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June Food & Farms in the News


The map above is just one example of Vox’s “40 Maps that explain Food in America“.  Some are more related to agriculture than others; all are fascinating.

We’d been waiting to see what happened when Wal-Mart introduced organics into 2,000 more stores, at discount prices.  Turns out it’s not looking good so far:  “Critics worry the Arkansas-based retailer will “Wal-Mart” organic food, pushing farms to relocate to unregulated regions abroad while undermining organic standards at home.”

Is the farmland boom over?  Modern Farmer takes a look.

We know all about the connections between neonicotinoid pesticides used in industrial agriculture and bee deaths, but it turns out there’s a similar connection between the same pesticides and the decline of butterflies.

Speaking of bees, a slightly hopeful ray of light comes from our own Sea-Tac Airport, where beekeepers are trying to breed colonies of more resistant, hearty bees.  Also recommended: click through to the YouTube video illustrating the bees’ “waggle dance”.

In The Making Of Megafarms, A Mixture Of Pride And Pain, NPR’s Salt Blogs offers a brief examination of one region in Kansas, and the forces that make for farmers running megafarms via computer from a suburban development 3 hours away.  Meanwhile, the communities actually adjacent to the farms are boarded up at a pace that shows no sign of slowing.

The federal government has awarded a $750,000 grant to Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman to investigate the merits of organic farming in eradicating pests without the use of chemicals.

A good general overview from the Los Angeles Times about young people taking up organic farming.

Are you a self-identified “foodie“?  Mark Bittman challenges us to re-think the word, and hopes that “more conscious foodies understand that producing food has an effect beyond creating an opportunity for pleasure…It’s rewarding to find the best pork bun; it’s even more rewarding to fight for a good food system at the same time.”

And finally, “Stop Romanticizing Farming,” a somewhat controversial piece about whether that romanticization is helpful or harmful, as “the craze for rustic, weather-beaten barns, long farm tables and the other aesthetic trappings of traditionally conceptualized farm life has reached a fever pitch.”


Board Spotlight: Rick Vanderknyff


Meet our new Board President, Rick Vanderknyff.  Rick has been on the PCC Farmland Trust Board since 2008, and has served as chairperson of the strategic planning and board development committees.

Please tell us about yourself.
I am a journalist by training, and worked as a writer and editor in daily newspapers for 15 years, primarily the L.A. Times, before moving to online media. I work for Microsoft now, as a senior content publisher. I’ve been in the Northwest for a decade, and I live with my wife and two teenage sons in unincorporated Woodinville, right between the Sammamish and Snoqualmie valleys.

Why is organic farming and food of interest to you?
I’ve been interested in land conservation and environmental issues all my life. I became active in high school, as a congressional district coordinator for a coalition that helped push Congress to protect tens of millions of acres of wilderness in Alaska, and I’ve had a hand in it in one way or another ever since, including some environmental reporting. The interest in farms and farming came later in life, probably first through buying shares in CSAs and slowly learning what was happening to our food system and food security under large-scale, industrialized agriculture. I’m passionate now about the farming side, but I also deeply appreciate the way the Trust’s work is protecting and enhancing habitat even as it supports and enables organic, sustainable agriculture.

Do you have a fun farm story or experience you’d like to share?
Honestly, most of my time actually setting foot on farms has been since I joined the Trust board, and now I do it every chance I get. I learn so much every time I get to interact with one of the amazing farmers on the properties we protect. As for fun stories, there was one hay ride between farms outside Walla Walla on one of our public tours that was fun in retrospect but a little harrowing at the time. And I’m a fan of the pumpkin trebuchet that Erick Haakenson has out at Jubilee Farm in Carnation.

What is your hope for farming and food production in the state of Washington? Continue reading


May Food & Farms in the News

So much good video content this month!

First up: an excellent short explaining the basics of land trusts and conservation easements, by the Lexicon of Sustainability, a series airing on PBS.

More educational shorts, including “Local vs. Organic”, “Grass Fed”, “Food Security” and more, can be found at the Lexicon of Sustainability episode page.

Next: an organization called The Story Group is trying to give climate change a more human and relatable face by producing short features about those making a living via land (or ocean) that are already feeling the effects of changes. Here’s an overview of climate change and agriculture, and video about a WA company dealing with ocean acidification and oyster farming.

Another simple, eloquent article from perennial favorite Mark Bittman, who suggests that we maybe “Leave ‘Organic’ Out of It.

