Northwest NEWS

August 10, 1998

Local News

Sims urges residents to buy local produce


The new 'Puget Sound Fresh' logo

by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--Heaped on the lengthy buffet table were the fruits and labors of area farmers: a green, red, white, yellow and blue spread of carrots and cauliflower, beans and blackberries, tomatoes and turnips, oysters and onions.
   Beaming down at the mouthwatering repast was King County Executive Ron Sims and about 50 others gathered at Columbia Winery last week to celebrate "Puget Sound Fresh," a county-led marketing program to raise awareness about farming and locally grown produce and meats.
   It's also a campaign to change residents' buying habits.
   "There's something about fresh food that graces the palate, and that's what Puget Sound Fresh is all about," Sims said to the audience of 50 at Columbia Winery.
   Puget Sound Fresh is anything grown and harvested in the 12 counties surrounding Puget Sound, from Whatcom County to Thurston, Jefferson to Snohomish. Products are identified by an oval logo.
   The county is spending $400,000 on the program. Leading by example (he said he only bought Washington chicken and apples) Sims pledged to act with the King County Agriculture Commission to burn into residents' minds to only buy Puget Sound Fresh products.
   "It's a marriage between consumers and producers," he said.
   Already, Puget Sound Fresh products can be found at Thriftway.
   Other grocers such as Larry's, QFC, Safeway and Albertsons are expected to support and promote local produce. "Agriculture is alive, and getting better," said Bob Gregson, a Vashon Island farmer and member of the King County Agriculture Commission.
   An $85 million a year industry in King County, Gregson said there was potential for agriculture to be a $400 to $500 million a year trade that would employ 15,000 on farms as small as two, five or ten acres.
   He said there were three reasons to raise food locally: aesthetics, economics and security. He said an increasing amount of food comes across the oceans from places that can't be counted on for stability.
   Audience members, including many government officials and farmers, sipped apple juice from Woodinville, tasted emu from Enumclaw, salmon from Vashon Island, leeks and Chinese spinach from Monroe, and blueberries from Everson.
   "Everything except the salt, the sugar and the pepper was grown here," said Judy Taylor, chair of the agriculture commission, which was created by the County Council in 1995.
   She said the board was not only protecting farmlands, but the activity of farming.
   The county has purchased development rights on thousands of acres of farmlands. Some areas, such as the east side of the upper Sammamish Valley, have been zoned Agricultural Production Districts. But that doesn't always mean farming is going on there.
   Still, Sims finished with a vow, "We're going to have a strong agricultural industry to supply all of us with these delights."