By: Kasia Pierzga
Publication: Skagit Valley Herald
Farmland preservation program highlighted
The work done by Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland (SPF) to bring farmers and environmentalists together to address common interests got a nod from a foundation that has provided financial support for the group.
SPF is featured on a Web site highlighting projects supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation during its 75-year history.
The local farmland preservation group received a four-year, $700,000 grant from the foundation to work on integrating the economic viability of farming with protection and improvement of the environment. The goal of SPF is to connect farmers, environmentalists and consumers, and to protect open space and sustain the people who depend on it.
Over the years, the foundation has supported hundreds of projects related to food systems and rural development. The fact that SPF was chosen to be among those featured on the Web site is a real honor, said SPF Director Bob Rose.
“It’s like a third party taking a look at us and saying, ‘Hey, they’re doing a lot of good,’ ” he said.
Local farmers Lyle Wesen, Dave Hedlin, Curtis Johnson, Mike and Jeanne Youngquist, John Roozen, Alan Mesman, Steve Sakuma and Bob Hart are among those featured on the Web site.
To view the Web site, go to www.wkkf.org, click on the “75th Anniversary” link, the “Featured Projects” link, then click on “Page 6.” Scroll down the page to find the Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland project.
Insights gained through research by SPF include:
- Consumers are willing to pay more for locally grown crops from farms that care for farmworkers and their families, and are working to preserve the environment. And farmers benefit when their products are marketed successfully to people who care about these issues.
- To help small farms stay viable, farmers must learn what local consumers want and are willing to pay for.
- Complex issues require complex partnerships. In Skagit County sub-tidal farmland, farming must be in balance with salmon production and wildlife preservation.
- Preserving farming is not just about preserving farmland, it’s about farmers taking risks in what they produce and how they market it, and consumers changing their buying habits.
Small-farm owners interested in learning about the Washington state Department of Agriculture’s Small Farm and Direct Marketing program can take a look at the program’s annual report online.
The program is designed to strengthen local food systems and provide direct marketing opportunities for Washington farmers.
Among the program’s activities is Northwest Direct, a project aimed at strengthening direct-marketing strategies such as farm stands and farmers’ markets.
To learn more, go to www.agr.wa.gov/marketing/smallfarm/Programactivities.htm.
For information about the Small Farm and Direct Marketing program, call 360-902-1884.
Business columnist Kasia Pierzga can be reached at 360-416-2141 or by e-mail at email@example.com