Known for its productive, well-drained soil, the Puyallup Valley is an area rich with agricultural history and promise. It is also a target for commercial and residential development. Over 70% of Pierce County’s farmland has been lost since 1950, with nearly one third of that loss occurring since 1997.
Why concentrate our efforts in one area, like Pierce County? There are many reasons. But it all boils down to this—farmers make the best neighbors to other farmers.
Here are three core benefits of keeping farms together:
1. Economic Benefits
When multiple family farms are in close proximity, it makes it easier for farm businesses to work together. This includes food wholesalers, tractor supply companies, feed stores, lime spreaders, feed and hay delivery trucks, and even contract hay balers and harvesters. Plus, agritourism—tastings and tours, farm stays, harvest dinners, and other seasonal celebrations—thrive when farms are located in concentration.
2. Ecological Benefits
Conserving farmland in concentration yields multiple environmental benefits. First, wildlife corridors are protected and habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects (which organic producers rely upon) is less fragmented. Sustainable farmers are natural stewards of the earth. Co-locating and concentrating multiple good stewards of the land can magnify improvements to waterways, reduce runoff and erosion into sensitive areas, and protect sustainable farmers from neighboring land uses.
3. Community Benefits
Having a strong, local community of farmers who are invested in a specific region is essential when political and land use decisions are made. A strong farming community can defend themselves against decisions that negatively impact small farms, like urban growth boundary expansions, subdividing agricultural land, or converting farm land to other uses. Plus, having a collection of thriving local farms in close proximity can help demonstrate the viability of the farm economy. It’s about strength in numbers.
PCC Farmland Trust is leading the call to action in the Puyallup Valley. We’ve conserved 320 acres and five farms there already, including the Reise property and a network of four connected properties that are home to Tahoma Farms, Little Eorthe Farm, and Dropstone Farms. This valley is where we feel the need for conservation is especially urgent, and where we believe the Farmland Trust can have the most real impact on agricultural viability in Pierce County.
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