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Losing Ground: Farmland Protection in the Puget Sound Region

Snapshot of Washington Agriculture

Farming on the Edge: Washington Farmland in the Path of Development

Integrated Pest Management for Farmers on the Urban Edge

Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements


The Apple as Planet Earth Presentation
The Apple As Planet Earth

Do you know how much of the earth is suitable for farming? Watch the video and learn why protecting our farmland is so important.

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What's New


No Farms No Food Speaker Series


The No Farms No Food Speaker Series seems to have hit its stride, regularly drawing 40 or 50 people to presentations from the region’s leading thinkers on food and farm topics.  Lucy Norris of the Puget Sound Food Hub spoke to a packed house about food hubs as a critical link in the supply chain between farmers and consumers in July.  Next up: Slow Money NW leader Tim Crosby talking about their role in investing in new food businesses on September 10.  “We’ve got a great crop of speakers on deck this fall, including Sarita and Ethan Schaffer of Viva Farms and a session on farming issues in the upcoming state legislative session” said series organizer Kate Delavan.  Contact Kate at kdelavan@farmland.org for details and to RSVP.

Pierce County Farmland Zoning


AFT worked with an alliance of Pierce County farm organizations on a proposal to the County Executive and Council add 11,000 acres of farmland to the county’s agricultural zone in their comprehensive plan update.  This would bring the total farmland in ag zoning to 35,000 acres.  A competing proposal would reduce ag zoning to just 12,000 acres and leave many active farms vulnerable to development.  According to project lead Robin Fay, “There’s a lot riding on zoning decisions this year.  We’re hoping that the Executive and Council demonstrate their support for Pierce County farmers by including the majority of the county’s active farms in agricultural zoning.”


2015 State Legislature


Urban sprawlThe Pacific Northwest staff are gearing up for the 2015 legislative session that begins in January.  Priorities will include an additional increase in state funding for farmland protection, consideration of a statewide farmland mitigation policy, and possibly a package of incentives for young and beginning farmers and ranchers.  “We’ll be making the rounds of farmers and farm organizations in the next two months to fine-tune a group of proposals for the session,” said PNW director Dennis Canty.  


Improving Planning and Zoning in Kitsap County

Farmland ForeverAmerican Farmland Trust is helping Kitsap County improve its planning and zoning code related to farming. "Like many counties around Puget Sound, Kitsap is trying to support the farm industry by making it easier to build processing facilities, increase agritourism and simplify permitting requirements for farmers," said Pacific Northwest staffer Robin Fay. American Farmland Trust's assistance is part of an effort to improve farm planning and zoning in all 12 counties around Puget Sound, a vital element of American Farmland Trust's Farmland Forever Campaign.


Pierce County, Washington, Planning

Pierce CountyAmerican Farmland Trust and the Pierce County Agricultural Roundtable hosted workshops on land use planning and incentives to promote agriculture in Pierce County, Washington, in November and December as part of an intensive technical assistance program aimed at improving the county's planning and zoning for is once thriving, now rebuilding, agricultural industry. American Farmland Trust is working with counties around Puget Sound to adapt their comprehensive plans to support farms and farmers as part of the Farmland Forever campaign. "Counties are where the action is on protecting farms and supporting farm businesses," said Robin Fay, American Farmland Trust project manager, "We're excited to work with the Pierce County Executive and Council on ways to build a better future for the county's farmers." 


Conservation Incentives for Pacific Northwest Farmers

Skagit Valley, Washington blueberry farm in fallAmerican Farmland Trust has been working for the last year on ways to increase the effectiveness of conservation incentives to meet water quality and habitat goals. In several pilot watersheds, American Farmland Trust staff has developed GIS-based tools to identify promising places in farm landscapes to invest in habitat and water quality projects, worked with other agencies and organizations to leverage funding in these areas and helped farmers access the funding programs. The result has been the restoration of more than 5 miles of rivers and streams. This fall, American Farmland Trust began work with The Nature Conservancy and other partners to scale up these efforts to the Puget Sound as a whole. "As long as they are treated fairly, farmers and ranchers tend to be very supportive of habitat and water quality projects on their land,” said Dennis Canty, American Farmland Trust’s Pacific Northwest director.

