Kari Parks started Flourish Organic Farms in 2017 as a jump into agriculture on her five-acre property located west of Interstate 5 near Arlington.
“We had this land. Why not try to utilize this for farming,” said Parks, who is growing and selling flowers from her home where she grew up.
Parks is one of a growing number of people in the area who are jumping into agriculture. During the summer, Parks sold her flowers at the Arlington Farmers Market, which featured several new farms as vendors last year.
Last year the market featured nine new and upcoming farms in addition to a couple of well-established, multi-generational farms, said Michael Deitering, owner of Chubby Bunny Farm in Arlington. He also helped organize the Arlington Farmers Market. The market last year had nine new and upcoming farms; the prior year had five.
“It seems like farming in the area is going through a bit of revitalization,” Deitering said. He added it appears the majority of new farms are under 10 acres in size. Chubby Bunny Farms has less than 10 acres and grows veggies and raises pigs, rabbits, ducks and eggs.
The farmers market had a successful season last year, which was extended and special event markets took place during Halloween and holiday seasons.
He added that people are going into farming as a second career. One local farmer is also a firefighter.
The number of farms county-wide has increased in recent years. In 2017, there were 1,558 farms in Snohomish County, which is an 8 percent increase from 2012, according to a 2017 Census of Agriculture produced by the United States Department of Agriculture. Of that number, 46 percent of farms are less than 10 acres in size and 40 percent are between 10 acres and 49 acres.
“We’ve had a kind of resurgence in the homestead movement,” said Bobbi Lindemulder, agriculture program director for the Snohomish Conservation District, which works with farmers to develop farm plans and protect natural resources.
Snohomish County WSU Extension offers an agriculture entrepreneurship program that helps potential farmers develop a business plan to further improve their farms. Around 30 farms participate in the class and around 400 to 600 people over the years have benefited from the classes, said Kate Ryan, agriculture program coordinator for WSU Snohomish County Extension. The most recent class, which started earlier in January, is full. Extension also provides a sustainable small acreage and farming class in the fall that gives participants an overview of the operations of a small farm.
She also said there are more options for people to explore farming, such as an incubator farm where people lease a small piece of land and share equipment.
“There are a number of people doing okay with less than 5 acres,” Ryan said. Such farms sell directly to the consumer using such programs as community supported agriculture where consumers buy a subscription for a weekly share of food.
“We see a lot of young farmers who want to make an impact,” Lindemulder said.
She also urged caution for anyone considering a jump into agriculture. She encouraged people to keep their day job, start small if they don’t have the skills and develop a customer base.
“People need to go into it realizing the amount of work involved,” Lindemulder said.
Parks continues to develop her farm. Thanks to grant funding, she is installing a high tunnel greehshouse. She is also attending workshops and working with other farmers to find venues to sell her flowers.
“It takes me back to wanting to cultivate our land,” Parks said of wanting to farm. “Flowers bring so much joy.”