Planning to preserve the future of farming: Snoqualmie Valley Agricultural Strategic Plan published for the public

The planning Task Force discussing agricultural issues on a Snoqualmie Valley farm.

The Snoqualmie Valley has hosted a thriving agricultural sector for over 175 years, yet no where in that time has the valley faced the challenges it does now in the 21st century. Climate change, urbanization, farmer loss, aging infrastructure, and rising costs threaten the longevity of this agricultural legacy.

But Snoqualmie Valley farmers and residents are up to the challenge. Over four years, with over 1700 hours of volunteer work, the Snoqualmie Valley Agricultural Preservation District (SVAPD) Agriculture Task Force created the Snoqualmie Valley Agricultural Strategic Plan (the Plan).

The Plan was created specifically to address farmers and the future of food production. The plan includes thorough mapping work of the valley, 17 issue papers about agriculture-specific topics, and detailed strategy recommendations to preserve and enhance farmland.

Bobbi Lindemulder has been a member of the Fish, Farm, Flood Implementation Oversight Committee since the beginning as a farmer representative. She has been producing grass-fed beef in the valley since 1999, on her husband’s family farm that has been passed down since the early 20th century.

The Plan is the “farmer voice” in the future of the Snoqualmie Valley, but it’s not just for the valley. As Lindemulder states, “food production and food security are critical, and we’re trying to address [these issues for the region] in this plan.”

A key output of the Plan was a number of acres needed to be farmland in the valley to ensure a viable and productive agricultural sector. Generating this number alone took over a year and a half of mapping and analysis.

The planning Task Force working on creating an equation to calculate acreage of farmland.

Patrice Barrentine, agriculture policy and economic development specialist at King County, served on the Task Force as the only person working full-time on its development. She highlights the importance of research as a tool, not as the final output of the plan, “preserving farmland is a very complicated problem. We had to figure out what do we have now in order to figure out what we will need in the future.”

Farmland is unique in that it is a natural resource, critical infrastructure, and habitat area that is almost entirely privately managed. Unlike forests, roads, or wildlife preserves, farmland is managed, owned, and worked by private individuals.

This fact makes the Task Force’s public-private partnership all the more impressive. There was no obligation for farmers to participate in this process, but passion and care for their farming community brought everyone together despite the challenge.

When asked what the process of working on the plan was like, Lindemulder simply said “daunting. We weren’t a very large committee, but we were representing a lot of folks in the Snoqualmie Valley.”

Lauren Silver, executive director of Snoqualmie Valley Preservation Alliance, began working on the  in the beginning of 2021. She was immediately impressed by the Task Force’s work, “the whole task force is a force to be reckoned with. Everyone is so intelligent, passionate, and dedicated. Such creative thinkers. It’s not like we didn’t have disagreements, but we were able to navigate those and hear each other out.”

Silver is really excited about the future of the plan. “This plan is really unique. There’s nothing like it in Washington State, it’s kind of unheard of nationally. It will be extremely useful in prioritizing the needs of the ag community and securing food for everyone.”

The Plan will be used to acquire funding for and prioritize agriculture projects, inform policy, and educate farmers and non-farmers about agricultural issues in the Snoqualmie Valley. Lindemulder, as a farmer herself, is especially excited that it brings farmers and agriculture interests to the table even if they aren’t physically in the decision-making room.

Barrentine and a fellow Task Force member pose with planning infographics.

King County is pioneering food system planning. The Plan is breaking ground nationally for forward-thinking agricultural planning. Wildlife populations, climate change concerns, and farmer interests have been integrated thoughtfully. As Lindemulder puts it, “farmers are truly environmentalists.”

The public review draft of the Plan is currently available. Read the Plan at Agricultural Land Resource Strategic Plan Task Force – King County

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