Coming Soon: Webinars on Planning and Zoning for Agriculture

Farmers-market-spread.pngFollowing up on American Farmland Trust’s successful Planning for Agriculture conference in Seattle in April, the Pacific Northwest staff are hosting a series of webinars on planning and zoning for agriculture in the Northwest. The webinars, which are scheduled to start in October, will address topics such as how to construct an effective zoning ordinance and how to accommodate agritourism in rural areas. "Every eight years, counties around Washington update their comprehensive plans," says Robin Fay, project manager in the Pacific Northwest office, "This is a great opportunity to improve county policies and programs for farms, farmers and farmland."

Technical Assistance on Farmland Planning and Zoning in the Puget Sound

Farmland on waterAmerican Farmland Trust kicked off our program to help cities and counties in Washington’s Puget Sound enact land use plans and zoning to protect farmland. We anticipate providing workshops, publications, and one-on-one assistance to planners and public officials beginning this summer. The effort follows on the very successful conference hosted by AFT in April on this topic. Robin Fay and Joe Basile are leading the project in the Pacific Northwest office.

Farmland Protection Funding Victory in Washington State

Washington State capitolThe State Legislature’s approval over the weekend of a budget that includes $65 million for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) is a big victory for the state’s family farms, according to American Farmland Trust.  Farmland projects will receive $5.3 million from the WWRP, a major boost from the $700,000 approved in 2011.

Find out more about this win for farmland protection.


Planning for Agriculture Conference Sparks Collaboration in Puget Sound

lavender fields in Washington stateFollowing up on the Planning for Agriculture in the Puget Sound conference, American Farmland Trust has started a planners work group to help people working on updating county policies and plans for farming. Under Washington's Growth Management Act, counties are required to update their comprehensive plans every five years, and the next update will happen in 2014-15. "This is a great opportunity to upgrade agricultural zoning and revise polices that have a big impact on farming," said Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest Director for American Farmland Trust. "Several counties already do a great job with planning for agriculture. We'd like to bring all twelve up to their standard." A series of workshops and publications is sheduled for this summer and fall. To find out more information or to participate in the work group, contact Dennis at dcanty@farmland.org.

Planning for Agriculture in the Puget Sound Region Conference

Puget Sound farm and farmlandA group of national and regional experts gathered in Seattle on April 26 to discuss how to save family farms and local food around Puget Sound. The conference featured presentations on what local governments and citizen groups can do to support local farms and food, including land use planning, supporting local food markets, and transferring development rights from farm areas into cities. “We’re at a crossroads on local farms and food,” said AFT Pacific Northwest Director Dennis Canty, “We can save our local food supply, but only if we work together to protect our farmland and support our local farmers.” The conference was part of AFT’s Farmland Forever campaign that aims to protect another 100,000 acres of farmland through land use planning and purchases of development rights by 2018.

Learn more about the discussion topics and download presentations.


Big Re-zoning of Farmland in Pierce County, Washington

Onion-plants-in-Washington-State.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust and a group of local conservation and farmland organizations have banded together to fight the re-zoning of more than 11,500 acres of farmland in Pierce County, Washington. The county has very stringent criteria for designating farmland in its Agricultural Resource Land (ARL) zone and now contends that half of the land mapped in this zone doesn’t meet the criteria. “If the land is dropped from the ARL zone, it will be far more vulnerable to suburban development,” said Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest director for American Farmland Trust. “This must be stopped now.” American Farmland Trust is requesting a two-year delay while a study can be done of the appropriate zoning for all of the county’s 45,000 acres of farmland.

Supporting an Increase in Washington State Farmland Funding

Blueberry bushes Skagit ValleyOn February 13, American Farmland Trust organized a group of farmers and farmland advocates to lobby the Washington legislature for an increase in funding for farmland conservation easements.  We met with more than 60 legislators to encourage them to support an increase of $7.7 million in the farmland account. The funding would be used for 22 projects that would collectively protect more than 7,300 acres of farmland.  While it will be another tough budget year, there is widespread support for farms and farmers in the legislature that we hope to use to secure the additional funding. 

