The Washington State Democratic Party has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for the presidential nominee at its state convention in Tacoma. San Juan County delegate Learner Limbach, from Orcas Island, attended the event on June 18–19 and was chosen to serve on the Democratic National Convention Platform Committee. There are only 187 members on the committee in the nation and Limbach is one of two Sanders supporters chosen to serve from Washington. The platform is essentially a guide for the Democratic Party and will be recommended to the Democratic Party’s National Platform for approval by the convention delegates. Limbach will be traveling to Orlando, Flo., to work on the platform. The Journal asked Limbach a few questions about his new role.
Journal: How does it feel to be representing your county at the national level, and how do you feel the platform you are looking to help influence benefits San Juan County?
LL: I haven’t been able to stop smiling since I found out I was appointed to the committee. This appointment says something about the kind of community we have in San Juan County. This community made me who I am, and I can’t describe how incredibly grateful and honored I am for the opportunity to bring some very critical issues, especially related to food and agriculture, to the national platform. San Juan County, like most of the United States, has an aging farming population. Right now the average age of farmers nationally, as well as in San Juan County, is around 58, which is the highest it’s ever been in history. At a time when local food is the fastest growing trend in the food industry everywhere, why is it that young people here, and across the nation, are having such a hard time succeeding in farming? It has a lot to do with policy decisions made on the federal level in this country. Federal farm subsidies that only benefit the largest farms, trade policies and federal food safety regulation that disproportionately burden small and mid-sized farms, higher and higher land prices; these are issues that farmers everywhere are grappling with as we attempt to usher in a new generation of farm owner-operators.
Journal: How did you get involved in the Sanders campaign and what attracted you to his platform?
LL: I had been following the campaign since last fall but my first real involvement with the campaign began after I went to see Bernie Sanders speak at the Key Arena in Seattle on March 20. Being there with 20k+ supporters and listening to him speak about the issues really motivated me to get involved. I signed up and got trained to be a precinct captain for the campaign at the precinct caucuses on March 26 and after that I was hooked. A big turning point for me in my enthusiasm for the campaign was reading the section on improving the rural economy section on Bernie’s campaign website. He talks about many of the things that I feel are really important and that we have been working on for years in San Juan County, such as investing in farm-to-school and farm-to-table initiatives, agri-tourism programs, school gardens, and shared agricultural processing and storage facilities. The website claims that as president he will “expand support for young and beginning farmers” and “enlist farmers as partners in promoting conservation and stewardship to keep our air and water clean and to combat climate change.”
After the precinct caucuses, I helped organize delegates in San Juan County leading up to our county convention on May 1, where I was elected along with four others (Bob O’Connell, Marta Nielson, and Kate Czaja representing Bernie Sanders, and Diane Martindale representing Hillary Clinton) to represent SJC at the congressional districts (May 21) and state convention (June 17–19).
Journal: How involved in politics where you before the Sanders campaign?
LL: I was part of getting the Initiative to ban the growing of GMOs in the county in 2012. I have also been involved in local agriculture projects, committees and programs, which has inspired to get involved in bigger political movements like the presidential campaign. Over the last ten years, I have been a strong advocate for agricultural issues at the county level and as the chairman for the Agriculture Resources Committee I am involved in forming local policies.
Limbach is also holding a fundraiser on Friday, July 1, from 7-9 p.m. at Oddfellows Hall on Orcas Island.
To read more about Limbach or to donate to his trip to Orlando and the DNC, visit www.gofundme.com/learner_to_dnc or mail to PO Box 1996, Eastsound, WA 98245.