San Juan County’s Agricultural Resources Committee celebrates its accompliments

  • Tue Apr 28th, 2020 3:19pm
  • Life

Submitted by the San Juan County Agricultural Resource Committee

We are a volunteer team of farmers, food artisans, and agricultural organizations with a mission to protect and restore agricultural resources in San Juan County (SJC). In recognition of the importance of agriculture for food security, land stewardship and island identity the county formed the Agricultural Resource Committee in 2005 and has continued to fund a part-time committee coordinator.

With members representing all corners of our county, our “A Team” is tasked with a broad set of responsibilities: Assemble and listen to farmers and their Allies, and Amplify their voices; Advocate for the land; Advise San Juan County council and government, and Advance the goal of a thriving island-grown food system.

Building on fifteen years of steadfast work by past ARC members, we are pleased to share some of our accomplishments from 2019.

Dynamic team: In 2019, we improved our systems, nimbleness, and responsiveness to timely issues. Our dynamic, cohesive group welcomed four new members and successfully passed the leadership torch to our new chair Steve Bernheim (Orcas) and vice-chair, Meike Meissner (Lopez). Our intrepid coordinator, Faith Van De Putte (Lopez), led a major ARC website overhaul, and remained in regular, clear communication with the County Council, particularly around advocating for the potential of our county’s agricultural economy.

Policy Committee: Our Policy team offered up a Herculean effort to submit memos on various Comprehensive Plan sections, combing through complex language to identify opportunities for improvement in support of local agriculture. Prepped in a timely way and incorporated into early comp plan drafts, memos included recommendations on Land Use Goals and policies and Economic Development. They also provided input on marijuana grow operations and the stewardship of conservation agricultural lands.

Outreach Committee: The Outreach team continued to fine-tune its systems, including improvements in visual communication and social media presence. Winter Listening Sessions gathered vital feedback from over 90 local farmers and stakeholders, an outreach effort that continued at the County Fair. The Agricultural Organizations Retreat was the most successful to date, with solid participation from advocates throughout the county offering forward-thinking solutions.

County-wide engagement: The ARC led a well-attended session at the Agricultural Summit, “The Comp Plan, County Code, and You,” making huge strides in de-mystifying the Comp Plan update process. We also made positive contributions toward several county-wide efforts, including representation on the Land Bank’s Conservation Agriculture Team (CART), work on Island Marbled Butterfly conservation, and efforts toward making the Conservation District’s Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) more approachable.

As we look ahead into the 2020 season, our team is both excited by the opportunities and humbled by the challenges ahead. What we do know – our “A Team” will do our utmost to support thriving, regenerative, and resilient local agriculture in our county. We look forward to engaging with our community and celebrating many more successes to come.

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