The Dirt Issue 4 – Agriculture is “Growing” at the Port

Posted on April 28, 2016
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For more than two decades, the Skagit agricultural community has been calling for an Agricultural Industrial Park to be established.  Twenty-six years on, that goal has been realized in very exciting ways at the Port of Skagit.

The concept of agricultural industry clusters is attractive as a way to expedite innovation in the local industry while capitalizing on certain cost-lowering synergies. But, of particular value to the agricultural community, as well as SPF, is locating such non soil-dependent operations at the Port, on land zoned specifically for such purposes, rather than on rapidly diminishing and irreplaceable farmland.

Why a Port District?

Port districts are the only public agencies whose primary purpose is economic development. According to the Washington Public Ports Association, Washington State has the largest locally-controlled public port system in the world.

Here in Skagit County, voters in 1964 approved the creation of the Port of Skagit, established originally to help create jobs in the natural resource fields of agriculture, wood products, fisheries and mineral extraction. Today, job creation is still the goal. In fact, Good Jobs for Our Community is the ongoing mission of the Port.

Supporting Skagit Valley Agriculture from the Beginning

The Port of Skagit took its 1964 mandate from the voters as a guide for what has become an exemplary partnership supporting and advancing agricultural research through the Northwest Agricultural Research Foundation (NARF), the WSU Northwest Washington Research and Extension Center (NWREC) and now, Viva Farms, a non-profit business incubator that “helps new farmers learn how to farm and experienced farm workers establish their own business.”

State-wide Recognition

This decades-long, flourishing commitment to agriculture was instrumental in the Skagit Valley’s 2013 designation as an Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ) focused on value-added agriculture.  As of now, there are 12 businesses in operation or under construction at the Port which epitomize value-added agriculture.

These businesses enhance the local agricultural industry by providing primary inputs, agricultural services, processing, packaging, marketing, and, in the near future, advanced research and education opportunities.   They also complement our agricultural base by supporting a strong relationship with local farmers, enhancing their business and the community overall by building networks and alliances to expand their customer base and increase revenues.   Businesses like Skagit Valley Malting, which is operating and expanding at the Port, is a good example of that.  They believe firmly in keeping value where it’s produced and through their work, they are able to support local farmers in their quest to preserve the health and sustainability of the land around us.

So you see, the long sought-after Agricultural Industrial Park is here and it’s thriving.

Through the good work of the Port of Skagit, in conjunction with Skagit County’s recent rezoning of nearly 300 acres of land adjacent to the Port to industrial use, the Skagit Valley is well-positioned to remain one of only two fully-functioning agricultural industries remaining on Puget Sound.

Want to learn more?

SPF is hosting a Spring Farm Tour on Friday, May 20 focusing on value-added agriculture at the Port of Skagit, to highlight the diversity of ag-related businesses there and the Port’s role in helping them succeed.

For more event information, click here.