With the average age of farmers edging closer to 60, the majority of farmland in the Northwest will change ownership in the next ten years. Research suggests that there are not enough young and beginning farmers to take over. In response, AFT’s Pacific Northwest staff are doing research on steps that states can take to help new farmers find land, secure credit, and develop markets in hopes of having a strong proposal for consideration in the upcoming Washington legislative session. According to Kate Delavan, project lead at AFT, “The best way to keep this land in farming is to make sure that we are successful at recruiting, training, and supporting new farmers."
Incentives like grants and tax relief can be a great way to encourage farmers to take steps on their land to improve water quality and habitat. This year, the Pacific Northwest staff of AFT will be working on ways to get more conservation bang with each incentive buck. Using a grant from the Washington Department of Ecology, AFT staff will identify key stream reaches for conservation work, conduct an intensive outreach program to ensure that every farmer in the area is aware of the availability of incentives, combine other funding sources to provide as much assistance as possible, and help farmers install and maintain riparian buffers, livestock fencing, and other conservation measures. “We think that this very intensive approach to incentives will get the attention of farmers and encourage most in the target areas to participate,” said PNW Director Dennis Canty. The project will be conducted in the upper Green River watershed in King County.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for details and to RSVP.
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.”
The 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.
the biggest challenges in the local food movement is providing fresh
food to poorer communities that lack the access to farmers markets and
groceries found in more affluent neighborhoods. American Farmland Trust
intern Ashley Sonoff is rounding up case studies of enterprises across
the United States that are delivering fresh local food to poorer
communities at an affordable
price. “One of the most innovative models is the mobile farmers market,”
Sonoff. “An entire market can be set up anywhere you can get a bus or
truck." This is a
continuation of American Farmland Trust’s work in the Pacific Northwest
on local food issues that began with the Western
Washington Foodshed Study in 2012. Research results are expected to be published this fall.
American Farmland Trust in February, unveiled a new
farmland protection in the Puget Sound region of western Washington. The
site explains some of the most effective tools for protecting farmland
easements and zoning and includes links to briefing materials, studies
ordinances developed by agencies and organizations in the Northwest.
"We're excited to get this information out to planners, elected
officials, and advocates in the region and look forward to suggestions
the current content and useful additions," said site developer Joe
of the American Farmland Trust Northwest office. The website is part of
Farmland Trust's ongoing Farmland Forever campaign that seeks to protect
additional 100,000 acres of farmland in the Puget Sound region by 2018.
A 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.
Northwest office released the Western Washington Foodshed Study in December 2013, 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.
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.
“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.
Focus on Washington
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.
Pacific Northwest Office
Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest States Director
1335 N. Northlake Way, Ste. 101