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.
Seats are filling fast for American
Farmland Trust’s April 26 conference on planning for agriculture in the Puget
Sound region. The American Planning
Association, Forterra and the Cascade Harvest Coalition have signed on as
cosponsors, and speakers from Pennsylvania, Vermont and
California have been confirmed. Readers who are interested should register soon.
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
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.
Farmland Trust staff in the Pacific Northwest are preparing for a conference on
planning for agricultural in the Puget Sound region that will be held in late
April. “Our aim is to get local planners and officials up to speed on what they
can do to protect farms, farmers, and local food,” said Ele Watts, lead staff
on the project. The team is now identifying speakers who can both inform and
inspire on the topic. Call or write the
office (206-860-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have ideas.
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.
All 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
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.
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.
Pacific Northwest Office
Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest States Director
1335 N. Northlake Way, Ste. 101