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3 Reasons Farms are Better Together

The farmers of Tahoma Farms, Sanfords Farm and Dropstone Farms, all work together to keep the Puyallup Valley a vibrant agricultural community. Photos: Scott Haydon, Dennis Lussier, Maura Rendes

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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Supporter Spotlight: Bill Appel

 

 

Bill Appel has long been a supporter of the Farmland Trust, both as a Board member for several years, as well as serving on our Board Development Committee. He has recently retired from service on the committee, but we know his support of sustainable farming has not lessened.

 

We’ve often used this eloquent quote of his:

 

“For over 40 years as a real estate lawyer, I have seen our community surrender our sources of local, healthy food, and become more dependent on distant energy-expensive food.  The Farmland Trust is a way to participate in the recapture and preservation of what once was ours: local farms growing healthy, organic food.”

Thank you, Bill, for all of your support!

Please tell us more about yourself.

I’m a still-recovering East Coaster from Philadelphia.  I practiced law there for three years, then in 1966 we moved to Seattle with two small children.  That was a good move for many reasons, but the best part was finding and adopting our third child.  Now, we live most of the time on Waldron Island from where I practice law part time, using wood to heat and cook.  We commute to a small house in Seattle to see children and grandchildren.

Why is organic farming and/or organic food of interest to you?

We have been members of PCC Natural Markets for many decades.  I was for some years its volunteer counsel, and on the board after resigning as counsel.  PCC sensitized me not only to fresh produce, but also to organic foods.  We have consistently bought organic foods in those categories where it matters most.  Organic foods are not only important in themselves, but also in how the land is treated in growing them.  Non-organic farming is intensely petrochemical in nature, a practice that organic farming limits to fuel use.

How did you first learn about the Farmland Trust?

I was aware of its formation not only from PCC’s announcement, but also because its first director, Jody Aliesan, was a close friend of ours.  I would describe Jody not only as the writer and poet she was, but also as a right brain polymath, who could conceptualize far beyond the daily boundaries of life.  The Trust was largely her idea, and one that a receptive PCC board and staff supported.

Did you have any experiences with farms or farming growing up, or in your family?

When I was a young teenager, I worked on Pennsylvania farms during summer vacations.  Continue reading

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September Food & Farms in the News

Behold, the beautiful world of vintage fruit crate labels.

Did you know there’s a veritable apple renaissance happening under our noses?  NPR’s the Salt Blog takes a look at the effort to celebrate (and save) heirloom apple varieties.

Wow.  First Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme commit to buy all their palm oil from rainforest-friendly sources (guilt-free donuts!).  But in arguably more important news, agribusiness giant Cargill, has pledged “to protect forests in all of Cargill’s agricultural supply chains and to endorse the New York Declaration on Forests.”

Yes! Magazine examines the important issue of farmer transition gridlock, and the ways in which we might stem the loss of family farmers to retirement.

Grist takes a look at “Why ‘get big’ isn’t the answer for poor farmers around the globe.”

Our friends at Tahoma Farms have only a few days left to make their Kickstarter goal for funding their community gathering space/cafe/pizza kitchen!

Speaking of Kickstarter, have you heard of Barnraiser?  Modern Farmer talks with its founder.

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Handy Harvest Guide

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Here are a few events around town, put on by our farmer friends and partners:

Continue reading

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August Food & Farms in the News

 

A few entertaining additions to the “cows responding to and enjoying music” roundup that seems to have emerged as of late.  First, there’s this delightful entry:


…As well as a jazz option, or even an accordian!  The cows have eclectic tastes.

While this article from Seedstock isn’t technically recent, it provides a snapshot of a really interesting new food system model in which land trusts are part of a greater “Food Commons.”

An intriguing look outside the traditional box of “how to feed a growing world“.  Maybe the key to feeding a global population is not so much volume of agricultural production, but…egalitarian class structures?

National Geographic provides a very visual look at hunger, food insecurity, commodity crop subsidies, food desserts, cheap calories, and the human face of how and where all those issues intersect.

Here is the New York Times’ recent provocative piece “Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers,” and the prompt (rather poetic) rebuttal on Huffington Post: “Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers.”

The harumphing continues:  barn weddings may result in doom…or, more likely, neighbors enthusiastically complaining.

And we leave you with a gentle Mark Bitman piece on Farmers’ Market Values.

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Reise Farm: Request for Proposals

PCC Farmland Trust is currently seeking a qualified tenant or buyer for the 120 acre Historic Reise Farm, located in the fertile Puyallup River Valley in Pierce County. The entire property, 66 acres farmable, will be available for lease beginning January, 2015 for a negotiated lease term. PCC Farmland Trust will also consider purchase options from qualified farmers at agricultural value, as part of an effort to ensure that farmers in the Puget Sound region have access to affordable land.

Continue reading

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July Food & Farms in the News

An Instagram post from Local Roots Farm, as part of their guest stint for Modern Farmer. (See final news item for details.)

Last month’s most popular news item was a bit of a contentious piece, suggesting that it was time to stop romanticizing farms.  Now the Guardian weighs in with a similar perspective, as does a Grist contributor.  (Please note that the Grist article contains some salty language and a description of some disturbing imagery.)

It isn’t too often that you hear positive news about drones… Will Potter, an award-winning journalist, decided to start a Kickstarter project to buy drones to monitor industrial feedlots and factory farms.  The idea is to circumnavigate “ag-gag” laws across the country that make it illegal to expose the unsanitary and inhumane conditions found in much of industrial animal agriculture.

A WSU study “has found that organic foods and crops have a suite of advantages over their conventional counterparts, including more antioxidants and fewer, less frequent pesticide residues,” and has been all over the news this month.  Here’s the original.

One thousand sighs.  “A divided federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy allowing the use of various antibiotics in animal feed, even if such use might endanger the public health.”

In water news important for farmers–and humans–everywhere, Grist parses out the four key takeaways of the economic and environmental toll of California’s severe drought.

Some big food companies are carefully, and very quietly, dumping GMO ingredients from their products.

Continue reading

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All In For Farms

 

Saturday, August 16, 2014 from 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Orting, Puyallup, Carnation, and Sequim, WA

Join PCC Farmland Trust as we participate in a world-wide push for environmental change. In collaboration with musician Jack Johnson’s charity, All at Once, organizations and their volunteers across the globe will be pitching in to make a difference. Join us as we go “All In for Farms” in our region, and participate in one of four efforts on our conserved properties. 

By participating, you can be a part of region-wide restoration and improvement projects, enjoy a tour of an organic farm, and be entered to win tickets to see Jack Johnson at the Gorge on August 23rd. 

Continue reading

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June Food & Farms in the News

Indeed.

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.”

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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

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