Ilana Balint walks through the pumpkin patch at Stocker Farms in Snohomish on Oct. 23. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Ilana Balint walks through the pumpkin patch at Stocker Farms in Snohomish on Oct. 23. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Purchase Photo

Years in the making, plan puts science behind saving farms

The Snohomish Conservation District has a plan to preserve a $157 million agriculture industry.

LAKE STEVENS — The Snohomish County landscape is changing in the name of salmon restoration. Dikes have been breached, wetlands flooded and estuaries restored.

But another dwindling resource is competing with looming development for that acreage — the area’s locally grown food.

The Snohomish Conservation District has spent the past three years working on a plan for how the two interests can work together to ensure the county’s $157-million-per-year agriculture industry survives.

Between 2012 and 2017, the amount of farmland in Snohomish County dropped, from 70,863 acres to 63,671 acres, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture census.

On Thursday, the district releases its Agriculture Resilience Plan, a resource to help local farmers plan for a future with rising seas, hotter and drier summers and increased risk of flooding.

The plan started with farmers, district Natural Resources Program Manager Cindy Dittbrenner said. Through one-on-one conversations and group meetings, they mapped out the main issues farmers face, and what changes need to happen.

For the most part, problems revolved around water, Dittbrenner said. Both too much of it and too little.

In the winter, crop-growers had flooding and drainage issues. In the summer, they suffered from droughts and didn’t have enough water for irrigation.

“Those were the main items where they were missing information,” Dittbrenner said of the plan’s authors.

So the district set out to fill the data gaps, commissioning studies on flooding, groundwater levels, saltwater intrusion, land subsidence and crop impacts.

They used that information to pick projects that would have the greatest impact. They include flood gate improvements, levee repairs, drainage infrastructure and protections for farmland against development.

Now they’re entering the action phase.

“We’re done planning — it’s time to move forward on some of these projects,” Dittbrenner said.

With scientific research to back the projects’ necessity, she said, they have a better chance of leveraging funding.

“On the salmon side, there’s a ton of science behind what they need to do, with numbers and targets and goals,” she said. “We didn’t have the same thing for agriculture. Now we can take this list to the salmon recovery community and balance them and see how we move forward.”

Spencer Fuentes, who farms about 300 acres near Silvana and was a member of the plan’s steering committee, said farmers stand to gain individually and collectively from the identified projects.

“By trying to keep ag viable on an individual basis, it sort of helps everybody out,” he said.

Around 75 local farmers and at least 15 local groups and agencies took part in crafting the Agriculture Resilience Plan. Dittbrenner said she hopes it will create momentum to get large-scale projects done and ensure local farmland stays viable into the future.

“A lot of the community takes agriculture land for granted,” she said. “We expect to be able to buy local product, we want the open space and to take our kids to the pumpkin patch in the fall. And we don’t really realize that it’s at risk and if we don’t … take responsibility for maintaining it, we won’t have it.”

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

The Snohomish Conservation District is launching the Agriculture Resilience Plan for Snohomish County Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Carleton Farms, 630 Sunnyside Blvd. SE.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Ron Detrick teaches his geometry class Wednesday morning at Lakewood Middle School in Marysville on May 12, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
For real, these Lakewood pupils are back in class full time

Elementary and middle school students are getting in-person instruction five days a week.

Darren Redick is the new CEO of Providence’s Northwest Washington service area. (Providence Health and Services) 20210514
Providence stays local in selecting a new regional CEO

Based in Everett, Darren Redick will lead the health care provider’s Northwest Washington area.

Georgie Gutenberg
Death of Lake Stevens woman not suspicious

Police had asked for the public’s help to search for Georgie Gutenberg. She was found dead Sunday.

Everett man shot while walking his dog identified

Ryan S. McFadden, 33, died of gunshot wounds.

Man killed by train near Snohomish is identified

The Marysville man, 45, was hit Thursday morning south of the Snohomish River.

Students lead charge as Langley council takes climate action

The Whidbey Island city has declared a climate emergency and has pledged to involve United Student Leaders.

Douglas Ryner, 8, brushes twin cows Thelma and Louise at the Evergreen State Fair on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019 in Monroe, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
11 days of glee: Evergreen State Fair ‘Back in the Saddle’

The fair was called off in 2020 due to COVID-19. Organizers are planning a revised event this year.

Firefighters douse the flames at the NOAA Fisheries Building Friday evening in Mukilteo on May 14, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Fire damages NOAA site near new ferry terminal in Mukilteo

Smoke flooded the waterfront Friday night as fire crews descended on the abandoned research center.

Claire Swander, 6 months old, gets an H1N1 vaccine from nurse Soon Ku at Providence Physician Group in Mill Creek on Oct. 31, 2009. The site had lines with a three-hour wait for portions of the morning. (Heidi Hoffman / Herald file)
Vaccine approval for kids a reminder of 2009 H1N1 outbreak

As swine flu scare closed some schools, parents flocked to public clinics to protect their children.

Most Read