Saturday, October 6, 2007
SUSTAINABLE SMALL FARM & RANCHING COURSE
This program provides beginning and existing agricultural entrepreneurs with the planning and decision-making tools, practical information, and support necessary to develop a sustainable, small-scale agricultural enterprise. The course includes guest lectures by farmers and other community resource experts, field trips to local farms and other agricultural venues, classroom discussion and the opportunity to form farmer-student/farmer-farmer mentoring relationships. This class is a unique community-based education program where you will learn about whole farm planning, direct marketing, soils management, crop & livestock production systems, enterprise budgets, integrated pest & weed management, and MUCH MORE!!
When: Wednesday evenings, October 17th through
December 19th; 6 — 8:30 p.m. (there will be Saturday field trips).
Where: Wahkiakum Extension Office, 25 River St., Cathlamet, WA
Cost: $50 per person, or $100 per farm/family
CONTACT: Carrie Kennedy, WSU Wahkiakum County Extension, 360-795-3278,email@example.com
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
WSU EXTENSION in PARTNERSHIP WITH STOCKHOUSE’S FARM PRESENTS:
Saturday September 15 - Stockhouse’s Farm, Cathlamet - CSA/Farm Tour
Stockhouse’s Farm at 59 W. Birnie Slough Road on Puget Island, Cathlamet, WA, will host a CSA/Farm Tour on Saturday September 15. Tour will begin at 2 p.m. You are invited to bring the family and a picnic lunch at 1 p.m. and enjoy the farm grounds prior to the tour. The public is invited and in particular those who are interested in learning more about Community Supported Agriculture, either as a potential subscriber or provider. If you already are a CSA provider, this tour is a time to learn from other providers. Rob and Diane Stockhouse, owners of Stockhouse’s Farm, will lead the guided tour of their produce shop, the greenhouse, vegetable and flower gardens and poultry and goat pasture. They will be available to answer questions concerning their CSA and farm market operations.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Rosemattel's CSA and Storytree Farm will host a tour and festival at their North Vancouver farms, the weekend of August 11th and 12th, 2007.
This free event illustrates the growing popularity of the CSA system of food production and distribution while celebrating small, diverse farms in Clark County. Attendees will learn about intensive low-input farming on the urban fringe, while discovering the benefits of eating healthy, local food.
Clark County's planned urban growth expansion has created a sense of urgency among local farmers and consumers who recognize the rapid decline of local agriculture and have concerns about the negative impact on the community. Small, diversified farms are seen as a viable answer to the increasing demand for fresh, healthy local food. These small farms can fit easily into neighborhoods, providing a multitude of benefits for neighbors as well as CSA subscribers.
WHO IS INVITED: Anyone with an interest in CSA, the preservation of agriculture in Clark County & local, healthy food.
WHEN: August 11th and 12th, 2007
WHERE: Rosemattel's CSA (Saturday Only) 10311 N.E. 72nd Ave. Vancouver, WA 98686 Storytree Farm CSA (Both Saturday & Sunday) 6227 N.E. 124th St. Vancouver, WA 98686
TIME: 10:00 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m.
COST: None, this event is FREE to the Public; box available for donations of nonperishable food to support local food banks.
ACTIVITIES: * Farm walks, discussion * Old-fashioned soap make-and-take * Cooking Demonstrations, recipes * Medicinal and culinary herb talks * Children's activities at both farms * Learn how to plant to attract hummingbirds * Butterfly gardening * Companion planting / intercropping techniques * Learn about the CSA program unique to each farm * Membership table for the Vancouver Food Co-op * Plants and produce available for sale at both farms
*Storytree Farm Festival Schedule*
Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. ~ 4 p.m.
Ongoing: Farm Walk: Tour the gardens with Nelson; learn about sustainable food production.
10:00 Hummingbird Gardening: Sweet Nectar Nursery owner Susan Kirkbride will teach you what plants you can grow to attract these delightful birds to your garden. (Butterfly gardening will be her focus on Sunday)
11:00 Herb Chat: Certified Herbalist & Reiki specialist Llyn Zephyr will be on hand to teach us about the healing and medicinal properties of herbs.
12:00 & 3:00 Seasonal Cooking Demonstration: Enjoy a cooking demonstration using ingredients picked fresh this morning at Storytree Farm. Sample the recipe and take home a copy to try for yourself.
Anne Lawrence (Storytree Farm)
Phone: (360) 576-7139
Brenda Millar-Stanton (Rosemattel's CSA)
Phone: (360) 576-9767
Web: http://www.LocalHarvest.org (Listed under Rosemattel's CSA)
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Seminar to be held Monday, Sept. 17 at Ecotrust
Portland, Ore. (July 17, 2007) - Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI), the world’s leading natural and organic foods supermarket, is actively searching the Pacific Northwest for vendors interested in partnering with Whole Foods Market to offer new natural foods and products to customers
Reinforcing its ongoing commitment to providing quality local products, Whole Foods Market is hosting a free one-day seminar for potential new growers and suppliers in the Pacific Northwest.
“Whole Foods Market has always been dedicated to supporting regional purveyors while providing the best local foods and other products to our customers,” said Ron Megahan, president of the Pacific Northwest Region. “We are continually looking to uncover the next great artisan, farmer, rancher or environmentally friendly product. Our goal is to be known for offering the best of what the Pacific Northwest has to offer, and we hope our seminars have a great showing of potential Whole Foods Market partners.”
Whole Foods Market is looking for growers and suppliers from the Pacific Northwest who are passionate about producing high-quality, natural and organic foods. Those attending the seminar will learn how to partner with Whole Foods Market and share resources to make their businesses stronger through distribution options, effective packaging, marketing and media relations, “greening” products and the Whole Foods Market Grower and Supplier Loan Program.
Participating growers and suppliers will listen to and network with existing vendors and local farmers, Whole Foods Market’s buyers, and experts from the natural and organic products industry.
Where: Ecotrust located at 721 NW 9th Avenue. Portland, Oregon 97209
When: Monday, Sept. 17, drop in between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Seminar highlights include:
How to grow your business with Whole Foods Market
Understanding the process of becoming a Whole Foods Market vendor
Meeting Whole Foods Market’s quality standards
Learning about effective marketing and media relations
Whole Foods Market’s loan program, the latest grower-supplier support initiative
Whole Foods Market will be accepting applications through Tuesday, September 4, 2007, and hope to bring together 150 - 200 participants to attend the seminar.
The seminar is only open to growers, manufacturers, and suppliers who do not currently sell products in Whole Foods Market.
To apply for the Local Grower & Supplier Seminar in Portland, Ore., please email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
For more information on Whole Foods Market’s new Local Producer Loan Program, visit: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/locallygrown/lplp/index.html .
About Whole Foods Market®
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/ is the world’s leading natural and organic foods supermarket and America’s first national certified organic grocer. In fiscal year 2006, the company had sales of $5.6 billion and currently has more than 190 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The Whole Foods Market motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”TM captures the company’s mission to find success in customer satisfaction and wellness, employee excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. Whole Foods Market, Harry’s Farmers Market®, and Fresh & Wild® are trademarks owned by Whole Foods Market IP, LP. Whole Foods Market employs more than 45,000 Team Members and has been ranked for ten consecutive years as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America by FORTUNE magazine.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Habitat Conservation for Wild Pollinators:
Enhancing Crop Pollination in the Face of Honey Bee Declines
Overlooked by many growers, unmanaged native bees may be important crop pollinators. The presence of nearby natural areas and on-farm habitat, as well as pesticide use, strongly impacts this vital service. And, with honey bees harder to acquire each year, the importance of our native species continues to increase.
Designed primarily for NRCS and SWCD personnel, or other natural resource professionals, this workshop will cover the latest research on crop pollination by native bees and the most important steps you can take to help ensure that conservation buffers provide the best possible habitat for these insects. You will also learn about the new NRCS Plant Materials Technology Note on pollinator habitat specific to Oregon that is scheduled for release in June. We will spend the first half indoors and then go into the field to look at habitat features for pollinators.
