Larry and Sarah Bailey’s Story
About 36 years ago, Sarah and I met in agriculture classes at Washington State University. We learned about conventional agriculture and met many students preparing to take over the family farms and orchards. Not having a family farm to return to, and not having the resources to farm on our own, we contented ourselves with gardening when our living situation allowed. In 2010, after all of our children were out on their own, and we rented a house with 1.5 acres of pasture, we began to follow our dreams. For 2 years, we raised meat chickens and lamb on the acre of pasture, and in the 2nd year, added pastured egg layers. With our hands-on experience, we could see the value of raising our animals organically. Soil samples showed an increase in minerals and micronutrients, our animals thrived without any medications or hormones, and we became healthier as we ate what we grew organically. With so many unhealthy people in our society today, we see a great need to provide healthy, clean, organic food. Sure, it’s expensive to buy organic, but good health is priceless and we want to give our customers opportunities to live healthy lives.
We recently purchased a house on 10 acres of prime farmland and are excited about the opportunity to expand our operation. Currently, we have our laying hens with us and will expand back into the pastured broilers and lambs as our finances allow for fencing and animal purchasing. Until then, we are concentrating on our layers and would like to increase our numbers since we have land for them to range on. Something that we have realized is that, while many people may not be able, or may choose not to purchase organic chicken and lamb, organic eggs are often within their budgets. We have found eggs to be a good item to introduce people to organic foods. They are affordable and are part of most people’s menus.
While we can handle an increase in the number of hens with very little extra effort in feeding, watering, and moving fencing and structures, the biggest hurdle to increasing production is egg cleaning. Our grant request is for a Gibson non-immersion egg washer ($1990.00), which would allow us to expand our pastured egg operation and, at the same time, comply with Washington State Department of Agriculture egg regulations for selling off-farm.
Since we direct-market our products within the local community, any expansion of our offerings will benefit the surrounding community by making healthy, organic products available for greater numbers of consumers.
There are many opportunities for education. Even on our one acre, we had families ask if they could bring their children out to tour and see our animals and operations.
There are some vibrant Future Farmers of America groups at area high schools. Our farm will give students a look at a small, community, organic operation – and also, a chance to intern and learn from a hands-on approach. They will see sustainable, organic farming as an economically viable option for their futures.
On a broader scope, as people see thriving farms in their community and become customers, they see first-hand how land use policies affect the diversity and self-sufficiency of their community.
Additionally, since we believe that investment in healthy eating is an investment in long-term health, we donate a portion of our egg production to our local food bank. We hope that, for those living under great financial stress, such as many food bank clients, healthy organic food will be a step along a better path for them.