Monday, November 10, 2008

The Jim Hunter Report

Here's a quick note from Jim Hunter @ Hunter's Greens CSA re. a reminder about the APAC open house and his comments on some of the proposals being made by APAC (Agricultural Preservation Advisory Committee) and farm preservation in Clark County.

Dear Friends,

This is a bit of short notice, but I'm writing to urge you either attend one of the open houses this week, or submit comments from home regarding farm preservation. There is a flyer at this web address: (my e-mail doesn't do the link thing, but you could copy and paste). Basically it says there will be open houses Monday at the CASEE Center 11104 NE 149th St., Brush Prairie, and Wednesday at the Clark County Public Safety Complex, 505 NW 179th St. Ridgefield. Both are from 6-8 p.m. It says that public comments are encouraged through November 17th.

To review the document that the County's Agriculture Preservation Advisory Committee has developed go to: This is a 25 page document, outlining the strategies the committee feel could revitalize the farm economy of Clark County.


This study was initiated at the moment when citizens registered their outcry against the loss of of over 4,000 acres of agricultural land to urban development. With a new commissioner elected to the board and the likelihood of a shift toward more concern for agricultural and local food issues, it is vital that citizens register the message that this issue is more important than ever. Attendance at open houses and comments submitted will send that message.

If taken up by the new County Board of Commissioners this study offers the potential to improve life for consumers as well as farmers, and new farmers, as well as established and retiring farmers. WE ALL HAVE A STAKE! MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!


1) ESTABLISH AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION DISTRICTS. The study recommends identifying viable agricultural areas of 150 acres or more where efforts to preserve agricultural land and encourage agricultural production could be focussed.

Comment: Some of the best agricultural lands in the county are the lands most threatened by development, and we need to focus attention on preserving these threatened lands. Agricultural production becomes more difficult when tracts of agricultural lands are fragmented.

2) PURCHASE AGRICULTURAL CONSERVATION EASEMENTS. Matching grant money is available for county government to purchase agricultural conservation easements from from farmers. Farmers would receive compensation for the development value of their land in exchange for agreement to keep the land in agricultural use. By splitting development from agricultural value, the land becomes affordable to be purchased for agricultural use.

Comment: The study proposes a variety of means for protecting agricultural land from development, purchase of conservation easements is the simplest approach, and isn't tied to increased development elsewhere.

3) DEVELOP A FARM LINK PROGRAM MATCHING RETIRING FARMERS WITH CURRENT OR NEW FARMERS. This idea acknowledges that many of our existing farmers are reaching retirement age and may not have heirs who plan to continue their operation. This mechanism offers an alternative to the farmer to selling out to development. Yoking this program with an agricultural conservation easement payment would offer retiring farmers an upfront payment they can begin their retirement with and an affordable price for the new farmer.

4) CREATE A "CLARK COUNTY FRESH" LOGO AND MARKETING EFFORTS. The demand for locally grown produce is taking off among consumers. This idea captitalizes on that trend and helps consumers identify "really" local produce.

COMMENT: The fresh local produce sector in Clark County is poised to blossom in response to this trend. A buy local program could boost this phenomena and encourage more existing and new producers to enter this market. Local consumers are often frustrated in their effort to find local produce. Such a program could provide a win/win for local farmers and food consumers.

5) ASSIST IN ESTABLISHING PERMANENT SITES FOR LOCAL FARMERS' MARKETS. This provision could help secure the success of farmers markets by assuring a consistent location that consumers can count on from year to year.

COMMENT: This effort might be a first step for greater county government involvement in local farmers' markets. Farmers' markets by their nature often are located within municipalities, and often partner with city government. Farmers on the other hand are likely to reside in unincorporated areas of the county. County government participation and support of farmers' markets would provide greater assurance that the markets honor the mission of farmers markets and reduce the likelihood of them being diverted to other city agendas.


Above are just five key areas of the study that this author singled out for support. An additional area that deserves attention is in technical, research and educational support for agriculture. The study recommend continued work with existing government agencies that supply these services, as well as initiating an endowment to support additional research grants.

Comment: This author supports these efforts, but would like to add some specificl suggestions for additional approaches that would be helpful to revitalize our local food economy:

1) A NEW FARM INCUBATOR PROGRAM: County lands at the "Poor Farm" or elsewhere could provide an opportunity for new farmers to begin utilizing their production and marketing skills toward the establishment of an ongoing agricultural business. This program could tie into the "farm-link" program by providing retiring farmers with a pool of new farmers that are demonstrating their ability to transition to continuing their business in a private enterprise setting.

2) INITIATE GRASS ROOTS BASED FARMER TO FARMER AND FARM IMPROVEMENT CLUB APPROACHES TO RESEARCH AND EDUCATION. The existing federal bureaucracy for agricultural research and education has a tendency to be driven by forces remote from and not necessarily appropriate to our local situation. Research and education models developed in working with third world communities have overcome this disadvantage by giving local farmers more ownership in the process. Such models might be particularly appropriate here in Clark County where governing bureaucracies are distant, and market forces are driven from outside our local government's jurisdiction.

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


  1. It's good to see your efforts in Clark County. We have a similar effort underway in Kitsap and support locavore efforts wherever they are arising. Best wishes for your success!
    Jim Freeman
    BuyLocalFoodInKitsap dot org

  2. Thanks for your support, Jim. Love your blog and I am inspired by the support and passion you folks have going for you in Kitsap County. I hope we can do as good a job connecting with our community as you folks are doing. Best of luck to you as well!