Mace Vaughan is Conservation Director at the Xerces Society, a nonprofit organization in Portland, Oregon dedicated to invertebrate conservation and providing practical advice on habitat management for pollinators.
Kathy Pendergrass is the Oregon State Plant Materials Specialist for the NRCS and is writing the NRCS Plant Materials Technology Note on how to enhance habitat for pollinators, particularly on plant information and choices for the state of Oregon.
WHEN: Tuesday, June 26, 2007, 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
WHERE: NRCS Plant Material Center, 3415 NE Granger Ave., Corvallis, OR
RSVP: Joe Williams at 541-757-4812 x. 102 or email@example.com
Directions from I-5
• Merge onto PACIFIC BLVD SE / OR-99E S via EXIT 234B toward ALBANY.
• Keep RIGHT at the fork to continue on PACIFIC BLVD SE / OR-99E S. (0.9 miles)
• Take the US-20 ramp toward ALBANY / CITY CENTER / CORVALLIS. (0.2 miles)
• Turn SLIGHT RIGHT onto US-20 W / LYON ST S / ALBANY-CORVALLIS HWY. Continue to follow US-20 W / ALBANY-CORVALLIS HWY. (5.3 miles)
• Turn RIGHT onto NE GRANGER AVE. (<0.1 miles)
• End at 3415 NE Granger Ave., Corvallis, OR 97330-9620
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate ConservationThe Xerces Society is an international nonprofit organization thatprotects the diversity of life through invertebrate conservation. Tojoin the Society, make a contribution, or read about our work,please visit www.xerces.org.
Matthew ShepherdDirector, Pollinator Conservation Program
4828 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland, OR 97215
USATel: 503-232 6639 Cell: 503-807 1577 Fax: 503-233 6794
Monday, June 4, 2007
The other was a joke from a Midwesterner: A farmer won the lottery and a reporter asked him what he would do with his winnings. The farmer replied: "Keep farming until the money runs out."
These two stories are telling in terms of how farmers view their occupation. And yet old time local farmers appear beaten down and ready to give up farming. Some would say they have dollar signs in their eyes. Others have said that they don't really feel good about developing their land, but what else can they do?
Clark County's old time farmers deserve another choice of what to do, and that choice is something called transfer of development rights. We'll talk more about that later, but first, let's look at how Clark County farmers got so pessimistic.
For many farmers across the nation in all started in the 1970's. Richard Nixon was a president of bold initiatives and opened trade with China and the Soviet Union, most importantly a deal to sell grain to a hungry Soviet Union. His Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz told farmers to
specialize and "Get big or get out." He told them the U.S. was going to feed the world. A lasting food legacy of that administration is the Women, Infants and Childrens program, which puts script into mother's hands to buy nutritious food products.
Domestically in era of environmental concern, Congress passed and Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act, The Clean Air Act and The Clean Water Act. Nixon also established the Environmental Protection Agency.
But Peanut Farmer Jimmy Carter had a human rights agenda and used a grain embargo to punish the Soviets for the occupation of Afghanistan (hmmmm). The Soviets called in a food loan from India, and the only folks to suffer were American grain farmers. That was the beginning of the 1980's Farm Crisis.
Since then the domestic agenda has continued to ask more and more from the American farmer in terms of environmental protection and employment standards. In themselves these are programs that benefit the public, but farmers feel they are bearing inequitable share of the responsibility. But more galling yet, is that they are asked to meet these high standards, while the government's global trade policies expose them to competitors that face no such standards.
Given these circumstances it should come as no surprise that Washington raspberry farmers will not even bother to pick their vines this year, and Clark County farmers see no option but to sell out to the developers.
But at the same moment in history, movements calling for slow food, local food and sustainable farming practices offer a way out. The cover of Time Magazine shouts, "Forget Organic, Buy Local."
Clark County is a bit behind the curve compared to other counties in the state but there is nothing to say we can't catch up. Agricultural economic development efforts to build the infrastructure for a sustainable local food economy are doable. Local food in the school
programs, government partnership in farmer's markets, funding of community commercial kitchens to add value to ag products, and mobile U.S.D.A. slaughtering facilities are all strategies being pursued right here in Washington.
These strategies must go hand in hand with the effort to preserve farm lands. One preservation strategy is to purchase the rights of farmers to develop their land in exchange for committing to keep the land in agriculture in perpetuity.
Another strategy would be to let farmers develop the number of lots allowable under current zoning but encourage them to cluster those lots on the least productive land, while committing to keep the best in farm land.
Some world weary farmers will express skepticism at working with government on such a program, but until we have a concrete program in place, who can judge. But whatever we do, let's not call it a subsidy, because it isn't and farmers don't like that word. It's more like a
Some will say who would take such a deal with the prices developers will offer. Some may not, but as Commissioner Boldt has said, "They just want a retirement." A retirement doesn't require a lottery jackpot, and if I know the real farmers in this community they'd much rather rest comfortably in retirement knowing their land continues to grow fresh, local food, rather than subdivisions.
Tell our commissioners not to give Clark County agriculture up for dead yet. The first step is to save the "last of the best" of the county's farm land.
Please attend one of the two upcoming public comment sessions being held by the county commissioners. This is your opportunity to let the commissioners hear your feelings on local agriculture and the county's Comprehensive Growth Plan.
June 5th and June 6th - 6:30 pm on both evenings
BOCC Hearing Room, 1300 Franklin Street, 6th Floor
Vancouver, WA 98660
Link to Map:
Friday, May 25, 2007
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) along with 28 other co-sponsors introduced the Pollinator Protection Act of 2007 into the Senate today. This bill allows existing conservation programs to provide enhanced habitat for pollinators.
The European honey bee is -- and will continue to be -- the most important single crop pollinator in the United States. However, with the decline in the number of managed honey bee colonies from diseases, parasitic mites, and Africanized bees - as well as from Colony Collapse Disorder - it is important to increase the use of native bees in our agricultural system as well. Providing habitat for these pollinators is vital to this effort.
The Pollinator Protection Act of 2007 is aimed at improving habitat and food sources for pollinators. This bill utilizes existing Farm Bill conservation programs to strengthen both native and managed pollinator habitat. It does not cost additional money, or create a new program. It simply requires existing conservation programs to acknowledge pollinator habitat as a conservation resource and rewards producers whose conservation practices are beneficial for pollinators.
“This bill can help to improve crop security and the sustainability of agriculture, by helping farmers in the United States diversity their pollinator portfolio” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “The Pollinator Protection Act of 2007 will provide incentives to encourage farmers to improve habitat for both native and managed pollinators.”
Hundreds of species of native bees are available for crop pollination. Research from across the country demonstrates that a wide range of native bees help with crop pollination, in some cases providing all of the pollination required. These free, unmanaged bees provide a valuable service, estimated recently by scientists from the Xerces Society and Cornell University to be worth $3 billion annually in the U.S.
"Almost all of our pollination eggs are in the honey bee basket," says Mace Vaughan, conservation director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. "The Pollinator Protection Act of 2007 will put habitat on the ground for bumble bees, sweat bees, mason bees, squash bees, sunflower bees, miner bees, and also support honey bees. This bill strengthens and adds pollinator baskets for agriculture."
Pollinator Protection Act of 2007
Conserving America’s pollinators will require economic incentives for private landowners. On October 18, 2006, the National Academy of Sciences released the report Status of Pollinators in North America, which called attention to the decline of pollinators. Prepared by a National Research Council (NRC) committee, the report made several recommendations including urging the federal government to fund pollinator conservation through Farm Bill conservation and research programs.
The bill would create incentives for farmers to protect, restore and enhance pollinator habitat on and around farms. Pollinator Protection Act of 2007 would encourage state-level Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices to promote scientifically tested and approved pollinator-friendly practices for farmers participating in Farm Bill conservation programs.
