum number of birds – a hurdle she faced when looking to process her own birds, and one she wanted to eliminate for other farmers. Being a one-woman show for now, Laile has the ability to process up to twenty-five birds per day, with farmers dropping birds off between 8:00-9:00 in the morning. She requests that birds be brought to the facility in boxes or crates, from which they can then be transferred to the holding crates tucked onto the front porch of her processing building.

Current pricing is as follows, and includes scald, pluck, gut, shrink wrap bags, label and waste disposal. Rabbits are skinned. Taxes extra.

Chicken $4.00 each
Duck $12.00 each
Turkey (up to 20lbs) $12.00 each
Turkey (21-25lbs) $15.00 each
Rabbit $6.00 each


As can be expected with any venture of this scope involving licenses and permits, this project was not without its challenges. Laile comments that “As far as challenges, there has been a list and some we are still working on,” but one of the biggest challenges was simply getting in touch with the right people in various regulatory bodies as the project was getting underway. After being shuffled back and forth between different people at the county and state levels, she was eventually able to secure the required permits and move forward with constructing the facility and obtaining her license.

Another challenge was determining how to dispose of the remnants left over after the poultry has been processed. Where do those gizzards and buckets of greywater end up? The solution can be found by peeking behind the processing building, where a cheerful purple shipping container houses a fascinating bit of innovative technology: an anaerobic digester made by Impact Bioenergy. The leftovers from poultry processing are added to the digester’s “stomach,” where they are broken down by bacteria and give off waste products that are put right back to work: waste heat is used to warm the circulating water that keeps the digester at an optimal 100 degrees; methane gas is collected in a large bladder and is used to produce electricity that will be fed back into the power grid; and once fully digested, the liquid digestate can be used as a soil amendment – an offering that Laile hopes to have available to local farmers.

Crooked Shed Farm’s anaerobic digester

The digester is yet another example of a common theme at Crooked Shed Farm, where a problem isn’t merely solved, but is leveraged to create greater benefits. The digester solves the issue of waste disposal, but also creates electricity and material for soil amendments. The new poultry processing facility solves Laile’s problem of finding someone to process her birds, but also creates potential new opportunities for other local farmers who’ve considered adding chickens or turkeys to their farms, but have hesitated due to lack of local processing options.

What’s next? Laile is looking into obtaining organic certification for the poultry processing facility, so that she can process organic birds as well.

“We’re trying to make it work,” Laile says, “and we’re trying to show others that it can work.”

For more information on poultry processing at Crooked Shed Farm, contact Laile Fletcher at or (425) 328-6650.

Need a copy of the Green Book for your own reference? Stop by and see us at the SnoValley Tilth Office (above Carnation City Hall) to pick one up! You can also find it online here.

Photos by Melissa Borsting.

Meat This! (An introduction to buying local meat)

We are lucky to live in such a rich agricultural community. It seems as if there is a never ending supply of amazing veggies, and with easy access to farm stands, most of us can swing into one just as easily as if we were going to the grocery store. If we can find our favorite sources for local veggies, can we also find favorite sources for local meat?  Christeena Marzolf, Owner of Falling River Meats, gives us some tips and a little of what to expect when buying local meats.


There are a lot of positives to supporting your local food system, especially when it comes to meat.  Once you’ve shopped the farmers markets regularly, you start to see and taste the difference between vegetables cultivated using different farming techniques. You’ll have a similar experience with meat. From breeding to raising to butchering to processing, every step that nutrient-rich protein takes on its way to your plate adds a dimension to the final experience of enjoying it.

For me, one of the most important aspects of growing meat is the care of the animals. Rejecting industrial farming techniques and supporting small-scale operations generally ensures that the animals you eat have had the best life and death possible. In a future blog post, I’ll share details about the way we raise animals and techniques our colleagues throughout the region use as well.

In fact, I could write an entire blog post about every benefit of shopping for your meat locally – and I probably will, so stay tuned! But for the sake of brevity, here’s a quick list of the benefits I talk about every time someone asks why people choose to purchase from us and our fellow livestock raisers:

  • Peace of mind knowing the humane conditions under which it was born, raised, butchered and processed
  • Supporting the people and institutions strengthening your resilient regional food system and rejecting the industrialization of meat
  • Participating personally in the food chain
  • Determining which cuts and amount per package are best for you and your family
  • Ensuring a whole year’s’ worth of meat is available to you in your freezer
  • Opportunities to try new recipes and cooking techniques with unique cuts of meat

Most of us were raised enjoying meat from the grocery store, so buying meat that isn’t already cut, weighed and packaged may seem daunting. Hopefully this and subsequent blog posts will help you navigate the differences between grocery store and local meat purchasing.

Meat Regulations 101

When you buy meat directly from farms as a quarter, half or whole carcass, the animal is generally processed at one of the region’s Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) licensed butcher shops. The WSDA is our state-run regulatory body that inspects custom butcher shops. WSDA regulates the processing of poultry and rabbits also.

