Council created to promote local agriculture

Kitsap County has established a Farm and Food Council in order to encourage local agriculture and remove the barriers facing those who seek to market local produce and farm products.

“It’s important that we encourage the locally grown food industry and help them gain greater market access,” said South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido. “This is something that a lot of people are interested in. By increasing interest in locally grown products, we will see an increase in local food production and quality.”

The council first became a possibility last spring, and was supported by the first wave of federal stimulus money.

The council, which was approved at the Jan. 27 county commissioners’ meeting, features four members from the north and central districts, three from the south and two at large.

The council plans monthly meetings, beginning in February.

In addition to this it plans to develop an online forum in order to exchange ideas and strategy in between meeting dates.

“This is a historic opportunity,” said Council Coordinator Sara Prout. “We can paint a portrait of what a robust local food system can look like. We can identify what we have in place, and remove any of the existing barriers that stand in the way of making this work.”

The first step in accomplishing this is to establish a “Right to Farm” charter, which is meant to cut down on nuisance requests by neighbors complaining about early noise.

At the same time, it is designed to set acceptable noise limits.

Sharon Howard, who has run a small farm for several years, represents South Kitsap on the council.

“We can make sustainable food farming viable in the community,” Howard said. “If we work together, we can increase production and improve quality.”

During Monday’s meeting, North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer said the applicants for the farm council reflected “the highest average quality of candidates in the years that I have served on this board.”

“People who are interested in local farming need to tell us what we can do to support them,” Garrido said. “This is a trend that we can take advantage of to improve food production in the community.”

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