Farms and fish in the Snoqualmie Valley
The lower Snoqualmie Valley is home to both highly productive farmlands and prime habitat for salmon for spawning. More than ever, King County residents are looking to local farms, including those in the Snoqualmie Agricultural Production District, to supply fresh food to their tables. At the same time, Chinook salmon populations are less than ten percent of their historic levels. Although at times tension exists between farmers and conservationists, many groups are finding creative, collaborative solutions to support farms and fish. The Snoqualmie Tribe and Cherry Valley Dairy demonstrated this beautifully through their work to restore Rasmussen Creek.
The Snoqualmie Valley used to be almost exclusively dairy farms. Today, there are only a few dairies left in the Valley. Cherry Valley Dairy in Duvall has been around for 80 years and was purchased in 2005 by Gretchen Garth who owns 21 Acres. Gretchen says her goal is to have “a smaller operation with a focus on keeping a healthy, meadow-grazing herd, crafting traditional, natural dairy products, and employing innovative, environmentally-friendly principles to manage the historic farmstead.” All of the dairy’s milk goes to make artisanal cheese sold at local venues.
Earlier this year, the Snoqualmie Tribe teamed up with Cherry Valley Dairy to make some major improvements to Rasmussen Creek near the farm. Funded by a grant from the Puget Sound Partnership, they recently removed a series of rock dams to allow migration of Coho salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout upstream. Cherry Valley is also working with King Conservation District on a farm plan for the dairy which includes fencing for the newly created riparian buffer. The project complements other farm and fish projects being implemented nearby by other partners including the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wild Fish Conservancy, Sound Salmon Solutions, and Stewardship Partners. This fall, the Greenway Trust helped the Tribe replant 2,000 feet of riverbank by providing staff time, volunteers, and native plants to create a healthy riparian buffer for fish. This collaborative project is a great example of what’s possible when people work together.