Ever wonder about the true state of agriculture in Jefferson County? Answers are now available as results have been compiled from an in-depth survey completed by Citizens for Local Food, a new ad-hoc all-volunteer group that formed to help strengthen community support for local food, an issue near and dear to the Corner’s heart. Members of CLF came from Local 20/20, Chimacum Grange and elsewhere. Their well-articulated mission:
“To be in service to the people of Jefferson County to create a local, secure, and just food system that strenthems our community, ecology and economy”.
The survey asked a number of challenging questions to a wide variety of east Jefferson County farmers in an attempt to help the County Planning Commission review the Comprehensive Plan and Unified Development Code and consider changes to it. The County Commissioners have expressed their desire to help preserve farm land and support our local farmers. This survey is part of that effort.
Fifty seven farms within east Jefferson County completed the in-depth survey, which required a 90 minute interview. They were asked a variety of questions including who is farming, what are our farmers producing, who is buying their products, do our farms earn a sustainable income, what stands in the way of making a decent income and what can be done to strengthen our local farms.
These are all complex questions with no simple answers, but the report does a remarkable job in analyzing the collected data and reporting the survey results. Here are some of the results:
Who is farming? Our farmers are well educated. 46% graduated from college with 35% having post graduate education. Ages ranged from 22-84 years old. 65% were over 50 years of age and most of these were men, having owned their farms for more than 10 years. The second largest group were in their 30’s, with women making up nearly half of this group. Most farmers in this group have been farming less than 10 years.
What are our farmers producing? 41% of farms are livestock based, 28% of farms are crop or plant related and 32% produce both. Livestock only farms have been in operation an average of 44 years. Crop only farms an average of 10 years and combined livestock and crop farms and average of 22 years. Nearly half of farmers are making value added products from their farms.
Who is buying these products? 32% of sales are from on site farm stands and CSA programs. 22% from wholesale sales. 23% from retail to local grocers (yeah CCF!). 17% sales from the 5 Farmers Markets in the county. 5% from local restaurants and 3% fairs.
Do our farmers earn a sustainable income? Farm incomes varied broadly. The survey results divided farm income into two large groups. Less than $50,000 per year and greater than $50,000. The higher income group were younger, had more employees, had larger investments in farm infrastructure and had large acreages. Their median annual net income was about $25,000. The lower income group were older, had smaller farms and less farm infrastructure. Their median net income was only around $200.
What stands in the way of farmers making a sustainable income? Lack of demand was reported by farmers as the biggest barrier. Lack of profitability, lack of affordable land, governmental regulations, limited access to capital were also listed as barriers.
What can be done to strengthen local food production? More direct farm based sales and CSAs, increased sales at local retail outlets and increased sales at local restaurants were all cited. Many farmers see increased consumer education as a key to increasing demand for their locally produced food. Improving regulatory processed and increasing farmers access to quality land were also mentioned.
In sum, the agricultural traditions in Jefferson County are strong and long lasting. Farmers in our area are resilient and innovative and in it for the long haul. Hats off to the volunteers of CLF for conducting this survey and providing the citizens of Jefferson County and their leaders with this survey data with which to support our farmers and help them grow. We encourage you to read the full report complete with an array of interesting charts.(Questions/comments related to this survey may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org . Power point presentations of survey results may be possible depending on location and presenter availability. Spiral bound hard copies of the 50 page Farm Survey can be ordered at the above e-address. $20 + $3 shipping fee can be paid by check made out, and mailed, to: Local 2020 1240 W. Sims Way, #12 Port Townsend, WA 98368. Blank PDF survey forms can be emailed, for free, by request, to any community wishing to conduct a similar farm survey.)
Link to full survey report
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