Cultivating Success is Growing New Farmers

By Kate Halstead, WSU Extension

EVERETT, Wash. – In 2012, when Petrina and Jonathan Fisher of Skylight Farms purchased a 20-acre farm on the banks of the Snohomish River they knew it would take more than hard work to grow their new farm.

As professionals from the non-profit and legal fields, they could apply their collective business acumen to the fledgling business, but realized they needed assistance figuring out the farming part of the enterprise. To meet that need they enrolled in one of the Cultivating Success courses being taught by WSU Snohomish County Extension in Everett.

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Petrina and Jonathan Fisher take a short break duriing a busy September harvest day. Photo by Kate Halstead.

Now, a short two years later they have a thriving farm that feeds customers from Snohomish to Seattle. Eggs from 200 laying hens, melons of all kinds, grass-fed beef, tomatoes, greens, in fact over 80 different kinds of produce are harvested by the Skylight Farms crew during the season.

Jonathan credits part of their success to the farm plan he put together during the Cultivating Success Sustainable Small-Acreage Farming and Ranching course that fall. According to Jonathan, “Both the process and the product were massively valuable. I was able to develop models for different cropping scenarios to help us evaluate the best use of land and resources.” He went on to say that they still use the plan developed during the course, updating the data each season to track the profitability of each of their crops. Using that data they can make educated decisions about items to drop, increase, or add to the next season’s plan.

Cultivating Success Sustainable Small-Acreage Farming and Ranching helps participants explore the unique advantages available to the small farm and ranch owner. Sponsored by WSU Snohomish County Extension and Snohomish Conservation District, the course gives participants a broad overview of production and marketing options for today’s small farm. Whether you are just exploring the opportunities available or already have an existing operation, you’ll learn what it takes to create, sustain, and grow a viable small farm enterprise.

Weekly presentations include local growers, organizations, and university specialists with expertise in direct marketing, value-added processing, production planning, agronomy, livestock production, and more. In addition, two Saturday field trips will visit nearby farms to learn about different styles of successful small farm enterprises.

Course facilitator, Holly Thompson, is a Stanwood Angus beef rancher and WSU graduate in animal science and agriculture economics with an MS in agriculture education. Well-versed in farm economics, sustainable practices, and current market trends, Thompson also facilitates Agricultural Entrepreneurship, the farm business planning course in the series and has worked for Northwest Farm Credit Services as a loan officer.

First in the series, the 12-week course Sustainable Small-Acreage Farming and Ranching will be held on Tuesdays, 6:00pm to 9:00pm starting January 20, 2014 at WSU Snohomish County Extension’s Cougar Auditorium, 600 128th St SE, Everett.

Class size is limited and pre-paid registration is required. Cost for the twelve-week course is $275 per farm or family. Visit to register with your credit card or download the form from and mail with your check. For more information on the course and/or questions on registration, contact Kate Halstead at, (425) 357-6024.


Kate Halstead, WSU Snohomish County Extension, 360-794-6081,