Chair Joan Smith introduced a new member, Jim Bloss, of Citizens Climate Alliance and welcomed guest speaker Snohomish County Agricultural Coordinator Linda Neunzig.
Linda recounted her many roles as a coordinator – Economic Protection; Food Systems, especially critical during pandemic; Policy Development; Liaison that brings Congressional and State Representatives, the Planning Department and other partners face to face with farmers; and above all Advocate. She indicated that Snohomish County provides a positive place for agriculture. Beginning farmers have increased over 30% along with similar increases in cropland and farmland values. Challenges include access to upland rental lands, land affordability, and dealing with complex water rights. Many farmers meet these challenges with small farms that fit specialized produce. Farming mainly in the flood plains entails trials such as building restrictions, difficulties in obtaining mortgages, and minimal recovery costs from flooding from FEMAor FDA. Increased costs for labor and obtaining labor – especially during harvest season – cuts into the bottom line. Linda praised efforts to preserve agriculture through the purchase of development rights, the transfer of development rights, succession plans, maintaining land affordability, and farm infrastructure. Their convention on November 9, 2023 will offer educational opportunities for farmers.
Linda also lauded the field labs – Andrew Hay’s Hay farm and Swan Trail’s apple/strawberries – for demonstrating the usefulness of new tools such as soil mapping by the Soil Optic to determine soil nutrient needs or water sensors or temperature gauges for soil readiness. A recent grant will make more of these tools available locally. Linda added that the Sustainable Lands Strategy with Molly Beeman’s new leadership is bringing together farmers and the tribes to allow salmon recovery alongside agriculture production.
An exciting, new Snohomish County Food and Farming Center at McCollum Park will act as a local processing and distribution center, commercial kitchen and year-round farmers market. In closing, Linda gave several points for how to support agriculture:
• Examine how policies affect the individual farmers, especially when considering buffers and labor cost increases.
• Look at the food system to highlight fresh, local foods.
• Labor matters.
• Know your farmers.
• Be an advocate for farmers and local food access.
• Ask questions.
Joan reminded the group that the May elements for public comment to the Comprehensive Plan 2024 are Transportation and Tribal Coordination. Sally Lider said that Jay Inslee’s signatures were wrapping up the final legislation efforts. Joan encouraged members to submit articles to Our Climate Radar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie Winchell reported that an open seat on the Snohomish County Airport Commission (the one that oversees Paine Field) has to be filled by someone who lives in Sam Low’s Council District #5 (Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe, Gold Bar, Index). The new Greenfield selection process seems to reintroduce King County as a candidate!
Joan opined that the book The Sakura Obsession by Naoko Abe is a fascinating account of Collingswood “Cherry” Ingram, who saved the Japanese cherry trees from extinction. The story shows how passion for a plant can engender a productive life of over 100 years!