Fully integrating native pollinators into Farm Bill programs can have a wide impact. For example, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) allocated over $1 billion in financial and technical assistance to farmers in 2006, and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) retired over 36 million acres of farmland, 4.5 million of which was specifically for wildlife habitat that could be tailored to provide the greatest benefit for pollinators.
Importance of Protecting Pollinators
Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is important for the reproduction of nearly 75 percent of the world’s flowering plants. This includes more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species, and one in three mouthfuls of the food that we eat. The United States alone grows more than one hundred crops that either require or benefit from pollinators.
Beyond agriculture, native pollinators are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems. Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are a major part of the diet of approximately 25 percent of birds, and of mammals ranging from deer mice to grizzly bears.
Why are native bees so helpful? Collectively, native bees are more versatile than honey bees. Some species, such as mason bees, are active when conditions are too cold or wet for honey bees. Many species also are simply more efficient at moving pollen between flowers. Bumble bees and several other native species can buzz pollinate flowers - vibrating the flower to release pollen from deep inside the pollen-bearing anthers - which honey bees cannot do. Crops such as tomatoes, cranberries, and blueberries produce larger, more abundant fruit when buzz pollinated.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international non-profit organization that protects the diversity of life through the conservation of invertebrates. The Society advocates for invertebrates and their habitats by working with scientists, land managers, educators, and citizens on conservation and education projects. Its core programs focus on endangered species, native pollinators, and watershed health.
For more information on pollinator conservation go to: www.xerces.org
Pollinator Habitat Protection Act 2007 Co-sponsors
Sponsor: Baucus, Max- (D - MT)
1. Chambliss, Saxby- (R - GA)
2. Grassley, Chuck- (R - IA)
3. Landrieu, Mary L.- (D - LA)
4. Nelson, Bill- (D - FL)
5. Isakson, Johnny- (R - GA)
6. Craig, Larry E.- (R - ID)
7. Casey, Robert P., Jr.- (D - PA)
8. Dorgan, Byron L.- (D - ND)
9. Feinstein, Dianne- (D - CA)
10 Clinton, Hillary Rodham- (D - NY)
11. Brown, Sherrod- (D - OH)
12. Harkin, Tom- (D - IA)
13. Kerry, John F.- (D - MA)
14. Allard, Wayne (R-CO)
15. Collins, Susan M.- (R - ME)
16. Byrd, Robert C.- (D - WV)
17. Thune, John- (R - SD)
18. Boxer, Barbara- (D - CA)
19. Tester, Jon- (D - MT)
20. Feingold, Russell D.- (D - WI)
21. Sanders, Bernard- (I - VT)2
22. Snowe, Olympia J.- (R - ME)
23. Cochran, Thad- (R - MS)
24 Nelson, E. Benjamin- (D - NE)
25. Roberts, Pat- (R - KS)
26. Salazar, Ken- (D - CO)
27 Crapo, Mike- (R - ID)
28. Stabenow, Debbie- (D - MI)
29. Conrad, Kent- (D - ND)
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
The Xerces Society is an international nonprofit organization that protects the diversity of life through invertebrate conservation. To join the Society, make a contribution, or read about our work,please visit www.xerces.org.
Matthew Shepherd Director, Pollinator Conservation Program 4828 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland, OR 97215, USA Tel: 503-232 6639 Cell: 503-807 1577 Fax: 503-233 6794 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I sincerely appreciate your assistance with our effort to convince the Board of County Commissioners that agriculture is NOT dead in Clark County and that the county can grow while employing sustainable practices, and thereby preserve and even improve our quality of life.
In his February State of the County Address, County Commissioner Steve Stuart said,
”… We need to define what farming is in Clark County now and how we can support it in the future.
We need to look at our local farms as a part of our local economy and treat them that way instead of acting like their purpose should be providing open space and cows to look at during a drive in the country. Farmers have contributed more to our community than they will ever get credit for, but we can at least make sure they can keep working if they want to.”
“…Sustainability is much bigger than just a catchphrase…”
Sounds great. But that’s not exactly what we see occurring when we look at the county Comprehensive Growth Management Plan.
In a nutshell, the county has recently released a "preferred alternative" to their Comprehensive Growth Management Plan. This alternative contains a proposal to rezone 4000+ acres of agricultural land for use in high density residential, commercial and industrial development. We feel that this is not acceptable and that our county commissioners are being extremely shortsighted with regards to their development plans, responsible growth and development, and the importance of protecting our agricultural resources. At this point, the commissioners appear to be misappropriating the term "sustainable" as a way to make everyone feel good. The truth of the matter seems that their concept of a sustainable Clark County includes creating the same subdivision, big box store, asphalt landscape as our Oregon neighbors in Washington County and Clackamas County. There is no sustainability for a community that embraces sprawling suburban development. And there is no hope of a future where we can provide a good, clean, and fair food system for our community if we pave over our farmland.
Please contact our county commissioners and let them know what YOUR vision for a sustainable Clark County is. You can see our little sustainable dream by following the link below:
Let them know that agriculture is NOT dead in Clark County. Inform them of the importance of protecting, supporting, and encouraging the efforts of our farmers, dairies, CSAs, and livestock producers.
Here are a number of ways to get your message to the county:
You can send e-mail
You can leave comments at the Board of County Commissioners web site
You can send letters
1300 Franklin, 6th Floor, Vancouver, WA 98666-5000
You can fax or call on the phone
Main phone: (360) 397-2232 FAX: (360) 397-6058
Or BEST OF ALL, you can attend one of the upcoming public comment sessions and tell them in person
June 5th and June 6th - 6:30 pm on both evenings
BOCC Hearing Room, 1300 Franklin Street, 6th Floor
Vancouver, WA 98660
Link to Map: http://maps.yahoo.com/;_ylc=X3oDMTExNmIycG51BF9TAzI3MTYxNDkEc2VjA2ZwLWJ1dHRvbgRzbGsDbGluaw--#mvt=m&q1=1300%20franklin%2098660&amp;amp;trf=0&lon=-122.67731&lat=45.631236&mag=3
Again, I sincerely appreciate your participation in this effort. I know that with your help, we can keep Clark County a great place to live.
Monday, May 21, 2007
First a procedural note: Glenn Grossman and I and a few other dedicated watch dog types attended the first of the Comprehensive Plan Open Houses the other night, and it was not what I expected. I expected a forum where we might air our views, but no, it really was as it was billed, avery informal open house with several county planners available to answer questions.
It was informative and interesting, and after recovering from the huge social awkwardness head ache it gave me, it inspired the following piece. So... I wouldn't discourage anyone from going, but you may want to save your energy for the public hearings.
THE PUBLIC HEARINGS WILL BE: TUESDAY, JUNE 5 AND WEDNESDAY JUNE 6, AT6:30 P.M., AT THE PUBLIC SERVICE CENTER, SIXTH FLOOR, ROOM #680, 1300 FRANKLIN ST.
DREAM A little DREAM, CLARK COUNTY
I have a confession to make. Six months ago I turned into a NIMBY. It wasn't the asphalt plant proposed for half a mile away that made me a NIMBY, it was the news that in revising our County's Comprehensive Plan, our government officials had given up on agriculture as a resource in our county, and that they planned to convert 4700 acres of land they had previously protected as a critical resource to residential and industrial use.
Now let me say right up front, that I don't think NIMBY is a fair term. If someone calls you a NIMBY, your first response should be, "OK, how about your back yard." Unless your accusers says yes to their backyard, don't let them cow you.
Now right about the time I was becoming a NIMBY, County Commissioner Steve Stuart was dreaming a dream. It was a dream of a sustainable Clark County, and he presented it in his "State of the County" address. In preparing for my NIMBY-ish appointment with Stuart to express my concerns about agriculture resource land, I read the speech. At first, my NIMBY rage blinded me to the possibilities.
