Rows of kale, eggplant, corn, and other late summer vegetables extend for nearly 5 acres across one corner of Horseneck Farm in early September, located just a few miles south of downtown Kent. On a clear day, Mt. Rainier towers behind the trees in the distance. This setting – a small, green retreat within a hub of manufacturing – is just one of five King County-owned farms leased to area farmers through its Farmland Leasing Program. The goal is for marginalized and beginning farmers to have land access to grow their agricultural businesses despite increasingly expensive property prices across the county.Horseneck Farm: Preserved for agriculture, now increasing access for diverse growers — Keeping King County Green
Using beautiful drone footage and captivating underwater salmon photography, the Snoqualmie Watershed Forum tells the story of diverse partners in the Cherry Valley working together to recover salmon, while protecting farmland and reducing flood risks.
Hear about the challenges and successes from representatives of the Tulalip Tribes, Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Sound Salmon Solutions, Snoqualmie Valley Watershed Improvement District, Wild Fish Conservancy, Snohomish Conservation District, and Drainage District 7.
The Snoqualmie Watershed Forum has been working since 1998 with partners to address salmon recovery, water quality, and flooding. Nowhere is this more evident than in Cherry Valley, where the partners are working to revive the landscape.
The Forum is a signatory and committed partner of King County’s Fish, Farm, & Flood Initiative. It is clear what needs to be done to recover salmon, protect farmland, and reduce flood risk, but it can’t be done without partnerships. Take action and learn more at govlink.org/action7.
“USDA processing allows producers to sell sausages, steaks, burger patties, and a wide variety of other small cuts that are in high demand in King County,” said Darron Marzolf, butcher at Marzolf Meats. “The USDA mobile meat processing unit provides this service close to home for local livestock operators.”
In 2015, King County was approached by livestock producers from SnoValley Tilth and Puget Sound Meat Producers Cooperative to help bring a USDA meat processing system to serve King County producers who needed help overcoming the barriers to USDA meat processing.
This project supports the Local Food Initiative strategy focused on improving local food processing, distribution, and marketing infrastructure in King County.
King County applied for and received a Regional Food System Grant from the King Conservation District in 2016 to support, locate and build out a site for a USDA mobile meat processing unit (MPU). The goal of this project is to make local meat more accessible in King County while providing a variety of benefits to local producers and creating demand for local processors and butchers.
The Beefing Up Infrastructure project team has worked over several years to locate and connect the many critical components of this work. More than 80 King County livestock producers have participated in workshops and helped shape the project by providing information and production numbers.
This new USDA operation will provide the butcher, site, infrastructure services, USDA grant of inspection and USDA inspector needed so that local farmers can locally access USDA processing.
What are the barriers for small-scale livestock producers? How does USDA processing help overcome these barriers?
“You make me so happy I could cry! Knowing I’ll have a close-to-home options leaves me optimistic about my future meat processing. I was seriously thinking about moving to Skagit to join Island Grown, because I’m just so done with driving to Sandy, Oregon.” – CH, King County Pork Producer
Many farmers in King County have limited options for processing their livestock for local sales. With only a handful of operating USDA inspected facilities throughout Washington state, many local, small-scale farmers have little to no access to USDA processing, which limits their access to local markets for their products.
“Traveling long distances to these facilities causes a variety of problems for farmers and their animals,” said Patrice Barrentine, Agriculture Policy and Economic Development Specialist at King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks and also the Project Manager for this project. “Many producers have to travel more than 100 miles to deliver animals for processing. This not only stresses the animals, but also loses profits for producers paying for fuel and spending time in traffic.”
King County does not currently have a USDA meat processing facility that serves local livestock producers, which is a major barrier to local livestock production.
“Processing needs to happen as close to the animal as possible,” said Hannah Cavendish-Palmer, Executive Director at Carnation Farms. “To travel three to six hours for processing and then three to six more hours to cut and wrap facilities is unsustainable as a business and for the environment.”
What does USDA inspected mean?
