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5 Big Wins of 2015

It has been a banner year! We are counting the ways you’ve helped make it so exceptional. Together, we’ve achieved these Big Wins, and we thank you.

harman creekWe expanded our scope:

We’ve adopted a comprehensive approach to keeping farmland thriving forever. Building on our core farmland protection work with landowners, we’re partnering with Pierce County and other organizations on a $10 million grant to find innovative solutions to flood management and long term farmland protection and viability in the Puyallup Valley. We also connected with over 170 farmers to learn more about their land-leasing needs statewide, and how we can support farmers in accessing farmland affordably.


_95A0630You showed up:

Between plantings and outreach, administrative support and events, you logged over 400 hours of
volunteer work! More than 100 of you helped convert a blackberry-infested creek bed into a healthy waterway. Over 1,200 of you came to our events, and you’re in good company with over 8,000 online community members. We partnered with over 20 organizations across 3 counties, more than 40 brands at PCC Natural Markets, and over 2,400 donors have already given in 2015. Thank you!


three11700633_10154053875534778_8907939152123892588_oWe advocated for public prioritization of conservation:

We worked with statewide partners, such as the Washington Association of Land Trusts and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene to address public funding challenges for farmland conservation. We played a leadership role in the Puyallup Watershed Initiative, as well as several other agriculture-centered groups in our focus areas. These efforts have already yielded new funding allocations for farmland conservation easements—a win for everyone!


IMG_5209 (1)We’re breaking the mold:

Our staff members presented our innovative techniques and proven finance model all over the west coast. We shared conservation tools for land access and affordability and gained new ideas for expanding these strategies by putting our heads together with leading experts. We’ve adopted a standard of innovation that is allowing us to accelerate and expand our work at record rates.



OneUntitled design (15)You helped triple our conservation rate!

In January we closed on Helsing Junction Farm, adding 42 protected acres in Thurston County. Then, in August we shared news of the 36-acre Shelstad Farm in Orting. Now, we’ve just announced our conservation partnership with Harman Farm, for a total of 80 new acres in Pierce County—a new high standard that we know you’ll help us keep up next year, and in the years to come.






Meet Dave and his family farm…

Letter headerDear Friend, 

Since 2009, I have watched PCC Farmland Trust protect land in the Puyallup Valley, where my family has lived and farmed for nearly 140 years. The Trust is a respected partner in our tight-knit community, so last yearbegan working with them to ensure that an important piece of my family’s history—forty-four acres on the Carbon River—would remain farmland forever.

In the late 1800s, my great-grandfather bought a farm at the base of Mount Rainier and divided it between his two sons—my grandfather and my great uncle. My great uncle’s half was sold in 1957, while my grandfather’s land remained in our family, continuously farmed for 105 years. My father and grandfather grew wheat, peas, barley, and potatoes, as well as hay for livestock. The woodlands at the back of the property are still home to elk, deer, bears, cougars, and bald eagles.

I have seen a lot of change in the valley during my lifetime and I value all that the Trust has done to help protect this beautiful and abundant place. I support PCC Farmland Trust and I am proud to partner with them to preserve this land as farmland forever. I know it is what my grandfather would have wanted.

Dave points to where the resident elk bed on the edge of the farm.

Dave points to where the resident elk bed on the edge of the farm.

To me, this land is about more than one family—it represents a community’s past, present, and future. I want to ensure that this land is accessible to new generations of sustainable and organic farmers who will produce healthy food, take responsibility for nearby wildlife, and conserve natural resources. It is a simple dream, but an important one, and I know that PCC Farmland Trust will make certain it is realized.

Successful conservation of this farm gives me hope. Like you, I know that fertile farmland is a precious and limited natural resource. That is why I want to see more successes like this as PCC Farmland Trust continues to grow. Your gift is a worthwhile investment in the future of sustainable farming throughout the Puyallup Valley and beyond. Thank you.





P.S. All first-time gifts made to the Trust by midnight on December 31st, will be matched, up to $25,000!



Supporter Spotlight: Ryan Mello

Ryan is a partner and friend to the Farmland Trust, invaluable in supporting our efforts in Pierce County. He is the Executive
Director of the Pierce Conservation District, a key partner in the Pierce County Ag Roundtable and Puyallup Watershed Initiative, and serves as a Tacoma City Council member and dedicated leader across the south sound.

Meet Ryan…

Tell us about yourself.  Ryan Mello

I grew up on my grandparent’s cattle farm in Hawaii, so I was raised learning about working, honoring, and protecting the land.  This greatly influenced my love of working lands, and my interest in dedicating my career to protecting and enhancing them.

Why is sustainable food and farming of interest to you? 

I love that farms and working lands are so grounded in heritage. There is the personal heritage and appreciation on the part of those working the land, but also the shared value that is felt by those in the surrounding community. I believe that access to healthy, locally-sourced food is critical to the health and well-being of our communities.

What is your favorite thing to grow?

