Survey says… Washington farmer-landowner relationships are important for on-farm conservation

In November, American Farmland Trust (AFT) released the Washington state fact sheet summarizing results from its Non-Operating Landowners (NOLs) survey that surveyed individually or partnership-owned lands. This survey revealed that there is significant opportunity for increased conservation practices on rented land to improve soil quality.

Since farming on rented land is very common in King County, these results are particularly valuable for our farming community.

“AFT conducted this survey in 11 states to learn more about NOL and renter relationships, communication in those relationships, conservation attitudes and behaviors, and conservation and outreach needs,” said Courtney Naumann, AFT Pacific Northwest Agricultural Stewardship Program Manager. “These results will help us understand who we should reach out to engage in conversations around agricultural stewardship, and how we can best serve demographics who fall into a renter/owner role.”

2017 Census of Agriculture: Main takeaways for King County

The Census of Agriculture, conducted once every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a voluntary mail survey that counts the number of U.S. farms and ranches, and looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income, and expenditures.

The Census of Agriculture provides comprehensive agriculture data for every county in the nation. There are limitations to the Census due to the voluntary nature of the Census survey. Census surveys do not capture every farmer in the U.S., and the survey questions present categories that may not be relevant or applicable to every farmer.

However, the Census is currently the one of the best ways to glean countywide data about producers and the economic role of agriculture, which can influence decisions that will shape the future of agriculture in King County.

Recycled water use in King County: Navigating water rights with innovative solutions

Many agricultural lands in King County lack access to irrigation water or do not have sufficient water to meet the farm’s needs. Access to a stable water source significantly influences how farmland can be used. Irrigation improves crop yields, allows for more diverse crops, and can generate higher revenues for farmers.

To more accurately understand the scope of water needs in King County, the King County Agricultural Program will begin a County-wide agricultural water needs assessment in 2019. There is not enough current information to determine how much water is needed for King County farms to successfully produce crops. The water needs assessment will be important for managing and conserving water in King County.

Meanwhile, King County is exploring innovative solutions in the Sammamish Valley to provide increased access to irrigation. One solution is using recycled water on farmland, which is called out as a priority action in King County’s Local Food initiative.

Land Conservation Initiative: Preserving and protecting farmland and urban green space

The Land Conservation Initiative is the way we can protect the livability, health, and ecological integrity of our region for everyone. Access to nature and open space is the foundation to our collective quality of life. However, development threatens working lands that produce food, jobs, and a rural way of life.

“The main goals of the Initiative are to accelerate investments in land conservation to save money, to ensure critical natural areas and resource lands can be preserved before they are lost to other uses, and to ensure green space for all residents,” said Bob Burns, Deputy Director of King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

This Initiative is a regional collaboration between King County, cities, business people, farmers, environmental partners, and others that began by creating a strategy to preserve our last, most important natural lands, resource lands and green spaces.

Farm King County Data Center now live!

Farm King County recently launched its Food Systems Data Center, which combines an interactive mapping platform with information and data on local agriculture to tell the story of King County’s farm and food system. Farm King County is a one stop resource for information and assistance for farm operations, and this data will be useful to better understand, analyze, and measure the healthy and viability of our food system. The major components of the data center include the King County Farm and Food System Map and food system indicator progress metrics.

The essential ingredients for growing farms: collaboration and getting to know people

In early 2018, King County and its partners launched the Working Farmland Partnership (WFP) to connect farmland owners with farmers looking to establish or expand their business. We interviewed Melissa Borsting, King County Project/Program Manager focused on the WFP, to better understand what the WFP means for local food, how the partnership works, and the successes and challenges faced by this project so far.