Everyone is talking about the National Climate Assessment Report that came out this month.  You can find the full report (and an engaging website) here.  In the meantime, Mother Jones breaks down the implications for agriculture in Tom Philpott’s “Our Alarming Food Future, Explained in 7 Charts.

Chef and author Dan Barber outlines what, he says, “Farm to Table Got Wrong.”

In “From Quads to Plots,” Modern Farmer takes fun look at the world of college farms and campus food gardens.

Nathanael Johnson of Grist:  “In the most reductive analysis, urban farms aren’t an important part of regional food systems: The numbers just don’t add up. But it’s just as true that they can make cities better places, and those who live there better people.”

Love kale so much you want to name your baby after it?  Well, your kid would be joining 262 other little Kales, in 2013.  Bon Appetit offers an amusing look at the upsurge in food baby names. 


Join our mid-year campaign!


Click photo to go directly to the Farmland Trust donate online page.

Dear Supporter,

As another Earth Day passes, we are reminded that protecting healthy waterways, flourishing habitats, and working farmland can’t happen in the vacuum of a single day. Our landscape is changing rapidly around us and cultivating a healthy environment for future generations requires more attention.

When it comes to the future of food production in our communities, we’ve demonstrated the importance of removing development potential on prime farmlands—something you’ve helped us accomplish for nearly 1300 acres. Sometimes farmland also needs to be carefully nourished back to health and productivity—if we’re conserving it forever, shouldn’t it be capable of producing food forever?

While we can’t ever expect strip malls and cul-de-sacs to grow our carrots, we also can’t count on this from exhausted, unbalanced, or undernourished soils. And we certainly can’t count on land in this condition to promote health in the ecosystems surrounding it. We believe we can cultivate carrots and support salmon habitat at the same time.

Continue reading


April Food & Farms in the News

Beautiful Bantams: The Strutting Chickens of Malaysia” – pretty sure this article could have been about nearly anything, just so long as we were able to post the above photo.

What exactly will happen when Walmart dramatically boosts their sales of organic foods–and at prices that will undercut brand-name organic competitors by at least 25 percent?  The New York Times and NPR blog The Salt speculate.

As we consider the issue of food deserts, the Walk Score blog releases maps and lists ranking big U.S. cities by percentage of residents within a five-minute walk to food access.  (Seattle scores 12th.)

How are organic farmers in California weathering the drought?  As with most complicated agricultural topics, it turns out it depends.

Learning from other states’ past attempts, Vermont is poised to require labeling of genetically modified foods.

Microbes Will Feed the World.”  Discovering mutually beneficial associations with microorganisms is all the rage these days.

Speaking of which, Grist takes a look at conventional farmers employing no-till farming, and wonders if “no-till farming is the missing half of organic farming.”

It’s a sheep?  It’s a goat?  It’s a…GEEP?  A very rare hybrid is born on a farm in Ireland.


March Food & Farms in the News


Behold, the art of Caleb Charland, who uses fruit and vegetables, to light themselves.

Wow:  “Contrary to the current widely-held misconception that glyphosate is relatively harmless to humans, the available evidence shows that glyphosate may rather be the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies.”  What’s glyphosate, you say?  You may know it by the name of “Roundup”–one of the most heavily used herbicides in the world.

Here’s a quick article about the ways in which international diets have become drastically similar over the past 50 years.

Salon talks with journalist Christopher Leonard about his new book, an expose chronicling how virtually all of our meat is produced by four companies, led by Tyson, and “how those companies manage to keep the farmers who raise their chickens under crippling debt while ensuring that poultry prices stay high.”

Spraying with neonic poisons apparently isn’t enough–we also are coating a huge amount of our seeds in the toxic bee-killing pesticide. Turns out it’s not even that effective in killing (the intended) pests.

Antibiotics used in agriculture starting in the late 40′s have set off a series of domino effects we are only just beginning to recognize in our modern world.  This NYT article, “The Fat Drug” examines connections between livestock, human weight gain, immunity, microbiomes, gut bacteria, and more.  Fascinating stuff.

The Seattle Times interviews our own Nash Huber, about his role as an “Agrarian Elder“!




Diane Dempster

A profile by Rick Vanderknyff, PCC Farmland Trust Board Vice President

Diane Dempster has had a front-row seat for the growth and maturation of the organic farming movement in the Northwest over the last 25 years.