When Stuart spoke of a "sustainable street of dreams," and a "sustainable technology research park," I imagined a street of multimillion dollar energy efficient "McMansions" and a sprawling single story industrial park in the middle of the thousand acres of dairy land about a half mile from our little farm, and I said, "NOT IN MY BACKYARD."
And so for the last six months I have been downloading reports and maps, talking to county officials and trying to stir my friends and associates to action. After watching Bleak House on OPB for the second time, my wife Diane turned to me and said, Jim, the Comprehensive Plan is your Jaundice and Jaundice.
Well I had all the passion and pallor of Richard Carsten when I marched into the County's Open House on the plan last Wednesday, and instead of a court room where I could plead my case, all I found was a roomful of county planners, working late to answer my questions about the plan. It soon became clear that they weren't the folks that could judge my case, they were just lowly clerks. One might have been the ambitious Mr.Guppy, another Mr. Talkinghorn's world weary Clem, or the earnest Mr.Snagsby.
I told them my concerns, trying not to brow beat the messengers, and went home with my usual post-meeting headache. But, behold, in the night my NIMBY fever broke and scales fell from my eyes, and I awoke, no longer a NIMBY, but transformed to a WIWIMBY.
Now what in the "dickens" (pun intended) is a WIWIMBY? "WIWIMBY" stands for "What I Want In My Backyard." You see, that evening I learned something. The Comprehensive Plan is an opportunity for folks to dream. I also learned that folks that don't live in my backyard, do my dreaming for me. Some agencies out there came up with a whopper of a dream for the Dairy in my backyard. You see a railroad runs through it. And a regional agency thinks we need more industrial land. And an entrepreneur from far away dreams of making money on that railroad. And the county owns the railway and leased it to the entrepreneur, and they said they'd help him make it pay. And so the County is rezoning our neighborhood dairy agricultural resource land to industrial.
Well I quizzed our county planners about this dream, and it really is just a dream. Besides the asphalt plant there are no tenants for this industrial park. There are no plans yet developed for how to manage the conflict between rail traffic and automobile traffic. It is all "conceptual" (read "a dream"), and it may never happen. The dairy will be grandfathered, but it won't be able to expand, and when the dairyman is ready to retire, it will be reserved for industry.
Well the scales fell, when I realized if all these other folks are dreaming about my back yard, why can't I. And in fact, when I went back to look at Commissioner Stuart's speech, he asked us to tell him our sustainable dreams.
And so Mr. Stuart, here is my dream for my backyard. I dream that that dairy will stay right where it is. I know folks say that the dairy industry is dying in Clark County, and much of it has. The farmers who left said it's a whole lot easier to meet environmental regs east of the Mountains where it's dry and that's where I get my hay from anyway.
But this dairy has been refined in that firestorm. Those wide flat acres that look so good for an industrial park are the perfect place fora dairy waste lagoon and good drainable class I soil to absorb the excess liquid waste. Those acres also grow a whole lot of feed that doesn't have to be shipped over the mountains. And at least some of those dairies that shipped their herds out to Idaho are now growing feed for the one dairy and raising its heifers. That's one pretty substantial reality to push out of the way for a dream. So let's keep that dairy. Maybe some of that stinky gas we complain about could be captured and scrubbed and sold to the neighborhood as bio gas. Maybe we could start a little cheese factory.
And what about that railroad. Well maybe it's a sustainable alternative to all that traffic congestion we'll generate when we put McMansions on the rest of those 4700 acres of agricultural resource land. What if we hop skipped over that farmland. And what if we used that railway we own as the trunk for extending planned sustainable development into the less productive lands in the east of the county. Small densely populated developments could be sited along the line. Villages like Brush Prairie, Old Town Battle Ground, Heisson and Yacolt could be revitalized. And rather than one big industrial park, what about zoning small areas in these villages to employ people right there, adding value to the agricultural and forest products these areas produce. Each could also have small commercial areas for a grocer, a baker, a local foods restaurant and a local hardware. Those that couldn't find work in the village could ride a commuter line into the city. Or how about we use the rail line to bring goods and services to the villages. The Vancouver Food Coop or a Countywide farmers market could ride the rails, spending a day in each village, a book rail car could hold a lot more books than a bookmobile, a mobile health clinic could serve the growing population of aging boomers who could live in condo villages along the line.
These villages could be tightly built, sharing walls for energy efficiency, but they would be spread out in natural settings, where many more could share the vistas that the McMansions now compete with farmers to purchase, and the small but dense development would leave room for community gardens to serve the villages and "fields of dreams" where new young farmers could grow the County's budding local food sector.
This rail line into rural Clark County could also carry our crowded urbanites out for a day in the country, passing within walking distance of such attractions as Bi Zi Farms, The Cedars Golf Course, Old Town Battle Ground, Battle Ground Lake, The Historic Allworth Mill, Historic Heisson, Pomeroy Farm, Lucia Falls Park, Moulton Falls Park, Historic Yacolt and Historic Amboy.
Well it's just a dream, but it's a sustainable dream, and that's what the good commissioner asked for. So that's this humble farmers dream for our backyard, what's yours? Write it down and send it to the Clark County Board of County Commissioners, subject line: input on the Comprehensive Plan Update.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
I'll start off by stating that what is being written here is not the opinion of my convivium. This silly little piece of prose was crafted purely to fulfill my culturally motivated need to speak my mind about current situation. Some of it is obviously tongue and cheek and some might or might not be. I'm not on anyone's side here and I'm not going to try to convince you that any of the characters in this story is particularly right or wrong. You decide for yourself and then please feel free to share your opinion of my opinion with someone besides me.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not, by any means, a passionate devotee of Mr. Petrini. However, I do sincerely appreciate his efforts and I am grateful that his vision has fostered the formation of the Slow Food movement, thereby helping to contribute to the efforts of numerous groups of like-minded people who are all trying to save the world through compassion towards fellow human beings and respect for our living planet.
I do not fully accept, nor do I agree with any number of things pertaining to the policies, events, and operation of Slow Food USA, Slow Food Intl., and the national/international officers and board members...but that's just a personal thing and I have no problem being able to put all of that aside in order to focus on the "big picture". (Or in my case, the small picture. I am much more interested in grass-roots local efforts, free or low priced events, and the politics of my community than I am about Terra Madre, the NYC Slow Food Gala, or figuring out how to raise money locally to support any number of national or international efforts...again, that's just my personal approach to spreading the Slow Food gospel.)
So back to the story of Carlo and the Ferry Plaza Market Farmers.
Mr. Petrini is currently on a PR tour to give some face time to the masses in order to promote his latest book, "Slow Food Nation". I'm not going to spend a great deal of time criticizing the book. If you're curious, pick up a copy and give it a read. It's a bit wordy and a bit philosophical and a more than a bit opinionated. But like other things I've read that were written by Petrini and translated into English, I think that the combination of Petrini's style and the work of some overzealously intellectual editors and translators always make his publications somewhat difficult to digest. I did, however, find this most recent book to be somewhat more approachable than many previous Slow Food/Petrini publications.
If you've ever read (or attempted to read) any of Mr. Petrini's other published works, you'd know by now that the average American would at least need to keep a dictionary close at hand. And if he or she desired actual comprehension of all of the concepts, theories, and politics there would be a great benefit from the assistance of a college literature major, someone with a PhD in a life science field, and perhaps an armchair philosopher for good measure. This goes double for Slow Food International's 'Slow' magazine. It's not that intellectual literature is a bad thing by any means, but most folks just don't have the education or intellectual curiosity that is required to derive pleasure from attempting to read things that seem akin to someone's master’s thesis or an article out of the latest academic journal. No offense to you uber-smart, post-graduate educated people, but while most of the world's citizens are far from being knuckle-dragging troglodytes, we just aren't as bright as you are.
