- Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer
- Sustainable Communities: partnerships, urban/rural integration, community development
This project is located in the Skagit Valley of northwestern Washington, an area where rich alluvial soils combine with a mild maritime climate to create a prime area for agricultural production. Increasing urban population and a widening gap between farmers and consumers threaten the agricultural economic base of the region. Prime farmland in the Skagit Valley is being lost at two to four times the rate of less productive agricultural land, and the number of acres in agricultural production has dropped from approximately 140,000 acres in 1960 to 90,000 acres in 1992.
The goal of this project is to build community support for agriculture by increasing communication and understanding between farm and nonfarm residents of the Skagit Valley and the region. By increasing community members’ knowledge of agriculture and the economic and aesthetic benefits it provides, we can increase the long-term sustainability of the wider community, its landscape attributes, and its economic and agricultural bases.
Activities of the project include an Agricultural Speakers Bureau to educate the public about the link between agriculture and community quality of life, a Wildlife Habitat Assessment to learn how marginal areas of farmland provide for biological diversity, and a School Program for grade school students and teachers to increase their awareness of the Skagit Valley’s rich agricultural presence and its value to the community and the region.
In 1998 project leaders and advisors developed an organizational structure for the program and planned a major public event to introduce the project to the community. Planning teams for the Agricultural Speakers Bureau and the School Program met regularly to develop and organize activities.
A Speakers Bureau Core Team developed the organizational structure for the implementation and management of the Speakers Bureau. The Speakers Bureau now has 54 speakers who have been oriented and trained. To date 45 presentations have been given, reaching approximately 900 people. As a direct outgrowth of the Speakers Bureau, a Harvest Celebration (HC) was developed and farm tours for the public were conducted, with over 6,000 area residents learning about the link between agriculture and community quality of life.
Dr. Claus Svendsen and students from the Environmental Conservation Program conducted wildlife habitat assessments in ten woodland sites adjacent to or surrounded by farm fields. A total of 14 species of small mammals were recorded, and five species of amphibians were observed. Habitat assessment data gathered include a vegetation inventory and an inventory of snags and dead downed logs. A socio-economic survey of farm woodlot owners was conducted.
The School Program Core Team developed a set of goals to guide development of curriculum materials. A sub group of three volunteers and one program staff developed a detailed curriculum outline to provide teachers with a framework for teaching fourth grade math, science, geography, history, and language arts in the context of the Skagit Valley’s agricultural heritage. After approval by the Core Team, the outline was presented to the agricultural community for comment.
Project objectives:div style="margin-left:1em;">
1. Develop a participatory model for building a community coalition to support agricultural communities on the urban edge.
2. Examine the socio-economic and ecological components of sustainable agricultural landscape systems.
3. Increase public (farmer and consumer) knowledge and appreciation of the socio-economic and environmental benefits to the community of the agricultural landscape.
4. Disseminate lessons learned from this coalition building approach to organizations and
leaders that share a commitment to the future of urban edge agriculture.