Last May West End resident Lauren Kerr applied to the Washington Coast Works Competition. She entered to win the money, but she got so much more. Her plan for a business venture called Sol Duc Farms, a place she will grow blueberries, strawberries and raspberries won’t be fruitful until 2020. But the ground and plan she is working on will be solid.
Kerr applied for the latest Washington Coast Works competition. This competition provides entrepreneurs in tribal and rural areas with the chance to turn an idea into a business that will create jobs and economic opportunity. Kerr was notified she was a finalist last June and the first activity was a business “boot camp” held at the Olympic Natural Resources Center in Forks. Kerr believes whether she had won a cash prize or not that this part of the experience was the most valuable.
Contestants learned how to get started, information on taxes, insurance, wrote a business plan and took a real look at what the day to day activities would include as far as how much time would be involved. The coaching part of the contest continues after the competition is over. A business coach will even come out to Kerr’s farm and offer advice after the farm is up and running.
Kerr’s plan for the three-acre U-pick berry gardens will also offer flowers and possibly a bridal shower and wedding venue in the future. Kerr won $5,000 in the competition and the money was used for fencing, not just any fencing but elk-proof fencing. The future farm is located in the Three Rivers area and elk are regular visitors.
To test her market Kerr did a survey on Facebook and found her idea was well received by area residents. She hopes it will also be attractive to tourists. Kerr also shared that she purchased the fencing locally but that nobody had 500 blueberry plants so those were ordered from out of the area.
Kerr said, “Local food is good for the environment, we also hope to offer education on farming techniques and education through classes and field trips.”
“As a kid, I worked on a farm, it’s how I learned to work very hard – it’s good to get dirty,” Kerr said.
Kerr will plant in the fall and let mother nature do the watering. Kerr and other former Washington Coast Works competitors have formed an alliance and look to support each other as their businesses grow.
“The big payoff is not the money, it’s the experience,” Kerr added.
Lauren Kerr was born in NJ but was raised mostly in RI. She Earned her bachelor of Science in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State and move to Astoria to work on an island in the mouth of the Columbia. Once she experienced the Northwest she didn’t want to leave!
She worked for Oregon State University as a Faculty Research Assistant for 5 years, running research crews in the Columbia River in the summers and running the diet analysis lab in Corvallis in the winter.
After that, she took a job at NOAA fisheries doing similar work. After meeting and marrying her spouse, who is a fishing guide here in Forks, she moved to the area and took a job at Olympic National Park working in fisheries conducting snorkel surveys. she was with the park for 5 years, eventually leaving to stay home and raise her the couples two children. Lauren and her husband own two other small businesses (Rain Coast Guide Service – a fly fishing guide service and Forks Outside – Camping business), she teaches at the Co-op Preschool, manages a vacation rental and is president of the Forks Elementary PTO. Sol Duc Farms will be the Kerr’s third business here in the West End.