Western Washington Foodshed Study Releasedfarmer-holding-tomatoes in sunlight.jpg

The Northwest office released the Western Washington Foodshed Study in mid-December, followed by several media interviews and two presentations to the Regional Food Policy Council.  The study is the final result of a two-quarter graduate school course at the University of Washington and considerable work by a 12-member advisory committee.  The study concludes that farmers in the region are currently producing about one-quarter of what is eaten here, but a variety of actions at the farmer, processor, retail, and consumer level could bring the total up above half.

Advocating for Farmland Forever in the Pacific Northwest

Farm fields in eastern Washington stateAll farmers and ranchers know preparing for the year ahead starts with looking back at the bright spots and challenges from the seasons before. At AFT, we’re proud that in 2012 we rallied farmers and citizens alike to advocate on behalf of protecting farm and ranch land. Our innovative projects helped family farmers pioneer sound farming practices, which help to preserve our land and water resources. We also laid the groundwork to keep farmers on the land by providing tools and resources that allow them to thrive.

We’re sharing accomplishments and inspiration from 2012 in the words of our expert staff.

We have a really significant problem with farmland loss here in the Puget Sound region. We’ve lost about 60 percent of our farmland here since 1950, and of course this is near and dear to our mission as an organization. One of the things I’ve been interested in doing since I got here is to try to develop a strong campaign for farmland preservation in the Puget Sound region, particularly where the rates of loss have been high….We hope that this Farmland Forever campaign is going to result in the protection of more than 100,000 acres of additional farmland here in the region.

Read more from Pacific Northwest Director Dennis Canty

Project Update

Wheat field at sunriseKlickitat Report Highlights Progress in Community Farmland Protection Planning in Washington

After a year of work, several Washington Counties are one step closer to developing plans for the encouragement of local farms and ranches and the preservation of agricultural lands. Last January, our State’s new Office of Farmland Preservation announced eight grants to counties to help them begin creating farmland preservation programs.  Klickitat County, among others, received $25,000 for various projects. Now, the Office of Farmland Preservation is assembling the product of these efforts and is expected to make them public over the coming months – including our new report for the county, Keeping Farmland Available for Klickitat County Agriculture.

River and Green FieldsEcosystem Markets for Farms Could Flourish in Washington

“No Farms No Food” is a message understood by nearly everyone, but farms provide more than just the food that sustains us. They also safeguard our natural resources. A recent feasibility study [PDF] by American Farmland Trust found that Washington farm and forest lands provide carbon sequestration, protect water quality and safeguard other environmental resources. The study suggests that ecosystem markets for agriculture could become a Washington reality in the next few years. These markets would encourage farmers to adopt the best conservation practices—and reward them financially for their stewardship. Given the positive results, Washington legislation charged the Washington State Conservation Commission to develop two conservation market pilot projects by December 2009. 

More Project Updates

Focus on Washington

Jesus Limon at his fruit OrchardWashington Growers Go Natural Thanks to Spanish Language Education

On the outskirts of Wenatchee, a city in he heart of central Washington where golden hills surround endless miles of fruit orchards, a large apple-shaped sign reads, "Apple Capital of the World." In a region that ships over 100 million boxes of apples a year around the nation and the world, education has been the key to helping growers—especially the valley’s many Latino orchard employees and managers—reduce their use of pesticides. Grower Jesus Limón, who worked his way up the ranks at a fruit company in order to purchase his own Wenatchee Valley orchard, participated in an American Farmland Trust-supported and EPA-funded program that teaches growers in Spanish about integrated pest management. "You get hooked on it," Limon says about the natural techniques for identifying and eliminating orchard pests.

Washington Farmer Jay GordonWashington Farmer Featured in The Farmland Report

Our blog, The Farmland Report, ran a feature on Washington farmer Jay Gordon. Gordon uses his farmland as a protected habitat for endangered trumpeter swans. Gordon has also been profiled in our Farm and Food Voices section for his groundbreaking work for ecosystem markets in the region.

More Focus on Washington

Contact Us

Pacific Northwest Office
Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest States Director
1335 N. Northlake Way, Ste. 101
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 860-4222

American Farmland Trust