View of threatened Spokane farmland.
Dream Farm
by Spokane artist and conservationist L.R. Montgomery.

The Spokane County Board of Commissioners is asking for community feedback on how to spend American Rescue Plan Act economic relief funds

Chicken close-upSpokane County is expected to receive about $101 million as part of the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021.

The Commissioners have created an online survey for people and businesses to share ideas and recommendations on how to prioritize the eligible uses of these funds.

Link to Survey

Here's what you might do if you're concerned with the future of the Spokane region's local food system.

On Question 6 of the County's survey, 'Please select the single most important issue that your local government should designate community-level ARP funds,' a new set of options appears depending on which category you choose here. If you choose 'Negative Economic Impact' we see for the first time any mention of 'food' in the list that appears, 'Household Assistance: Food Programs.' Check that one. Now check three more of your own priorities and finally check 'Other' and enter:

"Investment now in long-term programs to protect farmland and revitalize the regional food system."

You might also simply contact your Spokane County Commissioner personally and let them know food system programs are important and worthy of ARPA funding.

Coeur d’Alene Tribe Preserves Spokane Farmland in Latah Valley Purchase!

Aerial view of former Pilcher farm.
Area purchased by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.

 

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 16, 2021

Contact: Chrys Ostrander
914-246-0309 (voice and text)
chrys@spokanefarmland.org

Sept. 16, 2021, Spokane, WA – The people of Spokane and future generations have the Coeur d’Alene Tribe to thank for preserving 48 acres of some of the last zoned agricultural land in the city with the Tribe’s purchase of the property that closed on Tuesday. Sometimes referred to as the Pilcher farm after one of the former owners, the property abuts the High Drive Bluff Park south of the Vinegar Flats neighborhood. Hangman Creek flows through the property which historically was a major salmon run and essential to the indigenous food system. The Tribe seeks to "enhance the property’s ecological value in a way that promotes the return of salmon."

The Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group made a significant contribution to the process that has culminated in this historic achievement. The Working Group sounded the alarm early when a conditional permit to build 94 homes on the farmland was approved by City Planning in 2019. The Working Group is an independent committee of concerned individuals. It developed an outreach campaign to educate the public about the threat of losing this valuable open space. As a result, city officials heard from constituents that alternatives to development should be explored including possibly spending public money to buy the property.

The Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group then joined the Latah Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries Heritage Project (LEAF). LEAF is a coalition made up of city staff, local nonprofits and interested citizens that explored various scenarios in an effort to piece together a plan for the purchase of the land so it would remain open space.

In late October 2020, LEAF organized a tour of the property. Representatives from several conservation organizations, City of Spokane officials and a Spokane County Commissioner gathered at the farm, hosted by JRP Land, LLC, the property owners. Topics of discussion revolved around restoring the shoreline and preserving the open space including by means of public acquisition.

Ultimately, with no viable public option identified, in January LEAF facilitated the initiation of negotiations between the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the landowner that resulted in this week’s purchase by the Tribe.

The Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group is very pleased with this auspicious outcome of a long and difficult process and is grateful to the Tribe for making it possible. The land is now safe and in good hands.

Folks, Make Your Voice Heard - Weigh In on Spokane's Draft Sustainability Action Plan

This is crucial: Your input as well as your support for the DRAFT Sustainability Action Plan for the City of Spokane will help ensure that it is adopted and implemented by City government. The plan, compiled by the Sustainability Action Subcommittee of the Spokane City Council, if adopted, would update the City's 2009 sustainability plan. It makes many bold recommendations for strengthening the Spokane regional food system and supporting local agricultural production.

For the first time, this draft plan emphasizes the local food system as an integral part of meeting the City's sustainability and climate goals. Let’s not wait another ten years to make these important changes a reality. Please make your voice heard, show support for the recommendations and help the process by suggesting improvements where needed.

Find Out How

Regular Meetings - First Thursday of each month from 3pm to 5pm. More info...

New: Report from American Farmland Trust:
Farms Under Threat: The State of the States

A brand new comprehensive assessment of U.S. farmland loss by the American Farmland Trust and a Call to Action.

There are many reasons we should
preserve farmland in our community.

 

Click/Tap to read more under each heading >>

Local food is a valuable natural resource.

Isn't it a miracle how dollars can grow out of the ground in the form of food the same way that dollars are pumped out of the ground in the petroleum industry.  The added benefit of local food is that it can mitigate climate change instead of exacerbating it.

Farming and value-added processing provide local jobs.

When a dollar is spent on locally grown food, it tends to change hands with other local businesses which significantly multiplies its value to the local economy. A vibrant local food system contributes to regional economic gain, increased food security and stronger community resilience.

Local food production improves food security.

The availability of local food improves the health and wellness of a community. When a community develops its own food resources instead of depending on imported food or the industrial food sector, it is not as vulnerable to the effects of drought, transportation failures, natural disasters, or other misfortunes. Robust local food production can also make sure people of all incomes have access to fresh fruits, vegetables and other locally produced foods.

Arable lands in production, managed responsibly, provide open space and perform important ecosystem services...

...like wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration. Farms in a community improve quality of life, provide educational opportunities and keep people connected to their food supply and the people who grow it. A vibrant local food system is dependent on the preservation of arable working farmland and maintaining access to that farmland by those who want to farm it.

Local policy is failing to preserve farms and farmland.

Recent examples involve proposals to develop housing units on land within the City of Spokane that is zoned ‘Residential Agricultural’ (RA*) Almost all of the agricultural land in active production in 2019 (about 55 acres) could be covered by these houses and lost to farming forever. One proposal called "Deep Pine Overlook" seeks to build 94 homes on 48 acres of USDA "Prime" farmland in a flood zone adjacent to the already-polluted Hangman Creek.  These houses would add a surge of new traffic to a notoriously treacherous patch of State Route 195. Opposition from citizens concerned about the loss of these agricultural resources was voiced at hearings, but developers’ interests are prevailing and construction permits are being approved for these parcels regardless of neighborhood and ecological concerns. Read more about our efforts to find an alternative to the Deep Pine Overlook development.

*"The RA zone is a low-density single-family residential zone that is applied to areas that are designated agriculture on the land use plan map of the comprehensive plan.  Uses allowed in this zone include farming, green house farming, single-family residences and minor structures used for sales of agricultural products produced on the premises." –From the Spokane Municipal Code, Section 17C.110.030​

We won't preserve farmland until we get serious about it.

​The Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group​ advocate​s​ in favor of the community's desire to protect farmland from development, as reflected in language agreed to in the Comprehensive Plans. The Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group is developing proposals to achieve more farmland preservation and strengthen the preservation policies governing our region that are currently failing ​to preserve farmland.