Thursday, April 12, 2007

Supporting Local Agriculture & Notes From the Margin - 3.07.07, An update on the Clark County Farm Crisis

The following is a reposting of a little introductory rant from yours truly and the infamous 'Notes From the Margin' windmill tilting issue...

Are you tired of seeing the prices rising higher in the grocery store as corporations struggle to keep their profit margins high enough to pacify shareholders and freely dole out obscenely enormous bonuses and severance packages for their top-level executives? Are you going to continue to allow your friends and family to be subjected to food prices that are being hugely influenced by the price of petroleum? Can we truly afford to continue relying on the importation of food from far away states and other nations who have no interest in the health and welfare of our community? I think the answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO.

The future of agriculture is not in bigger farms, genetically modified plants and animals, or year round availability of tomatoes and strawberries. The security and health of our food supply depends on the resurgence of the small farm and an increase in local agricultural production. We are so fortunate to be blessed with amazingly fertile soil, abundant water, and a multitude of hardworking, ingenious folks who are bringing new ideas and attitudes to the concept of small farming. We need to exploit our agricultural potential, rather than bury it under acres and acres to concrete and pavement.

So now you're thinking, "What do you expect me to do about it?". No problem. We have some great things you can do right now to make big changes with minimum effort on your part.
Purchase a subscription to a Community Supported Agriculture effort. We have several right here in Clark County and now is a great time to sign up for months of fresh, healthy, locally grown produce grown for you by folk who care deeply about farming, the community, and your family.

Support the efforts of the Vancouver Food Co-op. These folks are working tirelessly to bring good, clean, socially responsible shopping to our fair city. Find out more at

Shop at local farmers markets whenever possible. When you're there, take the time to get to know the folks working the stands and growing your food. With your support, our local farmers can continue growing food for our community. Also, the demand for more locally grown food will influence others to start farming and will send a strong message to our community leaders that we are concerned about food security and support the concept of local agriculture.

You can also let your neighborhood grocery store that you'd prefer if they would carry locally produced products.

Finally, let our county commissioners know, that while development might be of a certain benefit to our community with regards to tax revenue, preserving our farm lands is PRICELESS. Once you pave over fertile farm land, even if it is not currently under cultivation, it is gone forever. And once we no longer have the option of utilizing our agricultural resources we lose any hope of establishing greater control over the security and safety of our food supply. Let's follow the example of our neighbors across the river and put an emphasis on more efficient use of the space we've already developed. We have plenty of room within our current growth boundary to add thousands of citizens to our community in the coming years. We do not need to sacrifice our agricultural heritage and our highly productive soil for the sake of unchecked, unnecessary suburban sprawl.

Now, without further adieu, here's the latest from Hunters Greens...

Dear Once and Future CSA-ers and Fellow Tilters of Windmills,

The firestorm of social and political activity has kept us from communicating with you over the last week or two. The CSA Forum was agrand success, adding three members immediately, plus a dozen more contacts that may one day bear fruit.

Our roster of committed CSA members stands somewhere between twenty and twenty-five, so there is still plenty of room for those still making uptheir mind. There is also room for those of you who think this endeavor is something your friends, neighbors and colleagues might enjoy. So keep passing that word of mouth. It is our bread and butter.

On the farm front, the seeds are ordered, the fruit trees are almost all pruned and the horse manure is steaming away, killing off pathogens underplastic tarp umbrellas. This week we will begin seeding in earnest, probably onions and cabbage family plants first. Jim is busy trying to figure out a good coggle for heating up a space to germinate tomatoes.We're debating between a propane or wood stove as a heat source, each having it's own practical and environmental plusses and minuses.

A big thank you to all who have made their commitment to the new season.We will go forward committing ourselves to a season that demonstrates that we can all do well by doing good.
On the County Commissioners/ Land Use front, Jim has met with Commissioner Steve Stuart, and had a good conversation. Stuart has asked Jim to submit alternative criteria for defining ag land. A number of you have written that you are contacting your commissioners, and Glenn Grossman of Slow Food Southwest Washington has spread the word far andwide.
This all started with a heartfelt impulse, its beginning to look like a campaign that needs a strategy. If you have thoughts, ideas, warnings,concerns, please share your thoughts with us. It's time for Jim and Diane to start putting our nose to the production wheel, so we may need to do some baton passing. As yet, no word as to when these issues willcome before a public hearing.


The following was published in the Battle Ground Reflector on March 6, it represents our current, more refined perspective on the agricultural land use situation in Clark County. It acknowledges that the Commissioners do in fact face a dilemma, and we need to act now to give them better options. We have been informed that e-mails directly to the Commissioners mail boxes will get their more immediate attention, try these:

Dear Editor,

If a county’s best soils were zoned for agriculture and no one came to farm them, should it chop the parcels up and build townhouses? Unless folks who care about locally grown food come up with a solution, the Clark County Board of Commissioners is about to throw up their hands andsay “Why not?” regarding 1300 to 1900 acres next to the current urban growth boundary.
But there are solutions. Here’s the situation. “Old time farm family” has 160 acres zoned for 20 acre agriculture parcels, and Ma and Pa want to retire. In the red hot residential housing market, that land represents eight $100,000 home lots. Three young farmers are looking for 40-60 acres each, to farm using cutting edge sustainable agricultural practices. Farmers A and B want to raise livestock on rotational pasture, A for dairy and B for eggs, poultry and lamb. Farmer C grows vegetables for a community supported agriculture program.
In order to fairly compensate Ma and Pa, each farmer will have to pay for two or three home sites just to farm them. But if county government could tap into local, state, federal and private land conservation funds, it could compensate Ma and Pa for their “development rights,” and the young farmers can pay the farm land value. Everyone wins, including the county, which retains the economic, cultural and environmental values that farm land provides, as well as maintaining a strong, productive tax base.

But if we opt for such solutions as conservation easements, development right exchanges or clustering development, we have to do it before we rezone, or the number of home sites and costs of preservation go through the roof. Once we preserve the land, we need to develop a sustainable local food system infrastructure, including farmers markets and small processing facilities; and retain and target our extension and research services toward sustainability.
Is it too late? For some it is. Farmer A sold his herd, Farmer B moved to Skamokawa, but Farmer C is still looking to join the list of 110 farms in the county marketing to local consumers. A list our extension agents have compiled in their “farm finder”at Contact your commissioners. Tell them to hold off on the 1300-1900 acres and to define agricultural lands such that we can grow our list of sustainable farms into a bread basket and salad bowl for Greater Vancouver-Portland, rather than just a bedroom.

Jim Hunter
Hunters’ Greens Farm
11116 N.E. 156th St.
Brush Prairie, WA 98606

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