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Staff Spotlight: Kate Delavan, Conservation Manager

Kate Delavan comes to PCC Farmland Trust after more than 10 years working across many points of the food system. From working in sales in the grocery industry and influencing policy for farmland conservation to helping make food more accessible to people across all income levels, we are thrilled to have Kate add her wealth of knowledge to our team as conservation manager. Here’s Kate.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m originally from North Idaho, but have lived in Seattle for the last 10 years. I moved here for a job after college and fell in love with our region’s natural diversity. I now feel rooted here and part of a community. In my work and personal life, I think a lot about my food choices and their broader impact. Our food system is complex and at times feels overwhelming. I get a lot of joy out of creating a direct connection with food, whether that’s growing vegetables in my home garden or buying food directly from a local farmer.

Did you have a connection to farming growing up?

I grew up on 20 acres on the Rathdrum Prairie in rural Idaho. With mint, hay, and alfalfa fields nearby, agriculture was all around me. But other than helping my dad cut hay for our horses each summer, I didn’t have a direct connection to farming. I do come from a long line of small business owners, though, which I think provides valuable insight into some of the struggles that family farms face.

When did local food and sustainable farming become of interest to you?

I spent my early career at Tom’s of Maine where I got to know the grocery industry. My customers were food co-ops, independent grocers, and natural food stores in Washington and Oregon, including PCC. I learned about distribution models, manufacturing, and all of the behind the scenes work that gets a product to market. Through this work, I realized that what really motivates me is trying to understand the larger forces that shape our decision-making around food. After completing a Master’s in Public Administration at the University of Washington, I joined American Farmland Trust (AFT), where I worked to shape policy and land-use planning for agriculture and served as the organization’s Interim Regional Director. After several years at AFT, I rounded out my interest in food issues as a Program Manager for the Washington State Farmers Market Association. That work helped me to think more critically about access to fresh, local food for folks of all income levels. It also inspired me to join the Board of Directors at the University District Food Bank and Food From Farms, two organizations working to fight hunger and food insecurity.

What are you most looking forward to accomplishing or working on at the Trust?

I’ve worked at different points along the food system – from sales at food co-ops and independent grocery stores to helping farmers markets provide healthy food to people of all income levels. I’m excited to focus on the foundation of our food system through my work at the Trust – the land.

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

The overall interest in and commitment to local food and farmers in this region gives me a lot of hope about the future. The conversations around food feel different today than they did 10 years ago. Seeing the success of farmers markets in Washington and talking to farmers that are expanding their operations has been encouraging, too. I also love living in a place where I can constantly discover new produce. Some of my favorites recently have been lemon cucumbers and purple sprouting broccoli. Those special local foods wouldn’t exist without local farmland.

What are your favorite books or documentaries about food/farming/sustainable agriculture?

Two books stand out when I think about what shaped my thinking around food and farming early on – Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Both books got me thinking more deeply about the downstream impact of my food decisions and inspired me to ask more questions.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m really grateful to be a part of the PCC Farmland Trust community, and am excited to accomplish great work together in 2018 and beyond!