Washington State University

Small Farms Team

Farm Finder: Washington – Oregon


Why Buy Direct from Local Farmers?

Photo of dahlia farm

Local farming provides more than fresh, safe food and fiber. Preserving local farmland and farmers benefit:

Economic Diversity. Diversified local economies are less susceptible to outside events (e.g. energy costs).

Food Security. Local agriculture ensures sustainable production of and access to fresh, safe, food.

Preserves Heritage and Culture. Local farming connects us with our heritage and to the earth and landscape in which we live.

Economic Development. Local farms provide jobs and keep more of your food dollars in the local economy.

Preservation of Landscapes. Agricultural lands provide productive green spaces and maintain a more rural aesthetic character.

“The food we eat…

…is the landscape we create.”

—Gerard Bentryn
Bainbridge Island Farmer and Vintner.

Gerard believes reconnecting food with our sense of place will help us all see that local food is precious because it preserves both beauty and local community. And this, in turn, will preserve local farming.

Quality of Life. Farmland affords scenic relief from more developed landscapes and contributes to the our sense of place.

Tourism. Local farms showcase how food and other products are produced to visitors and urban residents alike.

Reduced Transportation and Energy Costs. Most food travels hundreds of miles to market which impacts the environment and the economy. Do you know where your food comes from?

Environmental. Thousands of acres of farmland promote groundwater recharge and flood control since it stores rainfall and slows runoff.

Habitat. Farms often provide a buffer for urban areas and provide wildlife habitat.

Threats to Local Farming

People are often unaware of the value of local agricultural products (produce, dairy, meat, fiber, flowers nursery plants, etc.). As our country developed, most people lost their connnection with the land and the food it produces.

The number of US farms has significantly decreased while the land in production has remained about the same. Corporate agribusiness manufactures and markets over 95% of the food in the United States. These multinational corporations only rarely connect with local communities.

Our local food systems and family farms face pressures from increased population and competition for land use, especially around urban areas. Some of these pressures include:

Development and Population Growth. In areas of high population growth, conflicts arise between the suburban and rural residents and famers.

Low Awareness of Local Food Production. With less than 2% of the population involved in agriculture, most people are unaware of what food production involves. Global food systems have separated us from the food we eat and the farms that grow it.

Land Costs. Increasing land costs make it difficult for new farmers to buy good farmland, while existing farmers find it difficult to resist economic pressure to sell their land and leave farming.

Photo of Joe's Place farm store

Profitability. Competition with large corporate farms that sell products on a very large scale at low retail prices means that many local smaller scale farms rely on direct marketing techniques to increase the value they receive for their products.

Future farmers. High land costs and low profitability discourage new farmers. As the current, aging farming population retires, farmland will be increasingly be purchased by those who can afford it, but who have little interest in sustaining commercial agriculture.

Regulations. Regulations often challenge farmers more than most businesses as they deal with environmental, health, labor, and building regulations. It can be costly to comply with regulations and sometimes discourage efficient farming practices.

Global Economies. Multinational corporations drive the world food economy and make it difficult for small-scale farmers to compete in the conventional marketplace. Domestic and international trade agreements often strengthen corporate farming at the expense of family operated farms.

Direct marketing and promoting alternative crops to local consumers can help overcome some of the constraints to maintaining local farming.


What Can You Do?

Buy local farm products.

Ask grocery stores and restaurants to stock your favorite local farm products.

Adapted from Sylvia Kantor. (1998) Farming in King County: A Treasure in Peril , WSU Extension King County, Seattle.

Other Sources

King County Department of Natural Resources. 1996. Farm and Forest Report: A Strategy for Preserving the Working Landscapes of Rural King County, Seattle, WA.

Lehman, Karen. 1995. Dinner at the Global Cafe: It’s Tough to Swallow. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, MN.

Credits

The Small Farms Team thanks Puget Sound Fresh which provided the software code for these Farm Finder pages. The Team offers its gratitude to Alison Foren for adapting these pages and the underlying farms database.

– Doug Stienbarger, Farm Finder Project (Contact Doug to have your farm listed.)

Some WSU Extension web sites provide links to external sites for the convenience of users. These external sites are not managed by WSU Extension. Furthermore, WSU Extension does not review, control or take responsibility for the content of these sites, nor do these sites implicitly or explicitly represent official positions and policies of WSU Extension.
Small Farms Team, 2606 W. Pioneer, Washington State University, Puyallup, WA 98371-4998, Contact Us