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Losing Ground: Farmland Protection in the Puget Sound Region

Snapshot of Washington Agriculture

Farming on the Edge: Washington Farmland in the Path of Development

Integrated Pest Management for Farmers on the Urban Edge

Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements


The Apple as Planet Earth Presentation
The Apple As Planet Earth

Do you know how much of the earth is suitable for farming? Watch the video and learn why protecting our farmland is so important.

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What's New


Puget Sound and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program

American Farmland Trust is working with The Nature Conservancy and a broad coalition of agricultural and conservation organizations to get Puget Sound considered as one of eight areas in the United States to receive a new pool of conservation incentive funding. The funding pool was created through the establishment of the Regional Conservation Partnerships Program in the 2014 Farm Bill. American Farmland Trust and The Nature Conservancy are currently working with Congresswoman DelBene's office to craft a letter from the Washington congressional delegation to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack in support of the designation of Puget Sound. As much as $10 million per year may be available for incentives under the program.

"Congresswoman DelBene has been a huge supporter of Washington farmers and ranchers in negotiations on the Farm Bill," said Pacific Northwest Director Dennis Canty, "We hope she can help get Puget Sound recognized under this new authority."


Who's Who in the Local Food Community

A new American Farmland Trust report, Who's Who in the Local Food Community, will go to press today and be distributed in early April. The report includes a directory of more than 50 organizations in western Washington state that are actively working on a more dependable and sustainable local food system. "There are a bewildering array of groups focused on local food in this area," according to Emily Noyd, American Farmland Trust intern and principal author. "We're hoping the Who's Who report makes some sense of how the community is organized." The publication continues American Farmland Trust's work on local food that began with the Western Washington Foodshed Study, conducted in 2012-2013 in partnership with the University of Washington. 


Improving Planning and Zoning in Kitsap County

Farmland ForeverAmerican Farmland Trust is helping Kitsap County improve its planning and zoning code related to farming. "Like many counties around Puget Sound, Kitsap is trying to support the farm industry by making it easier to build processing facilities, increase agritourism and simplify permitting requirements for farmers," said Pacific Northwest staffer Robin Fay. American Farmland Trust's assistance is part of an effort to improve farm planning and zoning in all 12 counties around Puget Sound, a vital element of American Farmland Trust's Farmland Forever Campaign.


A Win for Pierce County, Washington, Farming

Victory!  Two years ago American Farmland Trust joined Futurewise, PCC Farmland Trust, Tahoma Audubon, and Friends of Pierce County in an appeal to prevent a major new subdivision and shopping mall - Orton Junction - from being built on 182 acres of high-quality farmland in Pierce County, just south of Tacoma. American Farmland Trust and partners won the first round, but the developer and the city of Sumner appealed the verdict to the Washington Superior Court. Earlier this week the developer and the city dropped their appeal. "We'd prefer to stay out of the courts," said Dennis Canty, American Farmland Trust's Northwest regional director, "But every once in a while a big project on farmland makes it through the planning stages and a legal challenge is necessary. This is one of those times and we're happy with the win." 


Farmland Forever Website Unveiled

Farmland ForeverAmerican Farmland Trust recently unveiled a new website—farmland-forever.org—focused on farmland protection in the Puget Sound region of western Washington. The site explains some of the most effective tools for protecting farmland through easements and zoning and includes links to briefing materials, studies and ordinances developed by agencies and organizations in the Northwest. "We're excited to get this information out to planners, elected officials, and advocates in the region and look forward to suggestions about the current content and useful additions," said site developer Joe Basile of the American Farmland Trust Northwest office. The website is part of American Farmland Trust's ongoing Farmland Forever campaign that seeks to protect an additional 100,000 acres of farmland in the Puget Sound region by 2018. 


Farmland Mitigation in Washington

Urban sprawlAmerican Farmland Trust and a coalition of other farmland organizations have drafted an Executive Order for consideration by Washington Governor Inslee. If adopted, the Executive Order would require that state agencies compensate for farmland losses associated with their projects by paying into a fund that would protect farmland or reestablish farm use elsewhere. The requirement would apply to all projects supported by state permitting, financing or other assistance. "We got a good reception to the idea yesterday in a meeting with Director Bud Hover of the Washington Department of Agriculture," said Dennis Canty, "And we'll be discussing the idea with farmers and farm organizations throughout the state in the coming weeks."


