Sustainable Farming in Washington

How Can We Help?
By Gwen LeBlanc

[Untitled]According to the National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition (NSAC) nearly half of the nation’s streams are polluted, over 100 million acres of crop land suffer from unsustainable erosion and countless species are endangered because of conventional farming practices and chemicals used in those techniques. The farming community in the Northwest is committed to preserving the integrity of the vast farm land that is rich with potential and vulnerable to the harsh effects of big business farming. Local organizations like The Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network (WSFFN) dedicate themselves to the education and support of sustainable farming practices not only in Washington but also nationally through support of organizations like NSAC. Together these groups aim to change the way we farm in the US. It’s a monumental task that faces opposition from large competitive farmers and needs community support to thrive.

The WSFFN works with the Washington State Department of Agriculture to create and maintain policies that protect and change the way we farm. One of the ways WSFFN envisions educating its citizens is by developing Farm-to-School programs. In these programs schools would obtain their fruits and vegetables from local farmers and would provide educational curriculum that discusses local farming. Eventually these programs would also include hands on education with schools maintaining small gardens that children would learn to tend, harvest and even prepare the food they have grown. The really great thing about a program like this is that it not only teaches children about farming but it also encourages them to eat well in a fun way. The first farm to school program in Washington is currently up and running in Olympia with good results. King County is also taking steps in the same direction with Gov. Gregoire signing the Local Farms-Healthy Kids bill in March of 2008.

We can support the efforts of these organizations and our local farmers by buying local foods whenever possible and by patronizing businesses that support and use local farmers. In Seattle we are lucky to be near a farmers market in almost every neighborhood, for at least part of the year. Year round the Pike Place Market and the Ballard Farmers Market serve our community providing fruits, vegetables, eggs, and milk to name a few. We can also help our farmers efforts to conserve and protect agricultural land by educating ourselves and our children. A great way to do that is by supporting programs like Farm-to-School. Finally, getting to know some of the farmers in your area is a great way to discuss with them the challenges they face and find out how you might help.

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