Effective February 1, 2019, the PCC Farmland Trust board selected Melissa Campbell to be the next executive director of PCC Farmland Trust. Melissa joined PCC Farmland Trust in 2008, bringing a deep knowledge of natural resource conservation and land access barriers in the Puget Sound region. She began her tenure at the Trust by building its stewardship program, soon taking on the role of conservation director and then conservation finance director, where she built the Trust’s first regional farmland conservation and finance strategy. As associate director, Melissa led what would be a four-year effort to create a business plan and financial model to support the launch of the Trust’s first impact investment vehicle, the Farmland Impact Note, which raised $2.7m and was fully subscribed in 2018.
Meet Melissa below…
What first drew you to the issue of farmland conservation?
Growing up in the Midwest, I was surrounded by commodity agriculture. I think that, along with working in a family-owned nursery, piqued my interest in plants, natural resources, and the livelihoods of farmers and small business owners from an early age. I studied plant pathology and natural resource economics in college, and then focused on environment and community in my graduate program, thinking about how the natural places we love also nurture our communities and vice versa. During that time I did some work with the local Hmong community to help them find land and farm cooperatively. I became fascinated with the multi-faceted nature of our food and farming system, especially in a complex, and ecologically diverse place like the Puget Sound region. I have been grateful to be able to apply that interest and passion to my work at PCC Farmland Trust over the last 10 years.
What has been your favorite memory or experience at PCC Farmland Trust so far?
I remember feeling really proud when we hired our first full-time Executive Director, Rebecca Sadinsky, in 2010. That felt like a really important moment for our organization, recognizing that in order for us to accomplish more, we needed to scale our organization. Launching the Our Farms, Our Future campaign in 2016 was also a really exciting moment. For me, it was a statement from the organization that we were not afraid to be bold and set our sites on a big endeavors. These both felt like critical moments for the organization, where board and staff worked collaboratively to determine the steps we needed to take to have an even bigger impact. And then we did it.
Do you feel hopeful about the future of farming in Washington?
I feel hopeful about the future of farming because there is a consumer base that supports it here in this region and a growing demand nationally for more transparency in our food system. That said, our local farmers face many challenges to being successful. With rising land prices and the impacts of climate change, farmers are forced to be more creative with less. There is surely more work to be done to ensure that our best farmland stays in the hands of the people who grow our food, but I feel hopeful about the role PCC Farmland Trust can play in that effort. We are working every day to help bridge the difficult transition of farming from one generation to the next, and to keep our precious farmland productive into the future.
What have you appreciated most about this organization?
As a mother of small children, I have been incredibly grateful to work for an organization that empowers women to hold leadership positions while raising families. I am inspired by the example set by outgoing Executive Director, Rebecca Sadinsky, our board leadership, and all of my colleagues who hold the values of equity, family, and work-life balance while working for a greater good.
What are you most excited to work on as Executive Director?
I am really looking forward to diving into the outcomes of our Long Range Conservation Plan and looking ahead to the next evolution of the Trust with our staff and board. I hope that process will affirm how far we’ve come as an organization, and help us consider how we continue our successful model while responding to our changing sector, landscape, and world. Mostly, I am honored to continue working with such a wonderful team of staff and dedicated board volunteers. Loving the work that I do and the people I get to do it with is truly one of the greatest rewards of the job.
Is there anything you’d like our community to know about you?
I am always interested in spending time out in the community and meeting new people who share a love of the land and passion for local farming. I’m always open to ideas and suggestions and hearing about why you care about conservation. Please reach out to me and let’s get out to the farm! I look forward to the great work we’re going to do together.