The Four-Legged Stool of Viable Agriculture
SPF has a simply stated mission, but one that is very complex to implement. In addition to protecting farmland, SPF works to help the community understand that simply saving farmland isn’t sufficient to keeping the agricultural industry viable. SPF has identified four key elements to the long term viability of agriculture that can be visualized as a “four-legged stool.” The four key elements are:
- Farmland Protection
- Economic Viability
- Agricultural Infrastructure
- Community Support
Commercial agriculture is not feasible or efficient without large, unencumbered acreage.
Understanding this, in the early 1970’s Skagit County farmers were the first in the state to create 40-acre minimum lot sizes. This fundamental policy decision set the stage for next two decades of subsequent farmland protection efforts pursued by the agricultural community and SPF alike. Skagit County farmers recognized early on the need to have strict land use laws and zoning in order to protect their land base, balanced by programs to sell and transfer development rights.
The underlying purpose of these various public policy measures is to keep the Skagit agricultural land base intact for future generations and to provide options for landowners who are committed to farming for the next 100-years.
It’s not farmland without farmers. Unless farm operators can make a living from the farming enterprise, farmland becomes untended “open space” which soon is converted to non-agricultural uses. SPF is committed to the continued economic viability of Skagit agriculture by working towards and supporting efforts that promote regulatory stability and market opportunities for the entire agricultural industry. From specialty and row crops, dairy and livestock, organic and conventional, SPF works to assure that farms of all sizes and types remain viable.
SPF supports policies and regulations that positively impact the complex infrastructure upon which the agricultural industry is built – research and planning, drainage and irrigation, fertilizer and equipment, and dealers and markets, to name just a few.
Community support for agriculture, reflected in public policy and opinion, newspaper articles and opinions and “at the coffee shop,” must reflect a presumption that farming will be a long-term part of the community fabric and landscape, instead of simply being a consumptive land base for other uses. A major element of SPF’s work is to continuously engage with the public, community leaders and elected officials on a multitude of agriculture-related issues.
Four Legs Required for Stability
By continuously paying attention to all four legs of agricultural viability at once, the SPF Board of Directors believes that we will be able to maintain and enhance the agricultural industry over the next 100 years. Because farmland protection is supported by four legs, farms still have some stability if one leg of the farmland protection stool is weak or broken. SPF strives to move beyond some stability to optimal stability by strengthening each individual leg of the farmland protection stool. SPF’s past work and future goals have been designed with this objective in mind.