Housing bust has green lining: More farmland preserved

Feb 6, 2012

Lower real estate prices may have a silver lining for those trying to save disappearing farms. A new study on farmland protection shows between the lull in development and the high interest in “locavore” food, the time is ripe to keep Puget Sound farms from turning into urban sprawl.

Since 1950, the Puget Sound region has lost 60 percent of its farmland, mostly to development. 

According to the American Farmland Trust, the conservation group that conducted the study, the 12 counties evaluated, including King and Pierce, are getting more serious about protecting the remaining 600,000 acres of farmland. 

Dennis Canty is Regional Director for the Trust. He says development of farmland takes place, slowly over time.

“But it’s so incremental that it can happen and nobody notices. And if we really want local food, if we really want a healthy environment in Puget Sound, if we really want farmers as part of our communities, we have to stop this.”

Canty says it’s important to protect farmland in agricultural zones and increase minimum lot sizes. And it’s not just farms that are at stake. The study points out wildlife habitat, water quality and flood control are also affected by the disappearance of farms. Fortunately, one of the best ways for consumers to keep farms going is also the tastiest – buy local whenever possible.