The meat from these shops will say ‘Not For Sale.’ When you purchase from the farmer, you’re buying the ‘live’ animal and are contracting a butcher to process the animal into cuts – these cuts are not to be resold; they’re for the purchaser only.

On the other hand, packaged meat sold retail is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which inspects all large and small scale slaughter and processing operations. For local meat producers like us, access to USDA processing allows us to sell individual cuts at farmers markets and to wholesale accounts such as restaurants. The cost for this is higher and involves transporting the animals to a slaughter facility.

Learning about your farmer

Just like vegetable farmers, livestock farmers each have unique personalities, practices and philosophies. When you’re working with a local farmer, you can chat with them directly to gather the information that’s important to you and your family. You might want to find out about the following:

  • Growing practices: If you are concerned about growing practices, whether it be animal husbandry or type of feed, you should feel free to ask these questions before you place a deposit on an animal.
  • Approximate weight: Your farmer will not be able to guarantee an exact weight or know at the time you put a deposit down how much the animal will weigh. They can, however, give you an estimate based on past animals, to give you an idea of how much it will cost.
  • Deposit: Find out how much they expect up front. This is generally not refundable, it’s a guarantee to the farmer that you will purchase the animal and they will not sell it to anyone else.
  • Time until processing: Animals are generally ready for processing in the fall. Small scale operations do sell out, so find all of this information out early in the spring and get your deposit in.

Choosing what to purchase

How much meat do you eat? It may sound weird as a livestock producer but I am all for people eating less meat. I truly believe our diets need to be balanced, and while meat is a part of my diet it is not in every meal. That being said, choosing what your family needs will totally depend on how much meat you consume and your ability to store that meat.

An easy rule of thumb for storage: 1 cubic foot of space will store 40 pounds of cut and wrapped meat. For example, a whole beef yields 600 to 800 pounds of cut and wrapped meat. If it’s 800lbs you will need about 20 cubic feet of storage.

The average weight for the following animals will give you a ballpark, and gauge if you need a whole or half or a bigger freezer.

Whole Animal

Average range of weights


600 to 800 lbs


180 to 250 lbs


60 to 110 lbs


60 to 110 lb


What am I paying for?

This part may vary substantially depending on how your farmer handles their business. Generally, you will be responsible for the following:

  • Deposit on the animal
  • Remaining balance determined by final hanging weight
  • Slaughter fees, half fees if you are only getting half of the
  • Cut and wrap fees
  • Extra charges for any specialty processing, such as smoking or curing

From Harvest day to pick up

The farmer will determine when that animal is ready for processing and arrange for the butcher to slaughter it. If you are a whole-animal eater or are interested in some unique and tasty cuts, you will want to let your farmer know you’re interested in being there for the big day.

Most people choose not to keep the parts the butcher removes in the slaughter process, like the intestines, organs, and other parts of the animal not usually included in modern recipes. If you’re game for it, though, you can arrange to pick up the “offal,” as it’s called, from the butcher on the day of slaughter. Using the offal will give you serious localvore points in certain crowds, and can result in all sorts of tasty and nutritious treats.

For beef, slaughter day can provide a few great meals for your family. Cuts like the hanging tenderloin cannot survive the aging process and are generally discarded. It’s also a good idea to take the tail (oxtail), tongue and cheeks on slaughter day also. Stay tuned for more recipes and info about unique cuts of beef and other meats!

The butcher who cuts and wraps the meat will contact you to get your cutting instructions. You get to make decisions about the way your meat is processed, including sizes of roasts, thickness of cuts for steaks, flavors of sausage, and weights for packaging ground meat. If you are unsure about what you want, let the butcher know, they can help you make those decisions.

Once the meat has been cut and wrapped, it’s ready for pick up! You’ll get a call, and it will be up to you to pick up the meat as quickly as possible, especially during the busy season, butchers have limited space in their freezers and you may be charged a storage fee if you delay. But seriously, why would you wait? You’re doing this because we all know there’s nothing like fresh meat! Welcome to the local meat revolution!

Check the SnoValley Tilth Member Directory to find your local meat producer.

To contact Christeena or learn more about Falling River Meats, visit their website!

Community Roots Day at Carnation Farmers Market


A market of bountiful produce, celebrating the intersection of community, health & agriculture.

Come to Carnation Farmers Market’s Community Roots Day on Tuesday, June 28th. Stay for an hour or two (or three), support the Carnation Farmers Market and SnoValley Tilth. The last Tuesday of every month is always filled with loads of market fun and lots of fresh foods! 