What happened in San Francisco was basically this. Some folks associated with the Ferry Market read a particular passage of Mr. Petrini's book. The passage was specifically related to the Ferry Plaza Market, its farmers, surfing, Mr. Petrini's philosophy of what things would be like in the Slow Food, ideal, utopian gastronomic universe, and how this philosophy could not exist alongside American-style capitalism. They didn't like Mr. Petrini's view of their market or their business practices. They felt insulted and irate when Mr. Petrini would not retract his opinion and fall in step with what they felt was the correct perspective of their market and business practices.
I call bullshit here.
As I made clear in the third and fourth paragraph of my little story, I don't agree with any number of Slow Food issues, policies, etc. (I also don't agree with my wife and her philosophy on how often the lawn should be mown, but I'll be damned if a difference of opinion is going to end the marriage.) My point is that a difference in opinion, which leads to a inflamed argument over a piece of literature, and finally results in an irreconcilable situation in which neither party is satisfied with the outcome and everyone walks away is just plain ignorant. I realize that it often turns out that way when people disagree, but that doesn't make it acceptable. Not to mention that in my mind there are few things more hypocritical than Americans having a problem with anyone calling a spade a spade.
Americans have always had a knack for being unable to accept that there could be little in the way of productive conversation without speaking directly. Even if the subject was brutal, ugly, or socially questionable. We take pride in making the rest of the world aware that Americans have no problem telling it like we think it is or at least as we believe it should be. Stupid or not. Truthful or not. We think it. We say it. A nation of Asperger afflicted individuals...minus the unusually high IQs.
(The exception to this All-American, culturally significant mode of speaking are the lunatics who believe that there is even a mote of value in the ridiculous concept of political correctness. We should appeal to the United Nations to displace another indigenous, Middle Eastern population and give their little slice of desert paradise to the politically correct folks so they can all live together in a politically correct nation...far, far away from here.)
Now read on, brave soul, and feast your eyes on Mr. Petrini's inexcusable transgression. See for yourself how the pompous foreigner with his Socialist ideas slandered and soiled the character of the noble, capitalist, American farmer/surfers.
From “Slow Food Nation” by Carlo Petrini (Copyright 2007 Rizzoli Books):
Morning. The cool morning began quite early: if you are going to the market, it is best to be ready by seven o’clock at the latest. The sun was not yet warm enough when, in the company of my chef friend Alice Waters, I entered an elegantly refurbished area of the docks; pretty little coffee shops were serving warm mugs of excellent organic fair-trade coffee; sumptuous bakeries were putting out all sorts of good things, spreading the fragrant aroma of some wonderful kinds of bread. Oil and wine producers were offering samples in marquees, while hundreds of open-air stalls were selling excellent products: fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, sausages, and even flowers—fresh, healthy-looking food, all carefully marked organic.
One could have easily spent a fortune there. The prices were astronomical, twice or even three times as high as those of “conventional” products. But how hard it is to produce things so well, and what costs are involved in obtaining certification! I am convinced that the farmers’ intelligent, productive efforts deserve to be paid for generously, so I was not too scandalized by the prices, even though they were those of a boutique. Yes, a boutique: for I soon realized I was in an extremely exclusive place (bear in mind that this is one of the oldest and most important farmers’ markets in town, la crème de la crème). The amiable ex-hippies and young dropouts-turned-farmers greeted their customers with a smile and offered generous samples of their products to a clientele whose social status was pretty clear: either wealthy or very wealthy.
Alice Waters introduced me to dozens of farmers: they were all well-to-do college graduates, former employees of Silicon Valley, many of them young. Meanwhile, their customers, most of whom seemed to be actresses, went home clutching their peppers, squashes, and apples, showing them off like jewels, status symbols. Two of the producers in particular struck me: a young man with a long beard and a man who was selling oil. The former, with long hair and a plaid flannel shirt, held his lovely little blond-haired daughter in his arms and told me, in a conspiratorial tone, that he had to drive two hundred miles to come and sell in that market: he charged incredibly high prices for his squashes, it was “a cinch,” and in just two monthly visits he could earn more than enough to maintain his family and spend hours surfing on the beach.
The latter, who wore a tie, extolled the beauties of his farm: it consisted of hundreds of hectares of olive trees, stretching as far as the eye could see, and nothing else. While I was tasting his excellent organic oil on a slice of bread which reminded me of Tuscan bread—absolutely delicious—I was thinking of what he must have uprooted and cleared away in order to grow all those plants, each one of them impeccably organic.
Afternoon. In the early afternoon, with those odors and aromas and the faces of the marvelous farmers’ market still in my head, I was sweating in a taxi (it lacked the usually ubiquitous American air-conditioning) on the way to Berkeley for my appointment with Miguel Altieri. The professor, an entomologist, teaches agroecology at the university. He spends six months a year in California and the other six elsewhere in the world, especially in South America, where he carries out fieldwork and projects of sustainable, family-based, organic farming. He is a champion of biodiversity, with his theory that agricultural systems, like all ecosystems, ought to have all the necessary capacities for self-regulation, without the intervention of external factors such as pesticides and fertilizers. According to Altieri, the existing biodiversity—on which farmers’ knowledge has been molded for thousands of years—and local people’s know-how are the only basis for developing agricultural systems that are sufficiently productive and respectful of cultural diversity all around the world. By blending the local farmers’ knowledge with the discoveries of “mainstream” science, it is possible to create a clean and productive agriculture which will foster human well-being while respecting nature.
I walked across the beautiful Berkeley campus under a warm, dazzling sun (green California gets it even in the fall) and reached Altieri’s small office. I listened spellbound for over an hour to his theories, conversing in Spanish (he is Chilean) and relishing his militant passion and the unmistakable honesty of this man who works and struggles for a better world. Biodiversity before all else: this is the only secret behind sustainable development. His aversion to the use of chemical substances in agriculture is clear, absolute, and motivated. He proposes alternative methods with such utter conviction that in South America he is considered a luminary and is respected by universities, research centers, NGOs, and governments.
In his opinion, the main task is “to promote sustainable agriculture; a development program which is socially equitable, environmentally healthy, economically affordable, and culturally sensitive.”
I asked him what he thought of organic farming and its rapid expansion in California, wanting to test his agroecological “extremism.”
There are many cases of organic farming that are not sustainable, because they create a vast monoculture, one that relies on the use of integrated pesticides which greatly reduce the surrounding biodiversity: vast stretches of vineyards in Chile and in Italy, huge plantations of vegetables in California, hectares and hectares of olive groves in Spain.
Olive groves . . . I thought of the man I had met that morning. I remembered the faces of my wine-producer friends in southern Piedmont, who, since Barolo sells well, have in the space of a few years planted vines everywhere, even in ditches, removing woodland and fields, indeed most of the surrounding biodiversity.
And in addition to the environmental question, there is also a socioeconomic one: nowadays in California there is a lot of organic agriculture which is unsustainable because, although it has a limited environmental impact, it exists at the expense of people who are paid very little, just as in conventional agriculture. Hosts of Mexican immigrants exploited like slaves, with no rights and earning a pittance. It is not fair, because the organic product is sold at a much higher price than the product of conventional farming. And only the very rich can afford it, the fruits of this work; the minorities don’t eat organic food in the United States.
I had seen confirmation of this a few hours earlier, and indeed, as Altieri flowed on:
In California, 2 percent of organic producers make percent of the total amount produced by the industry in this sector; I use the term “industry” advisedly: we are facing the same problems as conventional agriculture. The concentration of production, the exploitation of the work of ethnic minorities, monocultures, the reduction of biodiversity, and prices determined by a free market which is not sustainable. Social sustainability can be achieved through public intervention, through politics: in Brazil, in those regions where the Workers’ Party controls the local government, all food served in public cafeterias must by law be organic and must be produced by small local producers at fair but accessible prices.
Agroecology has a scientific basis, but it also has profound political implications, because it is badly in need of public intervention: before an agroecological approach can be established in Latin America, there must be agrarian reform and public intervention in the market to protect small farmers or to guarantee fair prices for producers and consumers. All these factors are crucial, and they affect both science and politics.