It’s been part of her professional life (as “grower liaison” for Charlie’s Produce) as well as her active nonprofit work with Tilth Producers (as past president and current co-vice president) and with PCC Farmland Trust, with which she served as a board member from 2008 until December, when she stepped down.

As a fellow board member who joined just a few months after Diane, I have been privileged to see her put her unique insight to work on behalf of the Trust’s mission to preserve organic farmland forever, with a laser focus on the “organic.” Though she has never been a farmer herself, she knows farmers and the farm businesses – and all the challenges that small, sustainable farms face. Continue reading


February Food & Farms in the News

Photo: BC Dairy Association

Milking to Music: cows are found to produce 3% more milk when music is playing in the barn.  They are partial to “slow, rhythmic music”–in particular “Everybody Hurts” by REM, and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel.  

A successful California farmer discusses the real need for math skills and economic savvy, in addition to passion, for up-and-coming farmers.

In honor of Presidents Day, Modern Farmer offers a compilation of some founding fathers’ thoughts on farming.  (Not to be confused with their list of 21st century celebrity gentlemen “farmers”.)

A fascinating look at just how much water goes into growing your favorite foods–as well as the concentration of production in California, and the effects of the recent droughts.

Behold, the power of distribution:  a great longer-form piece on food hubs and local processing.  “One reason the middle infrastructure of the sustainable food movement has lagged behind the rest of the movement is that romance doesn’t scale. A farm is lovely; a warehouse is not.”

Grist talks to Tim Crosby, director of Slow Money Northwest, about farming and making regional food systems more sustainable.

Finally, if you’re looking to spend some time with 10 very good short films–and vote for your favorite–consider clicking over to the Real Food Media Contest (in association with writer and educator Anna Lappe).



Sad news

Gary Fisher.   Photo: Kip Beelman

We are very saddened to share that Gary Fisher has passed away.  Gary and his wife Lois donated the easement of their Camelot Downs Farm to the Farmland Trust in 2010.  The Fishers have dedicated their farm and their retirement years to cultivating and teaching about heritage breed animals through 4H, farm tours, and community involvement.  Gary was passionate about educating the public about sustainable pasture management, holistic livestock health, and good stewardship.

Gary lived about 4 lives worth during his 75 years, and his story is a testament to the many, many other lives he touched, as well as the many adventures he led.  At the Farmland Trust, we will fondly remember Gary as we knew him: in mud boots, showing us around his and Lois’ immaculate farm; gently interacting with their menagerie of animals with a twinkle in his eye and a smile.

We connect with all of our farmers from time to time, whether making a conservation monitoring visit, helping with a tour, or having conversations about easements or land matters.  But there’s always been something special about a visit to Camelot Downs Farm.  Continue reading


January Food & Farms in the News

Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Lots of food and farms in the news this January!  We’ll spend a little time examining the just-passed farm bill next month…

Demand grows for hogs that are humanely raised outdoors.  The New York Times takes a closer look.

The title says it all:  “U.N. warns us to eat less meat and lay off biofuels, or we’re in for it.

8 million acres of Chinese farmland–an area roughly the size of Belgium–is now too polluted to produce safe food.

But McDonald’s has announced that they are slowly making the shift toward using more sustainable beef.  Still too early to see exactly how or if this will play out, but perhaps a little reason for measured, cautious optimism?

“A way that agriculture could move from being part of the problem to part of the solution”–compost application might help to siphon carbon out of the atmosphere and incorporate it into the soil of ranch lands.

An op-ed by Glenn Lamb, Executive Director of the Columbia Land Trust, on How Congress can encourage landowners to not develop their land.

Mark Bittman’s latest explores the economic and moral intersections of the worlds of Tobacco, Firearms, and Food.

Fast Facts!  U.S. Places 21st in Ranking of World Food Systems.  125 countries were judged by: food quality, abundance of food, affordability of food and eating habits of citizens.

Farmers + “selfies”.  Behold, the “Felfie”.

There’s a lot of chatter lately about the EPA looking the other way on 2,4-D–one of the active ingredients of Agent Orange–which is still widely used in lawn and garden products.  NRDC provides an overview, and offers tips to avoid exposure in your daily life.

In a lovely paean to vegetables, famed chef and cookbook author Deborah Madison is asking you very nicely to please stop infantilizing magnificent and resilient edible plants by calling them “veggies”.