For our June Community Roots Day we are excited to welcome our neighbors in town, Hopelink Harvest, who will be facilitating a cooking demo with fresh goodies from the market and informing us about their important role in our community. Jack Ballard will be hosting an open-mic night for our Music on the Grass Series, providing musicians of all levels and experiences t21232457679_261fb586eb_zo have the opportunity to perform; this is especially geared towards youth musicians and all are welcome! One of our market artists, Joe Lee Davidson will be teaching children how to make their own coloring book and we will have market bingo happening all day to give young market goers the opportunity to meet their farmer and learn about what is in season at the market.  You can also ‘Take a Walk with the Doc’ around town with our resident doctor, Dr. Jodie Murdoch, to learn more about the markets role with health and wellness. Tolt River Family Medicine will be sharing Emergency Preparedness Information, and Market Tours will also be available upon request lead by our wonderful market ambassador. Join us in participating in a few of these farm-y activities and in celebrating our Community!


21448817816_7bcf4b15cc_zCommunity Roots Day is a special event to celebrate education, art, and culture at the farmers market. With cooking demos, children’s activities, and live music, Community Roots Days are a wonderful addition to our market and make the Carnation Farmers Market more than just a way to support your local farmers, but also a way to eat, learn, and create.



The Carnation Farmers Market is open every Tuesday from 3-7 pm right in the heart of downtown Carnation.

Fish Farm Flood Committee Update

Photo Credit: Mitchell Haindfield

What would the Snoqualmie Valley look like if we had the perfect balance of farming and wildlife habitat? How different would it look from how it looks today? As long as farmers have been farming, there have been conflicts about farmland and fish habitat across North America. Here in the Snoqualmie Valley, environmentally conscious farmers and landowners have planted many acres in shrubs and trees for fish habitat improvement. Despite the benefits of these plantings, when they occur on productive farmland, they take that land out of production, permanently.

King County created the Fish Farm Flood Advisory Committee in the Fall of 2013 in order to get advice on how to balance the competing needs of farms, fish, and flood risk reduction. Four Snoqualmie Valley farmers are volunteering their time to serve on that Advisory Committee and are working with other committee members to find solutions and come to a mutually beneficial agreement. I got involved in the process about a year ago, when one of those farmers came to SnoValley Tilth and explained the pressure they were under. The four farmers were increasingly worried about making major decisions without broader community consultation. It was clear they needed support. 

The King Conservation District (KCD) stepped forward with some funding to actively engage the community in the conversation. This initiated a project to talk with landowners and residents across the Snoqualmie Valley about their thoughts on issues surrounding the Fish Farm Flood process. Two KCD staff, the Executive Director of the Snoqualmie Valley Preservation Alliance, and myself are the team conducting these discussions.

We have now spoken to about 50 Snoqualmie Valley landowners and residents and I am amazed by the amount of consensus there is in our community. The large majority of landowners and residents are concerned about predicting and managing flooding and fixing drainage issues on farmland. 

Many exciting and innovative ideas have come from these discussions, such as the idea to create a distributed flood monitoring system that would allow people in the floodplain to upload pictures and other data in real-time, during a flood event. This information would be invaluable to people located downstream where that flood has not yet reached, and it would also create an archive of flood data that would help us understand how floods are changing over time. 

The data we’ve collected through these consultations has helped the farmer representatives feel more comfortable representing local landowners and farmers as they grapple with an agreement, which the Advisory Committee is now drafting. The County’s intention is to have that agreement signed by all Advisory Committee members by the end of May 2016. 

Hannah Cavendish-Palmer

SnoValley Tilth Board President

For more information:

Come to our April Potluck and Presentation if you would like to learn more about this process.

April Potluck Topic: Fish Farm Flood Progress Report

April 11 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Carnation Tree Farm  |  31523 NE 40th  |  Carnation, WA 98014

Learn about the Fish Farm Flood project, its potential outcomes and the structure of the agreement that is coming together.  There will be a discussion and a Q&A session. This first hour is for sharing a potluck meal; the second hour is devoted to our discussion or presentation for the evening.

Visit the county’s Fish Farm Flood website for additional information: King County Fish Farm Flood Website

Farm to Table Dinner Series

During 2014, farm to table dinners will be held in June, July and August. We will post details about these popular, delicious events as they become available.

Farm Fresh Fare

What’s all the buzz about local food? Top of the list, most people agree that fresh, locally grown food tastes better than food shipped thousands of miles. Having nearby healthy and profitable farms helps preserve open space, provides wildlife with habitat, and helps nurture the genetic diversity of the foods we enjoy. In addition, many local farms are staunch supporters of the environment, spending time and money planting stream buffers, changing fertilizer habits to decrease run-off, encouraging the reintroduction of native species and the rebuilding of salmon streams.

An important effect of increasing local food production and consumption is how it strengthens and builds community. Communities large and small are growing new farmers markets and food hubs to meet the burgeoning demand for local food and help community members engage with each other as well their farmers, strengthening ties, building relationships, and fostering a “we’re all in this together” kinship that can weather any calamity.

For almost twenty years, area organic and sustainable farmers and farm supporters have been meeting to support each other and revitalize the local food system. Formalized as a non-profit, Sno-Valley Tilth is dedicated to supporting local, sustainable agriculture.