Evening. On my way back to town, I pondered those words and the market I had visited. Organic farming is undoubtedly a very good thing; it is an excellent alternative to agroindustry, and I do not like to find fault with people—my friends of that morning—who sell products that are so naturally good. But perhaps it is better to have doubts. Reality is complex and resists labels. There is a risk that technocratic thought, when it is deeply rooted, may shape and influence even those tendencies that are opposed to the system, thereby creating other anomalies. As the outskirts of town flashed by outside the window of the taxi, chains of fast-food joints succeeded one another on almost every block. They were all crowded with ordinary people, very different people from the customers I had seen at the farmers’ market.
In the evening I returned to Berkeley, and went to Chez Panisse, the restaurant owned by my friend Alice Waters, where I had a memorable dinner based on raw materials so fresh you could almost taste the life that had animated the vegetables only a few hours earlier. They served me the best agnolotti I have ever eaten. At Berkeley! Green California . . . vive la contradiction!
Hmmmmm...maybe I'm even dumber (or more insensitive) than I thought I was, but it seems to me that Carlo called it the way he saw it and told the story of what he experienced from the perspective of a man who is an idealist, intellectual, Socialist, Italian, or whatever you might believe he is...just like anyone else would have.
Maybe it would have made some folks feel a little better if he had apologized for stating his opinion.
Or if he had just had the decency to retract his views of the Ferry Plaza Market and its farmers.
Or if he hadn't mentioned the already well publicized point that large scale, monocrop-type agriculture is not a good thing, even if it is "organic".
Or if he hadn't told his readers that some of the farmers at the Ferry Plaza Market are enjoying leisure time thanks to their sales at the market.
Or if he had tossed aside his convictions that food should be good, clean and fair and that all human beings should have access to that food.
That might have made some folks feel a little better.
Now for those of you who believe that all of Slow Food operates like the hive mind society of Star Trek's Borg:
Slow Food members and supporters do not blindly follow the ideas and accept the opinions of Mr. Petrini as their own...try to look at him in the same way we perceive John Lennon or Bill Gates or any of a number of other popular culture icons. He gave us a great concept. He can be entertaining. He makes for a charismatic figurehead...most of the time. And as a bonus, he also wears great shoes. (But don't all Italians?)
He's not King Carlo. Your local convivium does not build shrines to him. He is, after all, just another human being. Just like you. Just like the farmers at the Ferry Plaza Market. At the very least he deserves the courtesy of not being vilified just for having an unpopular opinion. At best, perhaps people might decide that his observations and conclusions deserve further consideration.
It is worth noting that, whether you like him or not, Carlo Petrini is a determined man who has achieved a number of very noble accomplishments. He is a brave man who is not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. And he is an uncommon man who is deeply concerned about the frightfully, gloomy future of humanity and is actively doing something to try to change things for the better.
My secret hope is that eventually this will turn into one big love-in and Carlo and Steve Sando will hug and make nice-nice. Just like John Mackey & Michael Pollan did.
But for now, let's all just take a deep breath, have a good laugh at what a bunch of silly monkeys we can be sometimes, and get back to the serious business of trying to save the world in whatever way we can. I know that our children would certainly appreciate not inheriting bigger problems than those which we already need to get to work fixing.
Now that I've had my fun, I want to also give you the opportunity to read the opinions and comments of the Ferry Plaza Farmers:
And the blogs of some of those smart folks I was telling you about:
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The first Open House on the Comprehensive Plan is tonight (Wednesday) from 6:30 to 8:30 P.M. at the Clark County Elections Building at 1408 Franklin. That's the one story building on the southwest corner of Franklin and Fourth Plain. Parking is available on Franklin in the County's parking garage, which is next door. Hope to see you there.
Further open houses are next week in Dollars Corner on Tuesday the 22 and Fisher's Landing, Wednesday, the 23, same hours.
To view past installments of Farmland Preservation 101 and find more info, go to "clarkfoodfarm.blogspot.com" or "slowfoodswwa.com"
WHY PRESERVE CLARK COUNTY FARMLAND?
In Today's lesson we get down to the fun stuff. These are the arguments you can include in your letters to commissioners, and in presentations at open houses and hearings.
"10 REASONS TO BUY LOCAL FOOD" I highly recommend that you google this phrase. There you will find a fact sheet from the publication GROWING FOR MARKET. This publication has granted permission to photocopy this fact sheet, so it is ready to use with the commissioners and in collecting allies.
In brief GFM's ten reasons are:
1) It tastes better
2)it is better for you
3)it preserves genetic diversity
4)it is GMO-free
5) it supports local farm families
6) it builds communities
7)it preserves open space
8) it keeps your taxes in check
9) it supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife
10) it is about the future.
The fact sheet offers a paragraph on each of these themes.
If I knew the technology to link you directly to this piece I would, perhaps some of our local food webbies will.
Link to .pdf file of 10 Reasons....
So one simple way to address comments to the commissioners is to take one of these ten reasons that is nearest and dearest to your heart and repeat it to them. With a little more effort you could expand on it and make it personal.
BRINGING IT UP TO DATE
A couple of years ago, Clark County horticulture extension agent Charles Brun noted that Community Supported Agriculture was a step away from globalization. Since then the number of Clark County CSA's has grown from two to ten. But at the same time the process of globalization has accelerated in the conventional agricultural sector.
Apple and wheat products are now being imported from China to Washington State, a leading producer of apples and wheat. The imported wheat products contain a substance that has poisoned over 10,000 pets nationwide.
Ten years ago, Agent Brun was advising beginning farmers to plant raspberries. In a recent presentation he noted that raspberry growers in Whatcom County aren't picking their raspberries because of global competition. Local growers have not pruned and trellised their vines this year, suggesting a similar circumstance here in Clark County.
Meanwhile, local food has become a national buzzword. Consumers shaken by ever growing contamination scares in the industrialized agriculture sector are turning to farmers they can deal with directly.
As the international crisis we are facing deepens and energy prices skyrocket, local food that doesn't have to travel the average of 1500 miles to market will become increasingly attractive. Farmlands are just this year being converted from producing crops for food to crops for fuel. This will increase the need for farmland.
If the present international crisis is a result of our dependence on foreign oil, what will be the result of our increasing dependence on foreign food. As Middle Eastern nations are emboldened to challenge the hegemony of the industrialized nations, there are signs that the "banana republics" we are increasingly dependent on for cheap food will also begin to make greater demands for justice in the market place.
This is no time to be throwing away farmland.
BRINGING IT HOME
The threat to Clark County farmland is fueled on the one hand by a seemingly insatiable demand for cheap land for housing. This situation is partially fueled by the relative strength of land use policies in neighboring Oregon. On the other hand local conventional farmers have
been hit hard by government policies of globalization, environmental protection and an increasingly regulated labor market.
Conventional farmers have been strained to the breaking point and are demoralized about the future of agriculture. The conventional farmers that are surviving are turning to diversified farming and direct marketing, pioneering the way for the growing number of small alternative
farms. Joe's Place and Bi Zi Farms are examples of this transitional farm type.
It is time for public policy to invest in and strengthen our farm sector rather than continue to take it for granted and restrict it. Zoning restrictions to preserve farmland are necessary, but alone they are hollow. The retiring generation of farmers need to be fairly compensated
for preserving existing farmland, this can be achieved through the purchase of agricultural conservation easements. Then we must invest in the infrastructure of local marketing systems and small scale processing facilities that will allow local farmers to harvest the full value of their products. These measures are being used successfully in other areas of our state.
BRINGING IT INTO FOCUS
And lastly, lets take a look at the opening paragraphs of The Washington Administrative Code regarding planning for agricultural resource lands in the Growth Management Act.
"The intent of this chapter is to establish minimum guidelines to assist all counties statewide in classifying agricultural lands, forest lands, mineral resource lands and critical areas. These guidelines shall be considered by counties and cities in designating these lands.
