Housing and the future of island food

By Marcy Montgomery, San Juan Islands Makers Guild and San Juan Island Ag Guild Board Member; Joshua Monaghan, Monaghan Consulting; and Caitlin Leck, San Juan Islands Food System Team

During 2022, a team of Food System and Housing Groups assisted in developing and conducting a new housing study that looked at the direct, measurable impacts of the lack of adequate housing needed to support our food system needs and models for how this need is being addressed locally and in other rural communities.

Currently in the news is a report that the top #1 concern of Washington residents is the housing crisis and locally, islanders know this is a pressing issue given our high land, materials, and construction costs.

The recent San Juan County housing study that looks at food growers, value-added producers, restaurant, and grocer/retailer housing needs is of particular importance to not only meeting the workforce housing needs in the islands but also offers valuable examples and steps toward achieving related sustainability and resilience goals of the San Juans through smart housing choices.

The eight-month study was conducted by the Seattle firm of Monaghan Consulting and managed by the San Juan Islands Makers Guild. Follow-up community conversations are planned in 2023 to continue building momentum for positive housing access change and food system solutions. If you’d like to be added to the mailing list for meeting announcements, please email: support@sanjuanmakersguild.com.

Announcement From the Food System Housing Study Team:

The goal of the Food System Housing Study has been to quantify the needs, challenges and opportunities for housing solutions, and to also listen, one on one, to farmers and food system leaders to gather history and to look at possible paths forwards, as shared by those most involved in the important work of food security and the ag economy.

We’d now like to share the Housing Study resources with the wider community and invite you to explore any of the Study materials provided through the WSU Extension website at https://extension.wsu.edu/sanjuan/agriculture/ag-research-reports/

Available resources now posted on the WSU Extension website include:

The Public Presentation slide show – an easy read-through with finding highlights.

For a deeper read, we are also sharing the Final Report document and the detailed Appendices.

To listen to the first public presentation of the Housing Study findings, which is a short overview of the full study report, the Oct. 26 recording is available at https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/EoOmPC6RjSHkpBNlTI-8Hjrl_zb8LbGLy2_nfPqPjNzYZe_EzDq_5sPg-n0gQKRY.Y7WR2Z4sRXTnFwr-?startTime=1666748534000

Thank you to the 83 community organization partners, farm owners, and community members who directly participated in this information-gathering process. And thank you to the USDA, the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, and San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild for helping to fund this work.

Looking Ahead

2023 is an opportunity to work together, community by community, to take on next steps that lead to solutions. If you are concerned about the Future of Food, about local food security on the islands, and about finding solutions that help strengthen and grow food production and food access, we invite you to get active in supporting solutions.

The study demonstrates the scope of the housing needs – and the current and future impacts of not meeting those needs.

It also gathers models of options that already exist here and can be expanded, or new solutions that can be implemented in San Juan County – including models that can help solve housing challenges wider than solely Ag and Food interests.

As a community with shared, intersecting interests, we now need to discern the best models that meet our local needs and then act on building solutions. We hope many of you will take part in this process in the coming years.

We look forward to community-driven Next Steps in 2023.