“It is extremely difficult for farmers to raise livestock in King County because of limited access to USDA processing facilities,” said Marzolf. “I firmly believe this MPU will increase the number of livestock operations in King County.”
USDA inspection is required for farmers to sell meat to retail outlets such King County farmers markets, local restaurants and grocery stores.
The MPU is a custom trailer approved to operate and inspected every day of operation by a USDA inspector on-site. The new MPU operation and site will be built out and ready for operation in late September at Carnation Farms.
USDA approves the site, facility, operational plans and inspects every animal throughout the process. This ensures safety and compliance with federal standards.
How it works
“Carnation Farms is very excited to host USDA meat processing and increase the economic viability of King County’s livestock farms,” said Cavendish-Palmer.
Interested producers should call Darron Marzolf, butcher at Marzolf Meats located at Carnation Farms, for more information and to schedule an appointment at 425-931-8081.Producers make an appointment with Marzolf Meats to schedule processing. Producers take their animals on their prearranged processing day to the site at Carnation Farms. Producers then unload their livestock and the meat is harvested on-site. Afterward, the meat is transported to a USDA cut and wrap facility, which allows producers to sell their products anywhere, including local farmers markets, restaurants, grocery stores, and directly to consumer.
What are the benefits of local meat processing?
“USDA meat processing this close to King County markets will significantly help King County farmers and the region economically,” said Barrentine. “For a consumer, this means they can find locally produced meats in more markets. For a livestock producer, this means more time on the farm and less money spent on travel to processing facilities.”
Access to USDA processing is important because, this way, customers can find specific cuts of meat from locally grown livestock, rather than purchasing a whole or half animal and storing it in a freezer.
Another benefit of this project includes support for sustainable local livestock production and reducing food miles.
In addition, USDA inspection increases market opportunities for farmers and increases options for consumers to buy local meat. This helps ensure local dollars circulate and remain in King County.
The MPU will be in operation in late September, so be sure to keep an eye out for local meats at year-round farmers markets, restaurants and grocery stores!
What is the Land Conservation Initiative?
The Land Conservation Initiative is the way we can protect the livability, health, and ecological integrity of our region for everyone. Access to nature and open space is the foundation to our collective quality of life. However, development threatens working lands that produce food, jobs, and a rural way of life. The Initiative sets forth the goal of conserving and preserving 65,000 acres of remaining high conservation value lands throughout King County within the next 30 years.
This Initiative is a regional collaboration between King County, cities, business people, farmers, environmental partners, and others that began by creating a strategy to preserve our last, most important natural lands, resource lands and green spaces.
“The main goals of the Initiative are to accelerate investments in land conservation to save money, to ensure critical natural areas and resource lands can be preserved before they are lost to other uses, and to ensure green space for all residents,” said Bob Burns, Deputy Director of King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. “Prior to the Initiative we estimated it would take 60 to 70 years to protect those 65,000 acres. The goal of the Initiative is to cut that in half. Because land values rise faster than the growth of our revenue streams, accelerating the pace to within 30 years will save an estimated $15 billion.”
The 65,000 acres of land fall within six categories: urban green space, trails, natural lands, river corridors, farmlands, and forests.
How is this initiative funded?
The primary funding source is the Conservation Futures Tax (CFT) fund, which is a property tax that exists on all parcels in the county. The CFT requires a 50 percent match in most cases.
“We work to find match dollars, from other local, state or federal sources, to pair up with the CFT fund,” Bob said. “One way we invest our land conservation dollars is to buy farmland easements on our most valuable agricultural lands. Easements to remove development rights from private lands will preserve farmland and help keep farmland affordable and active, supporting local food production.”
How will it help protect agricultural land and green space in King County?
“Approximately 15,000 acres of the 65,000 acres goal is agricultural land,” Bob said. The Farmland Preservation Program (FPP) is an important component of this Initiative by preserving rapidly diminishing farmland through development rights purchases.
In addition to the 15,000 acres of agricultural land identified in rural areas, the Initiative also plans to protect 2,500 to 3,000 acres of urban green spaces, some of which could be used for community gardens.