Growing food is really hard! I haven’t had time to try my hand at gardening in a while, but tried to grow tomatoes, peppers and zucchini this past summer. I quickly realized that growing food takes a lot of skill and care, and that I was better off leaving it to the experts and supporting them at our local farmers markets.

Do you have a fun farm story or experience you’d like to share?

Well, I certainly had some shocking and memorable experiences from helping my grandfather with the “necessary tasks” of cattle ranching, as a child. This was thirty years ago, but it was, and still is, vividly clear to me how dedicated farmers and ranchers are—they put in very long hours, doing difficult tasks.

What is your vision/hope for farming and food production in the state of Washington?

My hope is that family farms will be prosperous. By prosperous, I mean that farmers should be able to make a living from their farm and not need to hold off-farm employment, allowing themselves and those around them to live plentiful, vibrant lives. My hope is that the land base will not be fragmented, for all the reasons that a disjointed base makes farming more difficult. I want to see family farms as a respected and celebrated part of our local economy, as well as a critical driver of our community’s health and the health of the environment, bringing benefits as sinks for carbon and polluted rainwater, and preventing sprawl.  I hope that the Farmland Trust can someday achieve all of their farmland conservation goals in the Puget Sound.


October food and farms in the news

  • You’re not imagining it—there is in fact a growing interest in information about food in the US. Here’s a summary of what polled Americans care about most.
  • Until recently, much of the herbal medicinals available medicinalswere imported from far-away, untraceable farms. These farmers are looking to fill a gap for local, organic botanicals.
  • Our friends at National Young Farmers Coalition teamed up with our supporters at Clif Bar to make this beautiful video summing up the current state of transition in the family farm.
  • It’s not just transition between generations of farmers that’s a challenge. The transition to organic certification is a difficult and expensive stretch for many. With demand for organic outpacing supply, why aren’t there better incentives for conversion?



The story behind the success story

Staff visit a farmA few times per year, you—our loyal supporters—get to hear the news you’ve been waiting for. We finally get to tell you about the farm we “just” conserved, and the impact we’re making together. We share gorgeous photos and anecdotes from farmers. But, there is always a lot that we don’t share with you. In fact, each conservation success story is kind of like the tip of the iceberg, or the greens of a root vegetable, if you will. The part of the story that’s below the surface is big, and substantive, and complicated, but represents a huge part of the work of PCC Farmland Trust. If you want the rest of the story, read on.

Before the success story, there is a lot of…

We can get the most bang for our collective conservation buck when we conserve farms in a way that sets them up for success in the future. Our selection criteria considers the quality of the soil, access to water, proximity to other conserved farms, access to markets, natural resource value, as well as the political climate in the area. Assessing each of these attributes requires careful research and mapping, in collaboration with partners and local stakeholders.

Most projects start with a conversation around the kitchen table of a property owner or farmer—a conversation which might carry on for years. All the while, our team is also pitching partners and funders, and acting as the bridge between all of these, sometimes disparate, interests. One staff member often simultaneously wears the hat of a broker, neighbor, fundraiser, trusted partner, and natural resource expert.

Public funding for conservation has become an extremely scarce resource, and it requires a competitive and time-consuming application process. Since farmland is on the same scarce trajectory, the value of conservation-worthy properties is often in the range of several-millions of dollars. Even when we manage to procure public grants, they can be unreliable, and only go toward the cost of the easement, not staff time or operations. Individual donors play a critical role in bridging this gap.

With this much time, energy, and financial resources on the table, we need outside, and often expensive, experts to confirm water rights analyses, soil tests, appraisals, and title review.

Our model of conservation depends on a voluntary transaction with landowners, so the ultimate deal has to work for them. The choice to conserve land has to balance out their personal needs—often defined by retirement, family, and dollars and cents. While all the work leading up to this point should lay a foundation for a smooth closing, negotiation is inevitably an ongoing process, right up until the end.

Because of this behind-the-scenes juggling act, a successful conservation project can take two to five years. We maintain a robust pipeline of conservation opportunities with projects in various phases of this process. The reality is, that for every success story you hear about, there were a handful behind the scenes that just didn’t work out for any number of reasons. But this layer of complexity makes success stories that much sweeter!

We’re excited to share our next success story with you in the coming weeks. Please keep an eye out for a letter in your mailbox or inbox. And, as our third conserved farm this year, it marks a milestone for everyone in the Farmland Trust community. We couldn’t have done it without you!



September food and farms in the news

Oh, is that organic, Oregon quinoa? (say that five times fast!)

Oh, is that organic, Oregon quinoa? (say that five times fast!)

  • If you’re cognizant of your carbon footprint, you know that air travel is a serious offender. Good news! Now you can feel less guilty about your flight home for Christmas if you happen to book it on this farm waste-powered plane.
  • What will the sale of Niman Ranch to Perdue mean for producers and consumers? We will find out soon enough, but here are some ideas.
  • Oh yeah, one more thing for those hard-core readers who make it to the very end of the Crop and may know someone (or be someone) who wants to work with us: We’re hiring!

