At the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, we talk a lot about, well, recreation and wildlife. But another facet of protecting Washington’s outdoors is protecting agricultural land for the next generation of farmers.
That’s a subject Bob Meeks, former president of the King-Pierce Farm Bureau, knows a lot about.
“In the Puget Sound region, we have a huge diversity of plants that can be grown here because of our great climate,” Bob said. “This provides a lot of diversity of employment, from flower growers to food as well as tremendous amount of seasonal fresh produce for everyone.”
Bob’s farm is home to 150 apple trees and many nursery plants on a modest 5 acres. He said it’s hard to market food from a small farm, so a significant portion of his crops are donated to his local food bank.
“One time I had the car surrounded by people wanting the cabbage,” he said, chuckling.
Bob likes to give back to his community by donating fresh fruits and vegetables like squash, apples, Asian pears, and the popular cabbage to people in need. For him, these charitable donations and his work on farmland preservation are all about being forward looking.
Bob wants farming to be affordable for the next generation in order to protect Washington’s economy and food security.
In his work at the Farm Bureau, he saw that farming was becoming expensive for families who had been working the land for generations. Some farmers were being forced to sell their land to be subdivided for development that spoiled the property’s agricultural potential. Conservation easements, grants that allow farmers to keep their land in agricultural use in perpetuity, help prevent some of that loss.
“Preservation [through conservation easements] helps secure farmland for the future,” Bob said.
Since conservation easements for farmland were added to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program in 2007, 42 farms and ranches have received grants that ensure they will remain productive, safe from subdivision forever.
To anyone considering joining the Coalition, Bob has this to say: “Do it, you meet a lot of good people who are active, who are motivated. There are long range ideas as well as boots on the ground. It’s not all intellectualized activities, you can actually work for something that’s worthwhile.”