Many of us know that the best farmland sits within the rich, loamy soils of our river valleys. But these valleys are treasured by more than just farmers. Rivers, salmon, forests, and urban life often all converge in the floodplain, right alongside prime farmland. In the Snohomish Valley, that convergence is amplified.
Nestled right between our state’s farming mecca, the Skagit Valley, and some of the fastest growing cities within the Puget Sound region, the Snohomish Valley is ripe with activity. Commercial agriculture, pristine forests and rivers, and rapid development exist all at once.
At the Trust, we often say that the future of farming in Washington is precarious but promising. That statement couldn’t be truer in Snohomish. Although more people are moving to Snohomish County than anywhere else in the country, the agricultural sector is incredibly vibrant.
In an effort to manage the many competing interests within this area, Snohomish County convened a group of Tribes, state and federal agencies, farmers, and environmental stakeholders in 2010 to form the Sustainable Land Strategy (SLS). The group aims to work collectively to generate progress for fish, farm, and flood management interests within a rich and rapidly changing region.
As we began to focus our efforts within the Puget Sound region in 2015, we approached Snohomish County as a key partner. They were familiar with the mapping work we had been doing in Pierce County, and the strategy we had developed there, conserving prime farmland with the highest threats for development.
We learned from SLS leaders that this farmland mapping work was exactly what their group was missing. Soon after meeting with the County, we were asked to lead the charge on establishing farmland conservation priorities within the region. Our work in the SLS would become known as the Snohomish Farmland Conservation Strategy, a key informant of the Conservation District’s Agricultural Resiliency Plan.
After nearly a decade working in the Pierce County agricultural community, we applied our learnings to our prioritization and mapping process up north. We met with local producers, Tribal leaders, the Conservation District, and other key stakeholders to better understand farmland’s importance to the community.
As our conservation manager Robin likes to say, “Our work is a road map, not a blueprint.” When establishing priorities, we are always overlaying key considerations like climate change to ensure our strategy is responsive and adaptive to a changing world.
Today, our community-driven prioritization work helps inform how we select projects for conservation in Snohomish County, and how we work with partners to ensure maximum benefit. Our latest project, Reiner Farm, represents the kind of work that is possible as a result of the SLS. It is a high priority project not just for our organization, but for the Tribes, government agencies, farmers, and community members who see those 260 acres as a precious public benefit to the place they call home.
We are proud to extend our impact across this changing region, from Pierce to Snohomish, and for the opportunity to engage communities along the way.