EVERSON, Wash. – “When it comes to buffers, there’s not really a one-size-fits-all” says Gavin Willis, Ag Water Board of Whatcom County. On Alluvial Farms, Katie Pencke and Matthew McDermott established a 180 foot buffer at their first-generation hog and hemp farm located on a tributary stream of the Nooksack watershed.
According to Willis, “A buffer is a section of riparian zone plantings in between the creek and activity zone next to it”. Willis also notes that farmland is the most common type of land residing beside streams and rivers in Whatcom County watersheds.
On a livestock operation, Pencke recognizes “There’s always going to be some type of run-off and we need to keep that out of the creek”. In the case of Alluvial Farms, putting in a riparian zone buffer as a filtration system just made sense. In the winter, their pigs are kept indoors and due to the heavy use of that area, Pencke and McDermott determined a filtration system must be present to protect the fish-bearing stream adjacent to their farm.
However, as Willis points out, while farmland serves as a viable location for riparian zone buffers, not all farms require the same large buffers as the one established on Alluvial Farms. According to Willis, specific plant types and buffer widths are a major benefactor for determining the necessary buffer size and type on each given land area. Farmers and/or landowners should work directly with local agencies to create buffers unique to their situations and needs.
For Pencke and McDermott, the buffer is part of their farm’s legacy and in the meantime, it provides an ideal habitat for a variety of wildlife including salmon, insects, birds, and native plants. Like all farmers of Whatcom County, they are eager to establish a future for agriculture through their work in restoring the ecosystem and creating a connection between consumers and their food. Learn more about their story at alluvialfarms.com/#
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