Pierce County, Washington, Planning

Pierce CountyAmerican Farmland Trust and the Pierce County Agricultural Roundtable hosted workshops on land use planning and incentives to promote agriculture in Pierce County, Washington, in November and December as part of an intensive technical assistance program aimed at improving the county's planning and zoning for is once thriving, now rebuilding, agricultural industry. American Farmland Trust is working with counties around Puget Sound to adapt their comprehensive plans to support farms and farmers as part of the Farmland Forever campaign. "Counties are where the action is on protecting farms and supporting farm businesses," said Robin Fay, American Farmland Trust project manager, "We're excited to work with the Pierce County Executive and Council on ways to build a better future for the county's farmers." 


Conservation Incentives for Pacific Northwest Farmers

Skagit Valley, Washington blueberry farm in fallAmerican Farmland Trust has been working for the last year on ways to increase the effectiveness of conservation incentives to meet water quality and habitat goals. In several pilot watersheds, American Farmland Trust staff has developed GIS-based tools to identify promising places in farm landscapes to invest in habitat and water quality projects, worked with other agencies and organizations to leverage funding in these areas and helped farmers access the funding programs. The result has been the restoration of more than 5 miles of rivers and streams. This fall, American Farmland Trust began work with The Nature Conservancy and other partners to scale up these efforts to the Puget Sound as a whole. "As long as they are treated fairly, farmers and ranchers tend to be very supportive of habitat and water quality projects on their land,” said Dennis Canty, American Farmland Trust’s Pacific Northwest director.

Coming Soon: Webinars on Planning and Zoning for Agriculture

Farmers-market-spread.pngFollowing up on American Farmland Trust’s successful Planning for Agriculture conference in Seattle in April, the Pacific Northwest staff are hosting a series of webinars on planning and zoning for agriculture in the Northwest. The webinars, which are scheduled to start in October, will address topics such as how to construct an effective zoning ordinance and how to accommodate agritourism in rural areas. "Every eight years, counties around Washington update their comprehensive plans," says Robin Fay, project manager in the Pacific Northwest office, "This is a great opportunity to improve county policies and programs for farms, farmers and farmland."

Technical Assistance on Farmland Planning and Zoning in the Puget Sound

Farmland on waterAmerican Farmland Trust kicked off our program to help cities and counties in Washington’s Puget Sound enact land use plans and zoning to protect farmland. We anticipate providing workshops, publications, and one-on-one assistance to planners and public officials beginning this summer. The effort follows on the very successful conference hosted by AFT in April on this topic. Robin Fay and Joe Basile are leading the project in the Pacific Northwest office.

Farmland Protection Funding Victory in Washington State

Washington State capitolThe State Legislature’s approval over the weekend of a budget that includes $65 million for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) is a big victory for the state’s family farms, according to American Farmland Trust.  Farmland projects will receive $5.3 million from the WWRP, a major boost from the $700,000 approved in 2011.

Find out more about this win for farmland protection.


Planning for Agriculture Conference Sparks Collaboration in Puget Sound

lavender fields in Washington stateFollowing up on the Planning for Agriculture in the Puget Sound conference, American Farmland Trust has started a planners work group to help people working on updating county policies and plans for farming. Under Washington's Growth Management Act, counties are required to update their comprehensive plans every five years, and the next update will happen in 2014-15. "This is a great opportunity to upgrade agricultural zoning and revise polices that have a big impact on farming," said Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest Director for American Farmland Trust. "Several counties already do a great job with planning for agriculture. We'd like to bring all twelve up to their standard." A series of workshops and publications is sheduled for this summer and fall. To find out more information or to participate in the work group, contact Dennis at dcanty@farmland.org.

Planning for Agriculture in the Puget Sound Region Conference

Puget Sound farm and farmlandA group of national and regional experts gathered in Seattle on April 26 to discuss how to save family farms and local food around Puget Sound. The conference featured presentations on what local governments and citizen groups can do to support local farms and food, including land use planning, supporting local food markets, and transferring development rights from farm areas into cities. “We’re at a crossroads on local farms and food,” said AFT Pacific Northwest Director Dennis Canty, “We can save our local food supply, but only if we work together to protect our farmland and support our local farmers.” The conference was part of AFT’s Farmland Forever campaign that aims to protect another 100,000 acres of farmland through land use planning and purchases of development rights by 2018.

Learn more about the discussion topics and download presentations.


Big Re-zoning of Farmland in Pierce County, Washington

Onion-plants-in-Washington-State.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust and a group of local conservation and farmland organizations have banded together to fight the re-zoning of more than 11,500 acres of farmland in Pierce County, Washington. The county has very stringent criteria for designating farmland in its Agricultural Resource Land (ARL) zone and now contends that half of the land mapped in this zone doesn’t meet the criteria. “If the land is dropped from the ARL zone, it will be far more vulnerable to suburban development,” said Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest director for American Farmland Trust. “This must be stopped now.” American Farmland Trust is requesting a two-year delay while a study can be done of the appropriate zoning for all of the county’s 45,000 acres of farmland.