"Growth management, natural resource land conservation, and critical area protection share problems related to governmental costs and efficiency. Sprawl and unwise development of natural resource lands or areas may lead to inefficient use of limited public resources, jeopardize environmental resource functions and values, subject persons and property to unsafe
conditions, and affect the perceived quality of life. It is more costly to remedy the loss of natural resource lands or critical areas than to conserve and protect them from loss or degradation. The inherent economic, social and cultural values of natural resource lands and critical areas should be considered in the development of strategies designed to conserve and protect lands."
Clark County's Final Growth Management Plan Update Final Environmental Impact Statement devotes one page of text out of 120 to "Rural and Resource Lands," despite having redefined agricultural resource lands in a forty-one page document not submitted to the public for review. Is Clark County meeting the requirements Section 190 of State Code regarding agricultural resource lands?
Saturday, May 12, 2007
CLIFF NOTES FOR THE SHORT OF TIME:
FARMLAND PRESERVATION 101 Session 2: How Can it be Done?
Maybe the first question to ask about preserving farmland in Clark County is, "Can it be done?" And my answer would have to be "Maybe." This article will discuss both the technical mechanisms by which farm land can be preserved, and the practical political steps that need to be taken to get the effort started.
NUTS AND BOLTS
Agricultural zoning is the present mechanism by which land is set aside for agricultural purposes. Zoning restricts land in Agricultural Resource zones from being developed for other purposes. A big problem with zoning is that it can be changed by County Government, which is the problem that we are currently facing. But it is also a permanent problem, because as long as it can be changed, it provides an incentive for landowners to lobby for that change to increase the development value of the land, and it always leaves a doubt in the mind of landowners that
maybe some day this land will be worth much more.
County Government, at this time, appears to be making the argument that agriculture is not viable on the lands it seeks to incorporate into the Urban Growth Boundaries. It appears to be arguing, therefore, that the Agricultural Resource Zone is no longer relevant and is overly restrictive. Some will argue that they have a legitimate case, and I will rebut that case in a future article.
SUPPLEMENTS TO ZONING
Proponents of development will argue that there is no alternative to development, because land values are so high that no one will buy land for farming. The following supplements are the answers we can give to that argument. The mechanisms are in place to use these tools if the county would incorporate them into their land use plans.
A more reliable alternative to preserving at least some farmland is to set aside farmland through "Agricultural Conservation Easements." These are agreements between the current landowner and a conservation group or government agency that permanently dedicate the land for agricultural use. The purpose of agricultural conservation easements is to keep land available for farming. The agreement runs with the deed, so that if the land is sold or passed down to the next generation, the agreement continues, usually in perpetuity. Landowners can donate easements, or groups or agencies can purchase them from the landowner. The value of the easement is the difference in the value as farmland and the value at which it could be developed for other purposes. There are significant tax benefits for donating an easement.
An agricultural conservation easement can probably never get a landowner what they could get if they wait for a rezone and sell for residential or commercial development. However it offers an alternative way to liquidate some or all of the equity in their property while keeping the land in agriculture. Also, they can do it now, rather than banking on future development.
Both state and federal governments currently have money available for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements. The State is having difficulty spending the money. However, I believe both levels require a local match either from government or a qualified conservation group. So participation at a local level is needed.
In a world in which farmland conservation easements are in place, the speculative value of farm land is removed from the picture. Once compensated for their development rights, farm families wishing to retire or leave the industry now are selling only to folks who wish to farm the land, which should make the price of farmland much more affordable for beginning farmers, and open the way for more medium sized, commercially viable sustainable farms in Clark County.
HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
Once land is rezoned for development, agricultural conservation easements become impractical. The differential between the development value and the agricultural value becomes overwhelmingly expensive. Furthermore, it is unlikely that a government that has zoned land for development would participate in purchasing agricultural easements in those areas. While there may be large amounts of open land left in the county, where easements could be used, the best of the agricultural land is in the areas that are likely to be developed first, in the southwestern half of the county. So retaining lands currently zoned agricultural resource land is essential if agricultural conservation easements are to have a chance to preserve the best farmland in the County.
OTHER LAND USE OPTIONS
Agricultural conservation easements are not the only way to preserve agricultural land. Some experts recommend "development right exchanges" as a lower cost alternative. Under this idea, developers who want to develop in a particular area where they cannot currently develop can exchange rights to develop they hold somewhere else, for the right to develop in the desired area.
Another mechanism that is currently available to rural land owners is called "cluster development." Say a farm family owns eighty acres. They have development rights to subdivide the land into four twenty acre parcels within the AG 20 zone. The Cluster Ordinance allows them the alternative to divide it into three one acre parcels and one eventy-seven acre parcel. But, again, once lands are removed from the AG 20 zone, these options become irrelevant.
At the most basic level, what ordinary folks like us can do is to get the attention of our elected leaders, let them know what we think, and that we care enough to make a future electoral issue over it.
To this end, we need to turn folks out to the upcoming open houses and hearing on the 2007 Comprehensive Plan Revision, and get written comments into the Commissioners. Also at a basic level we need to roll up our sleeves and talk to folks about this issue and encourage them to join us.
I don't get much a view of the lay of the land from here in front of my computer in the basement of the Fifield House. So in order to get a sense about whether we can get anywhere with this, I propose the following.
If you are willing and able to join me in working on this, e-mail me with your plans for what you are prepared to do. If you write comments or attend an open house, e-mail me about what you did and how it went. If you are willing to contact two other people to get involved in helping es, e-mail me that you did and what you accomplished.
That should get us started.
Ideally, I believe that this is an issue around which we can build a coalition of consumers, environmentalists, farmers, conscientious rural land owners, conscientious real estate agents,and conscientious developers. That doesn't leave too many folks left on the other side.
It also means that we need take care that we're not slinging mud at potential allies, so as you talk and write, choose your words carefully (not something I have always been famous for). In a future article I'll write more about this coalition and how I envision building it.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
"Farmed fish were fed meal spiked with an industrial chemical linked to the ongoing recall of pet foods, though the contamination level was probably too low to pose a danger to anyone who may have eaten the fish, federal health officials said Tuesday...It wasn't immediately clear if any of the farmed fish entered the food supply. However, Acheson said at least one firm's fish were still too young and small to be sold. Investigators were visiting other U.S. aquaculture farms that used the contaminated feed." - By ANDREW BRIDGES, Associated Press Writer
They're not sure if the fish are being sold to consumers, but we should all feel ok about it because even though the same contaminants killed our dogs and cats, it probably won't harm humans.
My advice is to be careful what you're feeding your children folks...
Monday, May 7, 2007
I am announcing a permanent, community based, non-profit project titled, Taking the Farm Home. Once fully developed, it will include a demonstration garden (approximately 600 square feet), a greenhouse and "farm to school" tours intended to educate children in K - 12; we will also offer classes on subjects like organic gardening, sustainable agricultural practices, and much more. Gardening classes will be tailored to empower community members to use gardening techniques in their specific housing situation (e.g. apartment or house) and healthy food choices will receive special emphasis.
This project is made possible by the generous contribution of the Manor Evangelical Church, which has agreed to contribute by alllowing the use of its real property. The location is at the corner of 72nd Ave & 179th St, near Battle Ground, WA.
As part of the Taking the Farm Home project, the new Manor Farmers' Market is scheduled to open on May 26th, 2007. It will be held each Saturday from 8 - 5 at the Manor Evangelical Church's grounds. The event is free but donations will be accepted to help the musicians who perform.
This Farmers' Market is intended to be unique. First, it represents only part of the total educational outreach that will be offered to the community. Secondly, the Market will strive to give people and families a place to linger for a couple of hours while they learn new things and enjoy a wide array of activities. Attendees will be able to visit educational tables on subjects like astronomy & gardening, to buy a meal, to participate in kids' activities or listen to live entertainment. For the grand opening, I have sought out donations from local businesses to help with a raffle- nice prizes will be offered. Come and have your blood pressure checked.This family friendly environment is what will make a difference between Manor Farmers' Market and other similar markets. Finally, the market is located between the hectic pace of urban development and the ever shrinking amount of rural farm lands in Southwestern Washington. Attendees can get out of town but be a stone's throw from home!
