Farming Into The Future: Water Conservation at Coldstream Farms

Coldstream Farms began in 1978 when Jeff Rainey bought a piece of property along the South Fork of the Nooksack River and in the early 2000’s, Galen Smith married into the Coldstream family and took over day to day management of the business. In its forty years of operation, this family owned and operated dairy farm has gone through numerous changes, yet one thing that hasn’t is their commitment to the South Fork Valley community. Whether it’s leasing land from neighbors to grow crops for feed, partnering with other farmers who raise Coldstream’s heifers just down the road, or selling their dried manure as compost to local farms for natural fertilizer, Coldstream makes every effort to uphold the integrity and way of life within the Valley.

Coldstream leases seven properties from Whatcom Land Trust, mainly for hay production. Since 2015, the dairy has leased our Saxon Road Farm property to grow silage and graze cows. An unnamed tributary of the South Fork runs through the 54-acre property and while the field is farmed regularly, the stream is protected for Coho salmon habitat; an excellent example of farms and fish coexisting together. This partnership allows Galen to run a successful business with happily grazing cow and Whatcom Land Trust to protect and preserve
farmable land in the South Fork Valley.

Coldstream Farms manure drying system

Ever mindful of increasing the farm’s sustainability, in 2012 the farm underwent a major renovation and expansion to accommodate future growth. With a current population of around 1,500 cows, facility improvements have now grown its potential to expand upwards of 2,200 cows. “By focusing on recycling, automation, creating zero waste and reducing our impact on the environment, we are able to maintain a thriving business model and grow to meet market demand,” says Galen Smith. By investing in such technologies as a more efficient enclosed feed facility, an automated rotary milking parlor, manure drying system, and heat exchanger, Coldstream is a great model to show how it is possible to be a successful business and a
responsible steward of the environment.

In June 2018 Coldstream Farms earned an opportunity to up it’s ante. In partnership with Regenis, a Whatcom County based agricultural waste solutions company, Coldstream was awarded a $930,305 grant from the Washington State Conservation Commission (WSCC) to evaluate innovative membrane technology which will turn manure into non-toxic products for re-use on the farm or to be sold to other markets. Nothing in the process will be wasted or discarded. The clean water membrane technology system will use reverse osmosis and nanofiltration to separate cow manure into chemical free fertilizer and clean, dischargeable water. This water will be utilized for drinking water for the cows, watering crops, and more. Public Utility District #1 and State Department of Ecology staff are working on a permitting process that could potentially deliver the new clean water to the South Fork Nooksack.

For both Coldstream Farms, and Whatcom Land Trust, a main aim of protecting agriculture in Whatcom County is to keep things local. This technology will allow the dairy to not only reduce their waste, create a benefit for the South Fork Nooksack and its watershed, and continue to support other South Fork Valley farmers, but also help maintain the natural systems which support our cherished farms, people and wildlife.

“The Land Trust has always been more than willing to sit down and say ‘Here is what we are thinking, do you have any thoughts?’”
Galen Smith, Coldstream Farms

Getting Onto Land
Creative Partnership Expanding Local Farm Business

Earlier this year Whatcom Land Trust provided Katie Pencke and Matthew McDermott, owners of Alluvial Farms, with a final piece of gap financing to purchase 48-acres on Goodwin Road in Everson to scale up their growing pasture-raised pork business. Whatcom Land Trust’s unique financing tool may offer other Whatcom County farm entrepreneurs the chance to strengthen and expand their local farm business using conservation easements to protect ag land, watershed health and wildlife habitat.
Read more about Alluvial Farms’

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