Regenerative farm planned for site

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Owners of a Point Roberts property that has drawn county scrutiny for extensive land disturbance say they are working to build a farm.

“It will all be regenerative farming combining horticulture and livestock,” said principal property owner Stephen Brisbane, a self-described devotee of Virginia farmer and author Joel Salatin. “The practices we use will not just be sustainable but will regenerate the soil over the years.”

Brisbane said he is getting guidance on the market garden component of the farm from George Wright, one of the founders of the Point Roberts Homegrown Food Cooperative on Benson Road and the farm and garden component of the Cottages at Seabright Farms. It will mirror Wright’s earlier projects but on a larger scale, and grow vegetables and fruits to serve the local market and summertime visitors to Point Roberts.

“My expertise is more to do with livestock,” Brisbane said. The owner of a farm in Thurston County, he said he is currently working on a cooperative venture with another Washington farm to develop innovative infrastructure for small farms, including a mobile harvest unit that will allow animals to be butchered on site under USDA inspection. “That will make it possible to market across the line and out of state,” he said. He plans to raise poultry, pork, goats and cattle on the site. He is also working on supply stream solutions to get quality feed for small livestock operators, including his proposed Point Roberts farm.

Brisbane said the land being improved for farming is 33 acres zoned R5, under which farming is a permitted use, but a small parcel on Gulf Road in the Small Town Commercial zone will be developed as a commercial building with residential units on the second floor. He said the commercial space “would have an agricultural focus,” seeing a need for a feed store on the Point as well as veterinary services.

“We’re excited about this,” Brisbane said. “The Point needs to go back to growing its own food and we hope we will be able to create jobs, too.”

Following a February citizen complaint, Whatcom County Planning and Development Services have been in contact with Brisbane for unpermitted road work on the property. Whatcom County has issued notices of violation on two parcels and given Brisbane until May 7 to apply for necessary permits.

“We made a good faith effort to interpret the codes and it was our understanding the work we had done did not require a permit,” Brisbane said. “We are in dialogue and working together.”

The remainder of 2021 is likely to be devoted to building roads, fences, greenhouses, barns and other infrastructure, Brisbane said. “Optimistically, I’d like to have animals on the Point by the fall but we will most likely be starting in the spring of 2022.”

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