Seattle — The state of Washington is a top grower of produce, yet over the next decade, seven out of every 10 farmers will retire with no successor.
There is no one to take over for them.
“The farms are disappearing. Once it’s paved, it’s gone and it’s no longer really retrievable,” said Rebecca Sadinsky, CEO of PCC Farmland Trust, an organization that works to preserve farmland and keep it from being sold for other purposes.
Last year, PCC Farmland Trust launched Advancing Farm Sustainability (AFS), a micro-grant program that supports farmers in their adoption of new approaches to sustainable land management. The purpose of the program is to provide the financial support our farmer tenants and landowners need to protect and steward the natural resources on their farms.
One year in to the program, we have been able to award 8 grants that support projects that improve soil, air, water, and/or habitat on our conserved farms. But what does “sustainability” really mean? In order to ensure funded projects fulfill the purpose of our program, we rank them against a variety of criteria. First, we measure whether or not the project helps achieve goals outlined in the landowner’s farmland stewardship plan, which we often develop together. We then assess the scale and the length of the natural resource impact of the project. Next, we make sure the proposed project aligns with the National Organic Practices guidelines on farm practices or biodiversity. If the project institutes a change in current practices, or leverages additional funding sources or volunteer time, even better.
Carefully stewarded farmland nourishes our communities, fuels our economy, and restores our soil, air, and water. Without hard-working hands, farmland isn’t farmland.
PCC Farmland Trust has partnered with Washington farmers for nearly 20 years, and we’ve come to understand their unique challenges and needs. That’s why today, we are expanding the ways in which we carry out our mission by working to better connect farmers to our conserved land. We are developing a new program called Farm2Farmer, which will strategically match food producers with prime farmland. Farm2Farmer will not only help new farmers launch their careers, it will help retiring farmers identify their successors.
We did it! Thanks to you, we just closed on the largest farmland conservation project to date in Pierce County: the 284-acre Mountain View Dairy.
This is a huge win for Pierce County, the local food economy, and farmers like Ryan and Haylee Mensonides who now have access to more affordable farmland in their community. We are so proud to have been able to purchase this valuable piece of land in our focus area, and to place it in the hands of farmers who will care for it into the future.
In addition to its incredible views of Mt. Rainier, Mountain View Dairy has some of the best remaining soils south of Puget Sound. It was platted for 59 estate homes at one point. Continue reading →
At PCC Farmland Trust, we know that farmland conservation has long-term, far-reaching impacts. In addition to keeping healthy, local food on our plates, protecting farms has the potential to improve soil quality, keep our air and water clean, revitalize local food economies, and sustain the agricultural character of our state.
That’s why, after protecting farmland and building relationships in the Puyallup Valley for nearly a decade, we signed on to lead the Farming in the Floodplain Project (FFP) – a pilot project in the Clear Creek area aiming to meet multiple community and environmental needs in response to flooding. As development and land use pressures continue to increase in the Puyallup Valley, flooding has become a challenge for many. In Washington, some of the highest quality farmland sits in the valley-bottom floodplain. And yet, historically, human safety and fish habitat have taken precedent over agriculture in conversations around flood impacts. The FFP aims to illuminate the unique challenges farmers face in the flood-prone area of Clear Creek, and incorporate them into projects that support a safe, vibrant community for all.
As we continue to deepen our engagement in the Puyallup Valley, leading the FFP was a natural expansion of our work. We saw it as a unique opportunity to support the continued viability of critical farmland in our focus area, and better understand what farmers need to keep farming in a world of competing floodplain interests.
Funded by the statewide Floodplains by Design program, the FFP is led by PCC Farmland Trust and includes a committee of Floodplains for the Future members – a partnership of public, non-profit, and private stakeholders concerned about the health of the Puyallup Watershed.
Over the last year, we have been working to engage and collaborate with farmers in the Clear Creek area, while our partners at Environmental Science Associates have been conducting a technical analysis of current and future conditions that may affect local agriculture. We have also been regularly convening a group of technical and agricultural experts to report out on our progress, and analyze information we have uncovered about agriculture, climate change, and hydrology in the area. Through this work, we are elevating the voices of farmers in order to clarify and support their needs and interests.
Over the coming year, we hope to provide Clear Creek farmers with the technical information they need to improve the long-term viability of their farm businesses, and influence policy-makers to support them in those efforts.
A recent graduate of the University of Washington, Sydni is PCC Farmland Trust’s new Community Engagement Coordinator. From interning at IslandWood and Taylor Shellfish Farms, to serving as a project assistant for Bellingham’s first annual seafood festival, Sydni brings her enthusiasm for environmental science and passion for sustainable food systems to her role at the Trust. With a long family history of farming and fishing in the Puget Sound region, Sydni is thrilled to help the Trust get people excited about local, sustainable agriculture in Washington.
Tell us about yourself. I grew up in Bellingham in a family of commercial fisherfolk. We spent much of our time outdoors, clam digging along the Sound and exploring the San Juan islands. That’s why pursuing an Environmental Studies degree at the University of Washington felt like a natural fit for me. During my two-year stint volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium, however, I discovered the Fisheries Program at UW, and was drawn to the smaller classes and more focused content. It was there that I really found “my people.”
In 2010, when we learned of a prized 120-acre piece of land for sale in Pierce County, we saw an opportunity. Although it wasn’t in organic production at the time, we knew we couldn’t sit by and watch the farm sell to the highest bidder – especially in an area that has lost more than 70 percent of its farmland since 1950. So we got creative, secured funding, collaborated with the County, and purchased the farm outright.