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The Working Farmland Partnership: keeping ag land in production in King County

Access to farmland is one of the biggest challenges farmers face today. This is especially true in Washington, where the average price per acre of farmland has doubled in the last four years. Beginning farmers face significant barriers to finding available and affordable land to start their businesses, and established farmers often struggle to find enough land to meet their business goals.

At PCC Farmland Trust, we know that farmland conservation is a critical piece of the puzzle, as it ensures that land will remain in farming forever. And yet with more than two thirds of farmers approaching retirement age in our region, we’re thinking bigger about how to keep our best land in production for generations.

In 2017, we launched Farm to Farmer, a land-matching program designed to help food growers connect with the land opportunities they need to be successful. Farm to Farmer currently serves Pierce, King, and Skagit Counties of Washington State, due to our long-standing relationships and strategic partnerships within those communities.

Our work in King County is guided by the shared goals of the Working Farmland Partnership (WFP), a group of stakeholders working to ensure a farming future in King County by keeping land in agricultural production and increasing farmland access for new and expanding producers. PCC Farmland Trust leads this collaboration along with partners at SnoValley Tilth, King County, American Farmland Trust, Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust, Viva Farms, and King Conservation District.

The WFP grew in response to the bold goals outlined in King County’s Local Food Initiative, which launched in 2014. The initiative aims to better connect local farms to consumers; increase access to healthy, affordable foods in underserved areas; support farmers and protect farmland; and create a sustainable farm-to-plate pipeline that is more resilient to the effects of climate change. We are honored to be charged with specific targets through the WFP to help bring this vision to life in King County.

The WFP brings together the conservation district, farmer training and advocacy organizations, county government, and land trusts in order to provide a full suite of services to farmers and landowners in King County. By aligning our strategies, we are able to better support farmers at all stages of their land search and landowners in meeting their agricultural production goals for their properties.

In our pilot year, we focused on working with motivated landowners to get their land into production. We walk properties side by side with landowners, identify barriers to production, and create a plan for improvements. We then make connections to key agencies, service providers, and other experts and help navigate permitting processes and regulatory hurdles. The top issues we’ve offered advice on include: drainage, access to water, funding sources for property improvements, permitting and building requirements, and road access. To date, we’ve supported eight landowners in exploring potential solutions on 160 acres in King County.

Stay tuned for more updates on how our collaborative efforts are serving farmers on the ground in the Puget Sound region. Both the Working Farmland Partnership and Farm to Farmer are made possible through the support of King Conservation District’s Regional Food System Grant Program.

To learn how the WFP can support you in getting your land into agricultural production, contact King County Farm to Farmer Coordinator Lily Gottlieb-McHale. To learn more about PCC Farmland Trust’s partnerships across the region and state, view our partnerships page.