My name is Tom Quigley and I have enjoyed more than 22 years of running a business on farmland just south of Woodinville. Early on I became interested in the farmlands and how they could be used to grow and market farm products, and from that interest I found myself serving on the King County Agriculture Commission. I served as chair for two years.
During the several years that I was on the commission we worked on many challenging issues, including the listing of certain salmon as endangered and how that would impact farmland and agriculture.
We worked on marketing strategies such as Puget Sound Fresh and we worked to make farm markets more prolific in our urban communities.
We recognized the visionary work of early farm preservation advocates. Without the farmland preservation work done in the 1980s our remaining fertile valleys would resemble what is now the Kent Valley or even closer to home, the Sammamish Valley west of the river where today concrete tilt-up warehouses and asphalt pavement cover what was once vital wetlands and fertile land.
As mandated by county code, we must from time to time review whether the Urban Growth Boundary should remain where it is.
We are now considering whether certain parcels should retain their agriculture designation and zoning.
While it may be true that these certain parcels may never again be tilled for crops, the buffer they provide to adjacent tillable land is invaluable.
Media has covered the advocacy for or against a change in the Urban Growth Boundary.
Yard signs say yah or nay. I believe there is another option.
It was visionary thinking that created the Farmland Preservation Act and innovation and leadership that created our Agriculture Production Districts.
Where is the innovation and visionary thinking today?
If we are so complacent as to say that policy made some 25 years ago is the best policy for today, we are likely missing an opportunity to improve on what we have accomplished thus far.
As a community we value the open space and the production of our nearby farmlands. We have before us an opportunity to assess what we have and to consider what it is our farmlands need from us in order to continue to provide the benefits that we know and enjoy.
Perhaps there is a new agriculture overlay that retains the ag zoning while providing for the additional services needed in close proximity to the production lands; better markets, better educational opportunities, better resources needed by today’s small scale farmer. And always, better connection to the community.
What clever ideas have we failed to consider?
Woodinville is not unlike so many places that are truly defined by the natural beauty of the surrounding area but it is unique in that the surrounding natural beauty could so easily be lost if we so casually disregard the heritage of the open space of this place.
From the early Native Americans to the first white settlers, people came here to enjoy the bounty of the land: trappers’ pelts, salmon and fowl, timber and later the rich agriculture lands.
As we reaped the bounty, young families thrived and a community emerged.
This is our community and our natural beauty — our opportunity to be visionary.
Tom Quigley, Woodinville