The Market's success is critical to the rest of the project, since the initial seed money will come from the profit generated by its activities. Vendor space is still available. If your organization is interested in attending, I will be happy to send you an application. If you need a table, you must make a request in advance through me. Otherwise, you should plan on bringing your own table and canopy.
Please feel free to distribute this announcement to other organizations or individuals. Hope to see you at the Market!
Helen Nowlin, Project Director and AdministratorB.S.; J.D.; L.L.M. Environmental Law
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Farmland Preservation 101
Some folks have asked me to explain what I mean when I talk about various concepts of farmland preservation. This will probably run over a series of e-mails in the next few days, and I have tried to target it to folks I think would be interested and may want to prepare written of oral testimony or lobbying letters for the upcoming County open houses and hearings. We strongly urge everyone to get involved, but let us know if you don't want me to send it to you.
Topic 1: Agriculture and the Growth Management Act.
The comprehensive plan is a requirement of the Growth Management Act. For legal and political reasons our comprehensive plan seems to be in a constant state of revision. It should be a long term plan, but right now it seems to be constantly open for revision, creating uncertainty. The upcoming hearings are distinct from the recent opening of the Urban Reserve, which was an issue related to the last revision of the plan.
Under the Growth Management Act, "Agricultural Resource Lands" are grouped with timber, mining and critical areas (habitat, water recharge areas, etc.) as lands for special consideration and protection because they represent resources important to the public welfare, and because under the pressures of urban development these resource lands are often threatened.
Zoning is the primarily tool for protecting agricultural resource lands from being developed for other purposes. Clark County has a 20 acre minimum agricultural resource land zone provision. Lands in these zones can not be subdivided into smaller than 20 acre parcel (there may be existing parcels with in the zone that are smaller).
The Comprehensive Plan Proposal before the county is considering removing1300 to 2000 acres (according to the agricultural economics study done in connection with the plan revision). These lands would become inside the urban growth boundaries and become eligible for intense residential development, or in some cases industrial development.
It is important to note that not all agricultural land use takes place within the ag zone. However, the lands placed in the Ag Resource zone the county has previously considered to be the lands most suitable for agriculture.
So it is these lands that we are asking the County not to include in proposed urban growth boundaries. The lands under consideration form a diagonal band running through the county from Camas to Ridgefield. This line probably represents the edge of the spread of urban sprawl, but it also represents the dividing line in the county between much of the most valuable farm land, and the less useful. Lands closer to the Columbia tend to have soils that drain better, while as you move toward the foothills the soils are more clayey and don't drain. Also, good quality ground water for irrigation also tends to lie to the west. So we really are looking at the last of the best. We can farm some of the rest, but it will be less productive and more costly and difficult to do so.
Well, that might have been dull. More interesting stuff on why and how to preserve farmland in the coming days.
FARMLAND PRESERVATION UPDATE
Dear Preservation Allies and other friends and family,
The time of anxiously waiting has ended with an explosion of activity both here at the farm and in the halls of government. Jim spent about five days in the field catching up on planting spinach, garlic, lettuce,bok choy, chinese cabbage, carrots, parsnips, dill, parsley, potatoes and sweet pea.
While Jim was busy farming and Diane putting a floor in the granary, theCounty is releasing, as we "e-speak", a final EIS on their updated Comprehensive Growth Management Plan (the one that plans to annex 1300 to2000 more acres of agricultural resource land into cities for development).
Open Houses will be held to discuss proposed changes from 6:30 to 8:30 as follows:
Wednesday, May 16: Vancouver: Clark County Elections building,1408 Franklin St.
Tuesday, May 22: Dollars Corner, Fire District 11, 21609 NE 72nd Ave
Wednesday, May 23: Fisher's Landing C-Tran Transit Center, Besserman Community Room 3600 SE 164th AVE.
Farmers and consumers need to turn out to these meetings to express our views on investing in a sustainable, just, local food economy in Clark County. E-mail Jim with your plans for attending and to strategize on our message and how to deliver it.
Meanwhile, Jim got the two of us embroiled in another farmland preservation issue. Recently it came to light that the Army Corps of Engineers was planning to take farmland from Cowlitz County farmers using eminent domain. The land was to be used for wetland mitigation for environmental damage the Corps would do dredging the Columbia.
Now, we have not traditionally been fans of the property rights movement,but this seemed to be going too far, even for us. When farmland is already threatened and the Corps could find other land, and purchase it from a willing seller, we concluded that the use of eminent domain for this purpose is an abuse of power.
Well, the bill has been passed for a while and Jim started to worry that the Governor was going to take the easy way out, rather than get between the Corps and property rights activists and let the bill die on her desk. So he started searching the net and making calls and found out the Governor was coming to Vancouver to sign bills yesterday. Well, for some reason the old activist kicked in, and he decided to call some farmer and consumer friends and head down to the Water Resource Education Center with signs to greet the Governor.
On first hearing the idea, Diane replied, "You will not!" After Jim threw a hissie that spoiled our breakfast out and the rest of the day, we settled down and discussed it, and Diane agreed it was the thing to do. By then there wasn't time for our friends to respond, so we headed down with two signs each, all urging the Governor to sign SB 5108, and each bearing a fun, catchy slogan: "Apple Cores before Army Corps," "Farmland IS Habitat", "Dredging for Gluten?", "SAVE OUR PETS, SAVE OUR FARMS."
In case some of these slogans are mystifying, let us note that they refer to recent imports of wheat gluten from China that have poisoned more than10,000 pets.
We got there pretty early and were greeted very cordially by Representative Jim Moeller of Vancouver (Jim and Jim are allies from their former days as human rights activists). The Governor was late,and so just about everyone who came saw our signs. We were interviewed by KEX, the Oregonian and the Columbian. It was Diane's first picketing experience.
Finally we met the Governor. Rather than averting her eyes as many did,she walked right up to greet us. Jim told her, "We're not against dredging, we're not against wetland mitigation, but we don't think government should take farmers' land to do it." She replied, "Well,that's one thing we can agree on." She shook Diane's hand and commented that it was cold. Diane replied in her best Diane, voice, "Well, we've been waiting for you for a very long time!" The Governor said, "Yes, I'm running late!" And was off. We were duly impressed.
But the game isn't over. The Governor could still use your encouragement. The Corps and the ports and maybe even eastern Washington farmers may be encouraging her to line item veto the prohibition on using eminent domain to convert farmland to wetland. Our point is that the Corps ought to work a little harder to find willing sellers.
One of our big concerns is that the rest of the bill is geared toward encouraging farmers to work with the government to preserve farmland, but the farmers already don't trust government to respect their rights and needs. So if the Governor sends the message that we want you to preserve your farm land, but if we want it to replace wetland we're destroying with your farmland we'll take it.
What kind of trust does that build?
Friday, May 4, 2007
May 19th Rosemattel's CSA is having a CSA/herb nursery open house to kick off this year's growing season. From 10am-4pm. I am at 10311 NE 72nd ave, Vancouver WA 98686. My home phone number is 260 576-9767
This is an opportunity for all of us to share the knowledge of csa's, food coop planning and other locally grown concepts in a casual setting, and feel free to promote your own open house dates in the future through mine, by participation, if you choose. This will be the only time I will have an open house this year, so I am very busy getting ready, expanding my hot season beds and the like.
Map to the farm
"It's just a few feet of wooden food shelving, holding jars of olives and mustards, but it must be magic.
On one side of it is a deli counter, with a sign on the wall telling people how to design their sandwiches.
On the other side is a handful of wooden tables where diners are consuming smoked mushroom raviolis with balsamic cream, seafood risotto and veal scallopine Marsala.
Possibly most magical of all, the food shelves are in Vancouver."
You can read the entire review here:
La Bottega Review