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Planting the Seeds: Executive Summary

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Executive Summary

Planting the Seeds: Moving to More Local Food in Western Washington summarizes findings of the Western Washington Foodshed Study, a project conducted by American Farmland Trust and the University of Washington. The report examines why eating locally matters and compares the effectiveness of several options for moving to a more local food supply.

  • Woman at farmers marketEating local is not just about eating delicious and healthy fresh food. Local food production also supports thousands of jobs that are essential to our rural economy. Population centers such as Lynden, Mount Vernon, Carnation, and Enumclaw would disappear without the farm communities around them.  A functioning local food system is vital to our rural communities.
  • Productive local farmland is also a barrier to urban sprawl, which is not only damaging to the environment but is very expensive to serve with utilities and schools. Local food requires local farmland and local farmland contributes greatly to salmon recovery, the health of Puget Sound, and efficient growth strategies.
  • Much more can be done to protect local farmland or increase local food production than has happened in the past. Poor land use planning and anemic land protection programs have left much of our farm landscape at extreme risk, and we have lost 60 percent of it since 1950. Many of these shortcomings still exist, as we discovered in our look at farmland protection policies and programs in the Puget Sound region.
  • Washington has enough left to rebuild a local food supply in which local consumers are fed by local producers to a much greater extent. With foresight and better tools, we can work together to rebuild a local food supply that provides profitability and certainty to farmers and dependability for consumers.
  • The current benchmark for the amount of food consumed in western Washington that is from local producers is around 25 percent. The rest comes largely from points south for produce, the Midwest for corn- and wheat-based foods like cereals, and increasingly from overseas.
  • The Pacific Northwest has more options to increase local food production than many parts of the country or the world. The region has lots of agricultural land, a variety of microclimates that are good for food production, and a fairly long growing season. The west side also has quite a bit of water, a huge advantage in a time of protracted droughts elsewhere in the U.S.

If these strategies are accomplished at reasonable levels – reconnecting local supply chains, bringing additional land into production, and making reasonable shifts in diet and food waste – western Washington can get to the point where more than 60 percent of food is grown locally. This would be a good thing in many ways – in supporting the economic viability of farmers and rural communities, in staving off urban sprawl, and in protecting the Puget Sound environment. Last but not least, the region could depend on a supply of delicious and healthy local food well into the future.

American Farmland Trust