Conservation | Org News

Celebrating $26 million raised, organizational expansion, and a new vision for the future of farming

In June of 2016, we launched the Our Farms, Our Future campaign with the ambitious goal of raising $26 million in five years to protect Puget Sound farmland. Though we had a different name then, we held the same view that we do today: farmers and farmland sit at the nexus of critical issues that so many of us care about—protecting natural resources, addressing inequities in land access, and responding to the urgent threat of climate change.

What we could not have known in the summer of 2016 was how the next five years would unfold, laying bare the fragility and deep inequities entrenched in our food system. We also could not have predicted just how much we would learn about our resilience, our interconnectedness, and the depth of our gratitude for you, our steadfast community of supporters, partners, and volunteers who stepped up to help us reach our goal.

Today, I hope you will join me in celebrating not just our impact metrics throughout the course of the campaign, but also our broader organizational learnings as we look ahead to the next chapter of Washington Farmland Trust.

Acceleration and expansion for land and farmers

Through the Our Farms, Our Future campaign, Washington Farmland Trust permanently protected 12 farms—1,399 acres of prime farmland in the greater Puget Sound region—and cued up an additional 1,300 acres for future conservation. That total accounts for nearly half of our portfolio of protected farms from the last two decades, demonstrating just how rapidly we were able to accelerate the pace of our work thanks to the campaign. We spent dollars as they came in the door, working to meet the incredible need on the ground as fast as we could.

In 2018, we launched Farm to Farmer, a program designed to help farmers find land opportunities and to help landowners keep their farms in production. The program has already provided technical assistance to 200 farmers and made 75 introductions between farmers and landowners across the region. A few years earlier, we launched Advancing Farm Sustainability, a micro-grant program that supports farmers working on conserved land to implement sustainable and climate-resilient land management practices.

Just in the last two years, we welcomed a new Executive Director, launched a new name and brand, and developed a new strategic plan that charts a path for expanded impact across Washington. Today, as we close the campaign and look toward the future, we are in the process of reflecting on the inequities in farming and developing lasting commitments to racial justice. Our goal is to invest in transformational change to ensure our work serves more communities across Washington in the years to come, and we look forward to sharing our progress with you.

The power of community

Even as millions lost their lives and jobs in 2020 and so many important causes pulled at our hearts, people like you still came forward to show your support for local farms. For that, we couldn’t be more grateful.

Our $26 million goal was split into three categories: private donations, public grants, and impact investments. At the end of 2020, we were thrilled not only to meet but surpass our campaign revenue goal of $26 million—public funds are still coming in as I write this. Thanks to the support of 16 accredited investors and one institution, we fully funded the Farmland Impact Note in 2018 — a significant innovation that allowed us to purchase and protect Reiner Farm, 260 acres in Monroe. Of the total amount raised, $11.48 million came from individuals like you—an incredible representation of the power of community.

In addition to raising significant revenue, Our Farms, Our Future allowed us to expand and deepen our relationships within the community. In the last five years, we added over 7,000 new contacts to our supporter database—a 58% increase. Supporters are joining our cause at all levels and from countless new communities—a pattern that we hope will continue in the years ahead.

In addition to our individual donors, we want to offer a special note of thanks to PCC Community Markets for their leadership and partnership over the last 20 years, and as our lead corporate donor to the campaign. Our organization is forever grateful to PCC for their vision in founding our organization, and we are thankful for their support as we have made organizational changes and embarked on the next phase of our work. Thank you, PCC!

Sustaining a future for farming in Washington

The Our Farms, Our Future campaign has truly been a transformative effort, helping Washington Farmland Trust be of greater service to agricultural communities across the Puget Sound region and beyond. As we expand our reach statewide, our staff and board are excited about the opportunity to have an even greater impact on Washington land and farmers, and to deepen our partnerships to support regional priorities.

We know that in order to sustain a future for farming, we must work together to not only protect our state’s best agricultural land, but to support farmers by breaking down land access barriers and focusing on the imminent threats of climate change.

On behalf of the Washington Farmland Trust board, staff, and local farmers—we want to thank the thousands of donors, funders, impact investors, staff, partners, and volunteers who made this campaign a success. Thank you for your generosity and for the myriad of ways you have shown up for local farms and farmers. We are honored to do this work with you.

Photo credits: Amelia Vaughn and Kae-Lin Wang