Farmland since the 1800s
Walla Walla Organics leases Century Farm ground south of Lowden on Barney Road, owned by the Fulgham Family. The ground has been farmed since the late 1800s. In 2015, part of the farm was purchased and they now farm certified organic ground both leased and owned. Another piece of land leased by Walla Walla Organics is within farmland conserved by the PCC Farmland Trust. PCC Farmland Trust is a nonprofit land trust working to secure, preserve, and steward threatened farmland in Washington, ensuring that generations of local farmers productively farm using sustainable and organic growing methods. Walla Walla Sweet Onions grown on the conserved farmland are then sold in the PCC Community Markets in the Seattle area. Dedicated to preserving local farmland and partnering with Northwest producers and ranchers, PCC Community Markets can be found throughout the Puget Sound region.
Walla Walla Organics farm was initially certified organic in 2003 and certification is renewed annually after a thorough inspection by an auditor who visits the farm and reviews farming practices and records. Certification comes from the Washington State Department of Agriculture Organic Program which is accredited as a certification agent by the USDA.
It is a long and expensive process to receive organic certification. The ground has to be farmed organically for three years before it could be certified as organic farm ground. Organic farming practices means fertilizers and pesticides cannot be synthetic and only those allowed specifically by the certifying organization can be used. The McClures maintain the farm's certification by using approved pesticides and fertilizers. The fields are hand-weeded - keeping a lot of the locals at work!
The Walla Walla Organics farm contains both organic and conventional fields. Organically, Walla Walla Sweet Onions, red, and yellow onions are grown for the fresh produce markets. Spinach, kale, pumpkins, and squash are grown for processing into soups, baby food, juices, etc. The farm also grows beans such as red, black, garbanzo, flageolet, lima, and other legumes as a rotational crop. Rotation is needed to bring nutrients into the soil naturally as well as control diseases. Cover crops are used extensively to control weeds and rodents but mostly to contribute nutrients and green matter into the soil.
Conventional crops are alfalfa seed, wheat, safflower and canola. Limited rainfall of 8-10 inches a year requires that all crops and fields be irrigated. Various irrigation systems are used to minimize water use and power costs, and nutrients are given to the plants to maximize plant health and growth.
In 2018, 65 acres of hand-transplanted Walla Walla Sweet, red, and yellow onions will be in production. Another 10 acres of over-winter (fall seeded) Walla Walla Sweet Onions will be the first onion crop to be harvested, in late June.
Currently, there are 210 acres of certified organic farm ground with another 40 acres in transition which will be certified for the 2019 farm crops. The onions are on a 4-year rotation. The goal is to have 60 acres in production every year with rotation crops of spinach, pumpkins, and beans in the other three years.