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Coupeville farmers meeting to focus on future of Whidbey agriculture

South Whidbey Tilth President Marc Wilson (third from right) joins in the effort to unify island agriculture in planning the upcoming Family Farms Forum II. Also pictured, from left, are Mark Preiss, Karen Bishop, Joe Hillers, Marc Wilson, David Ridle and Maryon Attwood.   - Olivia Forté-Gardner photo
South Whidbey Tilth President Marc Wilson (third from right) joins in the effort to unify island agriculture in planning the upcoming Family Farms Forum II. Also pictured, from left, are Mark Preiss, Karen Bishop, Joe Hillers, Marc Wilson, David Ridle and Maryon Attwood.
— image credit: Olivia Forté-Gardner photo

Farmers from Snohomish County will help guide a discussion on the current problems facing farms at an upcoming gathering of farmers and government officials on Whidbey Island.

The meeting is the second such gathering, and will be held next week in Coupeville.

“The future of agriculture on Whidbey will be shaped by collaboration between farmers, consumers and our political leaders,” said Karen Bishop, a farmer and the director of the Whidbey Island Conservation District.

“We feel this must be a coordinated effort and we want to explore with the community how to work toward this,” she said. 

Farmers and political leaders will meet from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, June 30 at the Au Sable Institute, 180 Parker Road in Coupeville for the Family Farms Forum II. The presentation is entitled, “Partners for Economic Success: Farmers and Local Government.”

Local farmers and supporters of island agriculture will get insights on partnering with government from past and present members of Snohomish County’s agricultural advisory committee. Farmers and experienced council members Linda Nuenzig and Mark Craven will share their experiences on the value their advisory body brought to the farming business.

“Our county’s partnership has been successful because we hit the ground running,” Nuenzig said.

She said Island County can do the same.

The number of farms raising crops and livestock across the island is increasing and so are the ideas on how to promote them to a wider audience.

At the same time, many local farmers are feeling pinched by county policies that no longer seem to accommodate farm-based business development.

In addition, representatives from community research groups for meat processing, branding and agritourism will highlight their progress.

Olivia Forté-Gardner, agricultural educator at Washington State University Extension, said this is the right time to talk about mutually beneficial partnerships.

“Farmers here are thinking creatively and are already taking action to turn our local agricultural economy around,” she said. “Having a voice for sustainable farming in local policy is really important.”

For information, call 360-678-7992.

Community Events, April 2014

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