Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Clark County Agriculture: CSAs Matter - By Jim & Diane Hunter

When Ossie Bladine of the Vancouver Voice was out to interview us for his "Is farming dead in Clark County?" article, we handed him the Globalwise, Inc. study. If we'd been scripting the scene for a movie, Jim would have slapped it down on the table and said, "Read it and weep, kid."

And Ossie did us proud, evoking our own angry tears with the following,

In the section about the future of agriculture in Clark County, the 2006 report stated "agriculture as a 'side line' or lifestyle activity will probably continue" The tone of that kind of thinking negates many farms' reason for existence.

Right on, Ossie! The "lifestyle activity" characterization of farming angered Jim long before we took up the gauntlet and bent our backs to the hoe twelve years ago. It's just another way for those with other agendas to dismiss what we do as unimportant or irrelevant. But until the last year or so, we have sometimes had difficulty justifying our tiny existence in the big picture. How does feeding vegetables to forty of the tens of thousands of families in Clark County make a difference in a globalized food system.

To fully appreciate the difference made by Hunters' Greens, Davie Maxwell's Hidden Oasis and the umpteen new CSAs that have popped up in Clark County, it might be interesting to take an IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE look at Clark County if we weren't here.

First of all, if the Hunters and the Maxwells hadn't gone out on a limb and started their farms over a decade ago, where would the CSA movement be in Clark County today? It would be the Storytree Farms and Rosemattel CSAs of the next wave, that would be breaking new ground, and the CSA explosion of the last year might be another ten years off. The CSA movement might be serving a couple dozen families, rather than pushing the thousand mark.

And if the Anne Lawrences, Brenda Stantons and Summer Steinbargers were busy breaking new ground starting the first CSAs, would they have the time to be out starting new farmers markets, advocating for agricultural preservation and building the food co-op movement.

And if all these folks weren't out ringing the bell for a local food system in Clark County, would any of us have anything to answer to the question: "Is farming dead in Clark County?"

But let's back up and look at the small but significant difference that these farms are making to other aspects of life in Clark County. Growing veggies for forty families may not seem like a lot, but over ten years that's one big "manure" load of lettuce. And speaking of manure, growing all that lettuce has converted uncounted pick up loads of manure from a non-point pollution source to a valuable resource. Now multiply that lettuce and that manure by the umpteen CSAs that are now operating in the county. And at the current rate of growth of CSA's we'll be multiplying those lettuces by a hundred before you know it.

Now take the ten acres of prime wildlife habitat that Hunters' Greens is providing, contributing to the riparian buffer along Salmon Creek. Now multiply that by umpteen, now multiply that by a hundred.

Now take those ten acres times umpteen or a hundred, and times that by the six Mcmansions to the acre that would pop up if we all had thrown up our hands, said farming is dead in Clark County and sold out to developers. Think about the roads, schools, police and fire protection, sewer, water, power and telephone lines that all of our taxes would be stretched to provide. Think about the two wage earners in each of those houses that would be commuting across interstate bridges to jobs in Portland, generating wealth and tax income for Oregon, and likely spending a lot of their consumer dollars there.

As farmers we don't earn and spend the $40,000 family wage jobs the County thinks will solve our problems, but we earn our humble umpteen thousands by creating wealth from water and sunlight right here in Clark County, we spend it here, we pay taxes on it here, and we don't need new Interstate bridges to create it. And perhaps the modest umpteen thousands that we live on may seem like a "sideline" to the hundred thousand dollar executives that want to run our lives, but they provide enough for us to live humbly and sustainably. That's two times umpteen or a hundred family wage jobs that the County doesn't need to chase asphalt plants and sprawling industrial parks to create. And what if some umpteen thousand of those $40,000 family wage earners saw how happy and fulfilling our humble lives were, decided to jump off the corporate commuter treadmill and decided to start small, sustainable, home grown Clark County businesses of their own. How would that change the face of Clark County? So to paraphrase Bob the Builder and his crew: "Do CSAs matter to Clark County?"


Diane & Jim Hunter,
Hunter's Greens CSA
Brush Praire, WA.
(360) 256-3788


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