Autumn is officially here, and this year the question on more people’s minds than ever before is where is our food coming from? When a trip to the grocery store has become an endeavour fraught with concern for our health, it’s time to think about what we are putting in our bodies. Access to fresh, healthy, local food during a pandemic is essential. To ensure a healthy and thriving local food economy that you can rely on during times of uncertainty, Whatcom Land Trust helps support the protection of farmland throughout Whatcom County.
Here at Whatcom Land Trust supporting small local farms and farmers is of the utmost importance. We work in multiple ways to support agriculture. Examples include partnering with Whatcom County on the Agricultural Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program, helping protect farmers’ land, and providing financial support to farmers just getting started or working to scale up. Jean Rogers of the Community Food Co-op’s Farm Fund points to access to land and capital to start their farms as the two biggest challenges small farmers face. “Whatcom County land prices are high, and access to farmland is one of the greatest challenges for small to medium scale farmers. It’s a problem we need to solve. Farmers need access to land in a way that doesn’t put them too close to the edge, so they can support their families and grow fresh, healthy food for years to come. The Whatcom Land Trust is a crucial resource to overcoming these barriers, and poised to make a real difference in supporting our farmers, preserving farmland, and our local food,” Rogers said.
A prime example of how the Land Trust works to support local agriculture is Alluvial Farms. Matt McDermott and Katie Pencke found a property they wanted to purchase and turn into an organic pig farm, but didn’t quite have the funds to do so. The land was located along Dale Creek, a salmon-bearing tributary of the Sumas River with great conservation value. The Land Trust had an easement appraised which would permanently protect the new riparian plantings that Matt and Katie had put in along the creek using Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) funding. The Land Trust provided a bridge loan and, in lieu of repaying it, Matt and Katie donated the conservation easement. Katie Pencke noted that, “The idea of a farm that is equally production farming and habitat restoration fits really well together. It creates a story about how farming is creating human food out of a natural system.” In addition, it shows how conservation and agriculture can go hand in hand, working together for the benefit of the community.
From organic crops and livestock, to leases and easements that support dairy farmers and forestry lands, the Land Trust is partnering with dozens of local farmers to permanently protect the future of our farmland. To date, we have protected 1,700 acres of working lands here in Whatcom County. In this time of uncertainty we want to say thank you for your support so we can continue to protect farmers and the land they work to ensure continued food security. Now more than ever, farmers, farm workers, and people like you who support them are a crucial part of our community.