What makes good farmland?

image 68

Have you ever wondered how we prioritize farmland for the arduous and expensive, but worthy process of conservation? With hundreds of thousands of acres of excellent dirt across Washington, and much of it threatened, our team considers the following four ingredients to build out a multilayered strategy for maximum impact.


1. Physical properties:

The capacity of a property to be farmed forever is, of course, dependent on the current state of the soil, access to water, and history of production or contamination. Our team combs through public data to consider soil quality, water availability, historical use, and future potential for growth.

2.  Location:

We know that farm businesses do better when they are close to markets, and near other farms. But the location of a property can also be key to potential collaboration and funding opportunities. For example, PCC Farmland Trust is a leader in a group of partners and stakeholders in the Pierce County agricultural community that has identified priority areas and parcels of farmland through a sophisticated mapping and outreach process. The strategy is defined by soil designation, filtered by zoning and land use policy, and further prioritized by the value of the property to the broader community. This collaborative and technically strategic approach allows us to work with partners to build momentum and increase our rate of success—saving and consolidating valuable resources across a geographical focus area.

3.  Potential for multiple benefits:

Sustainable farming has the potential to be complementary to native habitat of flora and fauna, restoration of waterways, flood mitigation, and even recreation. When farmland conservation can have a positive effect beyond local food and agriculture, it opens up opportunities for greater collaboration, public funding, and of course, broader impact.

4.  Community:

The most critical ingredient for a successful farmland conservation effort lies in the people that surround it. Mapping, soil samples, and restoration plans can only go so far without local political will, community involvement, and the partnership and perseverance of landowners. For us, project selection criteria can’t be just about existing characteristics of land. We know we’ll make greater use of your support, when we invest in agricultural communities by being present, trustworthy, and collaborative.



We’ve moved!

Our downtown Seattle office is now about four blocks down the road, alongside many of our partners in the Vance Building.

As we set up shop, please note that our phone and email systems will be down from Thursday September 24th through Monday September 28th. Thanks for your patience as we get settled in.

Please update your records with our new mailing address:

1402 Third Avenue #709, Seattle, WA 98101

We will be hosting an open house for friends, partners and supporters on December 8th, 2015. Please save the date!


August food and farms in the news

Bee backpack

New research proves that producing food and livestock while conserving nature and habitat is in fact, all good. As in, not more dangerous than, say, sterile monocropping.

Here’s one more reason to buy local: drought-stricken organic farms in southern California may be irrigating with fracking wastewater

Why did the chicken cross the Bay Bridge? We don’t know, but it sure caused a mess.


Why did the bee wear a backpack? For serious science that might help us start to solve the bee crisis (not a joke).

You know what else is in crisis? Much of the soil that produces our state’s third largest commodity crop.

The fires. Of course, you know about the fires. But do you know how they’re impacting NW agriculture? These farms and farmworkers are in our thoughts.

And to end on a lighter (like zero-gravity) note, #NASAVEGGIE is now a thing. Astronauts successfully “farmed” in space, and devoured a tiny amount of very local lettuce.


Staff Spotlight: Megan Jenny

Megan is our new Community Engagement Manager, whose job it is to grow and deepen our connections with farmers, partners and supporters of all kinds. Here’s Megan:

Megan JennyTell us about yourself.  My professional background is in community organizing and grassroots advocacy. To
that end, I’ve worked in multiple capacities to engage volunteers and communities on environmental issues including reducing climate pollution and incentivizing clean energy sources.  But, sustainable agriculture is the issue closest to my heart and that’s why I jumped at the chance to join the Trust staff as Community Engagement Manager. In this role, I work with our volunteers and community partners to engage people in our work to protect farmland forever. I’m an East-coaster by birth, but a West-coaster at heart. I currently live in Seattle and plan to grow deep roots here.

Please tell us why organic and local food and farming is of interest to you.   In my opinion, there are countless reasons to buy local and sustainable food, but I’d say my two main motivations are for my health and to reduce my carbon footprint. Plus, there is something so satisfying about knowing where your food comes from and buying it literally out of the hands of the people who grow it. I love food and I love to cook. Buying local has made my weekly shopping and nightly cooking more fun and more personal–which I think is the way it should be.

What is your connection to farming? Do you have experiences with farms in your family or growing up?  Growing up, I never thought much about where my food came from before it appeared in the grocery store. That all changed when I got to college and had the chance to volunteer on our local farm. I spent a fateful afternoon learning from the farm managers about the importance, benefits, and challenges of sustainable farming and then spent several hours each week digging up root vegetables or picking berries for the remainder of my time at school.  I quickly developed a passion for local produce that has impacted my buying and cooking habits ever since.

What is your vision/hope for farming and food production in the state of Washington?  My vision is that we get to a point where affordable, local, and sustainable food is available to all consumers and that we have the policies and resources in place to support and incentivize farmers to utilize sustainable methods.

What are your favorite books or documentaries about food/farming/sustainable agriculture?  These are oldies but goodies at this point, but my favorite food documentary is Food, Inc. and my favorite book about growing food is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

Anything else you’d like to share? If you want to get more involved in our work, but aren’t sure where to start, please send me an email: