Saving Farmland at the Cost of Farmers

Farmland in Whatcom County. Photo Credit Elisa Claassen. Used By Permission.

Since Spring 2016, the Whatcom County Farm Bureau has been engaged in tracking Whatcom County’s Comprehensive Plan and Critical Areas Ordinance review. These documents will have a large impact on our ability to farm our land; and we wanted to be sure that the agricultural perspective was represented.

A year later, we are still involved in this effort. With the help of an attorney, and partnership with other farm organizations, we have submitted many comments to the Council and Committees on their proposals that will reduce our ability to farm profitably.

We believe that we have fairly and accurately represented the concerns of the agricultural community to our County Council. However, we have had limited success with their responses.

We could give you many details of issues we have opposed and countered, but the bottom line is this: the majority of the County Council assume that agriculture is harming the land and the water. The policies that they are pursuing will have the result of reducing the practice of farming. Council members will say they are concerned about farmland, but proposed increases in regulation, affecting profitability, and their push to reclassify Ag land to critical areas shows they are not concerned about farming.

There is much to be lost if we, as farmers, do not express our objection to their assumption. The Council is working to make Farm Plans mandatory for every farm, requiring a costly process to comply, and years of monitoring with mandated updates. Also, they propose to make the allowed time for Ag land to lie fallow only 5 years, after which the land is reclassified as a Critical Area and must comply with those buffers (much larger) and regulations. These are just two issues of many that adversely affect farming.

The County Council must know that we object to their assumption, and their proposals. And they need to hear it from THE FARMERS THEMSELVES! Our comments in person, our presence at the meetings, and other communications must be made to have any hope of influencing laws and policies that affect our agricultural industries.

It is always busy on the farm, whatever the season – and summer is probably the worst time to consider taking time away from the farm to attend meetings. But engaging the Council members now, before the detrimental changes are adopted is an investment that will inevitably save time when we have to battle their implementation.

For your consideration:

  • Attend the meeting when the Council of the Whole discusses the changes: Tuesday, August 8, 9:30 am. We will probably not be allowed to comment, but our presence is valuable both for our education and the Council’s awareness of accountability.
  • Speak at the August 8 County Council meeting during Open Session. Council meeting starts at 7pm. Open session follows any public hearings scheduled: can occur as early as 7:15, or much later. We will track what hearings are on the agenda and give you an idea of the time.
  • Attend the August 8 County Council Meeting in support of the farmers.

 

Free Agriculture Energy Upgrades For Small Farmers

Puget Sound Energy is partnering with the Whatcom Conservation District in piloting a new program called Agricultural Energy Efficiency Program.

This program is focused on farmers in North Whatcom County. Their goal is to save small farms money and energy by upgrading lighting and equipment for free.

PSE is looking for ten small farms to join this program.

If you are interested or have questions, please contact Nick at nicholas.hartrich@pse.com or (360) 922-4204.

2017 Scholarship Winners

Whatcom County Farm Bureau is pleased to announce its 2017 Scholarship Winners.

Dana Ebe

 

Austin Lenssen

 Whatcom County Farm Bureau awarded a $1250 scholarship to Dana Ebe, the daughter of Greg and Mary Ebe. Ebe is graduating from Ferndale High School and will be studying in Civil Engineering this fall at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. Ebe stated "I am drawn to engineering because I would find it very rewarding to find solutions to issues in my community or projects in my future job."

Austin Lenssen, the son of David & Heather Lenssen, was awarded a $750 scholarship by Whatcom County Farm Bureau. Lenssen is graduating from Whatcom Community College and will be studying landscape, nursery, and greenhouse management at Washington State University. Lenssen said "I want to be a greenhouse manager growing flowers, bushes, and trees to sell for personal and commercial use in Northwest Washington." 

Whatcom County Farm Bureau 2017 Scholarships

The Whatcom County Farm Bureau is offering $2000 in scholarships to qualified Whatcom County students. A minimum of $500 will be awarded to each winner.

 Applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible for a scholarship.

  • Applicant must be a high school senior or currently be a full time college or university undergraduate student entering college, technical school or university as a full time student in the 2017-2018 school year.
  • Applicant must be a Whatcom County Farm Bureau member or the son, daughter, legal dependent or spouse of a Whatcom County Farm Bureau member, with membership dues paid prior to October 1, 2016, and kept current through May 15, 2017.
  • Applicant must not have been awarded the scholarship in previous years.
  • Application must be completed and postmarked or emailed by Monday, May 1, 2017 to: Whatcom Farm Bureau Scholarship Committee, PO Box 703, Lynden, WA 98264 or whatcomfarmbureau@gmail.com 

Judging is scored as follows:

  • Academics/Transcript 20
  • The Importance of Farm Bureau – Essay 40
  • Career Ambition – Essay 20
  • Leadership & Community Service – Essay 20

The Whatcom County Farm Bureau Scholarship Committee will review the applications and make the final decision no later than May 15, 2017.

Scholarship payment will be made after one full term has been successfully completed with a GPA of 2.75 or better, and the recipient is enrolled full time for the next term.

Prior to scholarship payment, recipient is responsible for having a copy of grades and a letter of re-enrollment sent from the college registrar to: Whatcom Farm Bureau Scholarship Committee, PO Box 703, Lynden, WA 98264 or whatcomfarmbureau@gmail.com

For further information, please contact:
Debbie VanderVeen, Whatcom County Farm Bureau Scholarship Chairperson
360-354-1194 veenteam@gmail.com

Melodie Kirk, Whatcom County Farm Bureau Administrative Staff
360-739-7764 whatcomfarmbureau@gmail.com

Click here for the application!