Thurston County WSU Extension
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Agriculture and Working Lands

Cultivating Success: Sustainable Small-Acreage Farming and Ranching Course

The course gives students a broad overview of production and marketing options found in the South Sound region, and provides them with the resources and experiences to create a well-informed, ready for implementation farm-plan.  These lessons will be facilitated by successful local producers and agricultural specialists with expertise in production planning, direct-marketing, value-added processing, and more. 

Tuesdays, 6:00pm - 9:00pm, Sept. 17 - Dec. 3, 2013 in Olympia, WA

Class size is limited and pre-paid registration is required. Cost for the 12-week course is $275 for 2 persons representing an agricultural enterprise or household. Visit to register with your credit card. LEARN MORE.

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WSU Extension Thurston County provides research-based information and educational programs to farmers, consumers, decision-makers, and others involved in the South Sound food system. Lucas Patzek is the Agriculture Extension Faculty for Thurston County. The area is also served by Don Tapio, Agriculture and Community Horticulture Agent, as well as Gary Fredricks, Small Farms, Livestock and Dairy Area Agent.


Thurston County’s farmland is rapidly disappearing.  Between 2002 and 2007, the acreage of actively farmed land has dropped nearly in half - from 74,420 acres to 38,718 acres.  Since the mid 1950s, when Thurston County was primarily farmland, the County has lost over 75 percent of its working agricultural lands. 

Though the land area dedicated to agricultural activities has been steadily eroding, agricultural production it is still of significant importance to the County’s economy.  The total market value of agricultural production in Thurston County is about $118 million from 1,288 farms, with crops accounting for approximately 42% of the total and livestock and poultry the remaining 58% (U.S. Census of Agriculture).  These figures are greater than that of all adjacent counties.  Farming activity is varied, ranging from berry farming, egg farms, organic produce, and tree farming.  Much of the economic viability of farming is tied to access to local markets, including the six farmers markets operating in the County: Olympia Farmers Market, West Olympia Farmers MarketTumwater Farmers MarketLacey Community Market, Tenino Farmers Market, and Yelm Farmers Market. Direct-to-institution relationships are also increasing in importance, including sales to schools and hospitals. The County is centrally-situated between the Seattle-Tacoma and Portland metropolitan areas, two large markets experiencing a resurgence of interest in local foods. The South of the Sound Community Land Trust maintains a Thurston County Farm Map which lists many local farms engaging in direct-market sales.

In the News

Silage corn trials test suitability of Western Washington, Capital Press, June 2013.

Cider apples right at home in Western Washington, Capital Press, April 2013.

Native berries hold value as alternative crops, Capital Press, March 2013.

Anaerobic digester operators describe benefits, challenges, Capital Press, March 2013.

Grist for the mill, Edible Portland, March 2013.

Wheat, grains could return to South Sound, The Olympian,  February 2013.

Demand grows for heirloom grains, Capital Press, January 2013.

Grants will aid Thurston's local food economy, The Olympian, January 2013.

Agriculture Statistics

(2011) Washington Annual Agriculture Bulletin, Washington Field Office, USDA/National Agricultural Statistics Service.

(2010) Washington Annual Agriculture Bulletin, Washington Field Office, USDA/National Agricultural Statistics Service.

(2009) Thurston County Farmland Inventory, Jeff Fisher and Lea Mitchell, South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust.

Food and Farming Reports

(2012) Report on Washington’s Food System: Response to Executive Order 10-02, Inter-Agency Working group, Washington State. 

(2012) Losing Ground: Farmland Protection in the Puget Sound Region, Dennis Canty, Alex Martinsons, and Anshika Kumar, American Farmland Trust.

(2012) A Comprehensive Valuation of Agriculture Lands: A Perpetual Investment in Oregon's Economy and Environment with Washington County Case Study, Brent Searle, Oregon Department of Agriculture. (Note: relevant to western Washington counties).

(2011) Building a Future with Farmers: Challenges Faced by Young, American Farmers and a National Strategy to Help Them Succeed, Lindsey Lusher Shute, National Young Farmers’ Coalition, NY. (Note: relevant to western Washington counties).

(2010) Access to Healthy Foods in Washington, Access to Healthy Foods Coalition.







Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Extension office.  All programs comply with federal, state, and county regulations.



WSU Extension, Thurston County, 5033 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia WA 98502, 360-867-2151, Non-Discrimination, Contact Us