Your name and your farm

Read, Deanna, Dawn, and Jason
Cherry Creek Ranch

Location of your farm

Our farm is West of the community of St John in Western Whitman County, Washington

History of your farm

My grandfather, Edgar W. Smith, was raised on a farm near Pendleton, Oregon. Following graduation from the University of Oregon he entered the insurance business in Portland as a young man and was very successful. He saved his money and during the depression he had some cash and was able to purchase much of the farm that my son, his mother and I are so privilege to enjoy today.

My father, Jackson W. Smith, joined my grandfather following WWII and was actively engaged through the mid '80s. I joined my father in 1973; 4 years after graduating from Washington State and my son, Jeremy joined me following his graduation from Walla Walla in 2000.

Both my grandfather and father before me, used the best available practices to protect our steep and fragile "Palouse" cropland. When I returned to the farm I immediately began experimenting with reduced tillage cropping systems and tried our first direct seeding in 1976. As the years went by, we have used over a dozen different direct seed systems and by the year 1997 we were 100% direct seed with over 20 years of experience at that time. My son, Jeremy has never been involved with a conventional cropping system and knows nothing but the direct seed system. That makes Jeremy a fourth generation farmer on this property and 6th generation Smith farming in the Pacific Northwest.

Why do you think direct seeding is important to the future of agriculture?

As a 38 year leader on my local conservation district board (I also served as President of the Washington Association of CD and the National Association of CD) I was acutely aware of the nearly permanent damage to our productive soils if erosion was not controlled. I often (and even today) observe soil losses in excess of 200 tons per acre in the "Palouse" and after just 4 generations of farming many areas have lost 40% of the once rich and plentiful topsoil. I dedicated my life to refining farming systems that would control these excessive losses and retain the resource that the generations before me had tried so hard to protect.

The soil is the heart and soul of agriculture; without good soil there will be no future in agriculture. Here in the Palouse we have an even tougher challenge with our unique topography and climate. Direct seeding is the key to a sustainable cropping system; nothing else exists that will control water quality, air quality, soil quality, wildlife habitat and contribute to off-site public benefits like a fully integrated direct seed cropping system.

Why are you involved with Shepherd’s Grain?

For 25 years I have farmed with but a single purpose in mind – protect and enhance the resources under our control and try to survive economically. This was not always easy, in fact many early direct seed innovators paid the ultimate price for their efforts; they were not able to survive. A new and challenging system like direct seeding does not come easy. Though the system always protected the resources, there were little or no financial incentives for implementing good stewardship and adopting a direct seed system and ironically few exist even today. Shepherd's Grain is the perfect tool for rewarding good stewardship by separating our production from conventional, commodity agriculture and realizing a premium for the exceptional work that the Shepherd's Grain producers deliver.

Why do you think it is important to develop relationships between the grower and Shepherd’s Grain customers?

From the beginning of agriculture in the Pacific Northwest, we have been moving toward a total disconnect between those of us that produce the food and the consuming public. Generations ago, nearly every family still had a close family member directly or indirectly involved in production agriculture. Today that connection has been lost. We must re-educate the consuming public that has lost their connection to agriculture and their food. Shepherd's Grain is attempting to do this in a number of ways. An educated and informed buyer can then vote for the agriculture they support with their food dollar. In order to support sustainable agriculture you must first know what it is and what products it produces. Developing a relationship with our customers does just that.