“An exciting component of this Initiative is urban green space preservation,” Bob said. “A key goal of the LCI is to ensure there is green space for every resident in King County. We want to make sure every neighborhood has green space. These green spaces will be preserved in ways that focus on resident interests and needs. The communities will drive how these green spaces will be used, whether that is through a community garden, open space, or other passive use.
“Green spaces provide a multitude of benefits for residents, and not all of our communities currently experience these benefits,” he said. “Every resident should have the opportunity to live their best lives, and providing access to open spaces for every neighborhood will help eliminate disparities in the quality of life for residents.”
In addition to addressing open space inequities, preserving farmland and green spaces will support locally grown food, which helps strengthen the local food economy and increase community resilience in the face of climate change.
“Investing in the preservation of farmland and green spaces will strengthen our local economy and promote a more robust local food system, which will benefit us all,” Bob said.
Learn more about the Land Conservation Initiative here.
Farm King County recently launched its Food Systems Data Center, which combines an interactive mapping platform with information and data on local agriculture to tell the story of King County’s farm and food system. Farm King County is a one stop resource for information and assistance for farm operations, and this data will be useful to better understand, analyze, and measure the healthy and viability of our food system. The major components of the data center include the King County Farm and Food System Map and food system indicator progress metrics.
The King County Farm and Food System Map allows you to view spatial information in an interactive map. It is your window to a wealth of information on topics including farmland, soils, food production, and natural resources.
The Data Center also contains indicators that will better enable us to track progress toward our goals under the Local Food Initiative, assess the health and viability of our local food system, and better inform the development of policy and funding decisions. At this time, indicators have been developed that inform our progress and efforts to preserve farmland, increase food production acreage, and meet farmer needs for flooding management and access to water. Data and background information in each of these areas can be found under the Farmland section of the new Data Center.
Future additions to the website will add indicators that help us measure and better understand environmental stewardship, markets for farm products, and farm and farmer demographics. Look for these in early 2019!
On June 12, at the historic Carnation Farms – with it’s expansive views of the lush Snoqualmie Valley for a backdrop – King County Executive Dow Constantine met with the Snoqualmie Fish, Farm and Flood Advisory Committee that has spent more than three years forging the first major agreement in the county to strike a balance between farming interests and salmon recovery.
At the core of the Fish, Farm, Flood agreement is a series of immediate, mid-term, and long-term recommendations for action to address overall Snoqualmie Watershed goals.
“I gave the Fish, Farm and Flood Advisory Committee a difficult assignment: Overcome competing interests to achieve shared goals – and they delivered,” said Executive Constantine. “They produced recommendations that will help us restore salmon habitat, strengthen our agricultural economy, and reduce flood risks.”
Going beyond the decades of acrimony as a result of valuable, but often competing goals, the 14-member Advisory Committee has unanimously endorsed a package of 34 recommendations to address specific watershed goals and actions that will improve the watershed for people, businesses, and fish and wildlife.
Among the top priority actions are achieving less costly and more predictable drainage regulations for farmers, and increasing the pace of salmon recovery efforts in the Snoqualmie Valley. This work includes reexamining drainage and buffer regulations, and developing an agricultural land strategy for the valley.
The collaboration was the result of the King County Council adding a directive in the 2012 King County Comprehensive Plan update to create a watershed planning process for the Snoqualmie Watershed – primarily the lower 30 miles of the valley from Snoqualmie Falls north to the Snohomish County line. This area includes about 14,500 acres of the Snoqualmie Agricultural Production District.
The Advisory Committee has representatives from farming and agriculture, conservation, flooding, and salmon recovery interests, as well as tribal, state and local jurisdictions.
The lengthy timeframe for developing this accord was due in part to the fact that several advisory committee members were busy living with the issues they were addressing, including operating farms, completing habitat restoration work elsewhere in western Washington, responding to flooding, and other important tasks.
While the Committee’s report is the culmination of years of hard work, there is more to be done. Among the committee’s recommendations is creation of three task force groups to carry out follow-up work over the next three years.