Supporting an Increase in Washington State Farmland Funding

Blueberry bushes Skagit ValleyOn February 13, American Farmland Trust organized a group of farmers and farmland advocates to lobby the Washington legislature for an increase in funding for farmland conservation easements.  We met with more than 60 legislators to encourage them to support an increase of $7.7 million in the farmland account. The funding would be used for 22 projects that would collectively protect more than 7,300 acres of farmland.  While it will be another tough budget year, there is widespread support for farms and farmers in the legislature that we hope to use to secure the additional funding. 

Western Washington Foodshed Study Releasedfarmer-holding-tomatoes in sunlight.jpg

The Northwest office released the Western Washington Foodshed Study in mid-December, followed by several media interviews and two presentations to the Regional Food Policy Council.  The study is the final result of a two-quarter graduate school course at the University of Washington and considerable work by a 12-member advisory committee.  The study concludes that farmers in the region are currently producing about one-quarter of what is eaten here, but a variety of actions at the farmer, processor, retail, and consumer level could bring the total up above half.

Advocating for Farmland Forever in the Pacific Northwest

Farm fields in eastern Washington stateAll farmers and ranchers know preparing for the year ahead starts with looking back at the bright spots and challenges from the seasons before. At AFT, we’re proud that in 2012 we rallied farmers and citizens alike to advocate on behalf of protecting farm and ranch land. Our innovative projects helped family farmers pioneer sound farming practices, which help to preserve our land and water resources. We also laid the groundwork to keep farmers on the land by providing tools and resources that allow them to thrive.

We’re sharing accomplishments and inspiration from 2012 in the words of our expert staff.

We have a really significant problem with farmland loss here in the Puget Sound region. We’ve lost about 60 percent of our farmland here since 1950, and of course this is near and dear to our mission as an organization. One of the things I’ve been interested in doing since I got here is to try to develop a strong campaign for farmland preservation in the Puget Sound region, particularly where the rates of loss have been high….We hope that this Farmland Forever campaign is going to result in the protection of more than 100,000 acres of additional farmland here in the region.

Read more from Pacific Northwest Director Dennis Canty

Project Update

Wheat field at sunriseKlickitat Report Highlights Progress in Community Farmland Protection Planning in Washington

After a year of work, several Washington Counties are one step closer to developing plans for the encouragement of local farms and ranches and the preservation of agricultural lands. Last January, our State’s new Office of Farmland Preservation announced eight grants to counties to help them begin creating farmland preservation programs.  Klickitat County, among others, received $25,000 for various projects. Now, the Office of Farmland Preservation is assembling the product of these efforts and is expected to make them public over the coming months – including our new report for the county, Keeping Farmland Available for Klickitat County Agriculture.

River and Green FieldsEcosystem Markets for Farms Could Flourish in Washington

“No Farms No Food” is a message understood by nearly everyone, but farms provide more than just the food that sustains us. They also safeguard our natural resources. A recent feasibility study [PDF] by American Farmland Trust found that Washington farm and forest lands provide carbon sequestration, protect water quality and safeguard other environmental resources. The study suggests that ecosystem markets for agriculture could become a Washington reality in the next few years. These markets would encourage farmers to adopt the best conservation practices—and reward them financially for their stewardship. Given the positive results, Washington legislation charged the Washington State Conservation Commission to develop two conservation market pilot projects by December 2009. 

More Project Updates

Focus on Washington

Jesus Limon at his fruit OrchardWashington Growers Go Natural Thanks to Spanish Language Education

On the outskirts of Wenatchee, a city in he heart of central Washington where golden hills surround endless miles of fruit orchards, a large apple-shaped sign reads, "Apple Capital of the World." In a region that ships over 100 million boxes of apples a year around the nation and the world, education has been the key to helping growers—especially the valley’s many Latino orchard employees and managers—reduce their use of pesticides. Grower Jesus Limón, who worked his way up the ranks at a fruit company in order to purchase his own Wenatchee Valley orchard, participated in an American Farmland Trust-supported and EPA-funded program that teaches growers in Spanish about integrated pest management. "You get hooked on it," Limon says about the natural techniques for identifying and eliminating orchard pests.

Washington Farmer Jay GordonWashington Farmer Featured in The Farmland Report

Our blog, The Farmland Report, ran a feature on Washington farmer Jay Gordon. Gordon uses his farmland as a protected habitat for endangered trumpeter swans. Gordon has also been profiled in our Farm and Food Voices section for his groundbreaking work for ecosystem markets in the region.

More Focus on Washington

Contact Us

Pacific Northwest Office
Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest States Director
1335 N. Northlake Way, Ste. 101
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 860-4222

American Farmland Trust