Our local food community is ever-changing.
Just a decade ago in 2007, the country was going through a financial crisis, and many people in the San Juan Islands were thinking hard about their food system and how it could be more sustainable. Farms that had been in the same families for decades were sold, and the real estate market was headed downward.
Many islanders, with their history of self-sufficiency and their treasured agricultural heritage, saw a responsibility to think of the future.
The Agricultural Resources Committee pressed for ways to help young farmers succeed and preserve farmland. In 2012, the Agricultural Guild and the San Juan Island community renovated Brickworks from a disused hardware store to a new home for the farmers market as well as a community center for events and celebrations.
Coffelt Farm on Orcas Island has been transformed with the help of the San Juan County Land Bank and the Coffelt Farm Stewards into a productive operation bringing young farmers onto the scene.
The Island Grown in the San Juans program is growing as well, helping connect farmers and markets and publicize locally made products to the islands and the region.
The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau promotes the islands’ farm and food community, hoping to draw visitors who want to support farms and food producers.
With property values skyrocketing again, and pressure on our farmland growing, there is much to do. Our voices must come together to stress the importance of maintaining our agricultural heritage, a sustainable food system, its connection to affordable housing, support for new small businesses and more.
The county is working to preserve farmland and create more housing for seasonal workers, farmers and small businesses, but it needs to hear your voices.
New farm-to-table restaurants are opening all the time, and programs like Island Grown, Brickworks, farm tours, farmers markets, Savor the San Juans and other ag-related activities, help visitors to understand the islands’ deep connection to our agriculture past – and help create a brighter future.
Take a look at this week’s Savor the San Juans section produced in partnership with the visitors’ bureau. Read about two months’ worth of dining and cultural activities that celebrate the abundance right here in our backyard.