Photovoice Project Shines a Light on Farmers' Challenges, Hopes

By Heather Cole, Puget Sound Community Relations Manager

Puget Sound is home to 17 major river systems. These rivers and floodplains are our region's lifeblood. They are home to our salmon, our tribal partners, our cities and our farmers.  Developing an integrated approach that supports these multiple interests builds thriving communities and resilient floodplain systems.

Snohomish County has adopted this multi-benefit approach through the Sustainable Lands Strategy (SLS). SLS is an innovative approach to achieve net gains for fish, farms and flood-risk reduction. As part of SLS, the Snohomish Conservation District is leading an agriculture resiliency planning effort. The agriculture resiliency plan fills a key gap in better understanding the needs of the farming community and to help farmers plan for future changes and climate change impacts.

"We are a small farm, a husband and wife team.  If it needs prepped, seeded, weeded, planted, irrigated, transplanted, harvested, packed, marketed, or sold, we do it, all of it.  We do almost all of it by hand, both out of necessity and preference.  We enjoy being in close contact with the soil, with our farm, with our customers.  We see value in small farms that are dedicated to being sustainable and relevant in our communities." Photo by Chelsea & Cody Johansen - Rainy Sunday Ranch

As part of the agriculture resiliency planning, we wanted to capture the diversity of issues and perspectives of the farming community to create a community-driven process to support floodplain resiliency. Photovoice was the perfect tool to see and hear what these issues looked like through the eyes of the farmer. Photovoice is a group process wherein individuals use their own photographs and words to identify and address pressing issues that impacts their lives and communities.

Through a series of workshops, seven farmers from the Stillaguamish and Snohomish valleys joined together and shared their photos, their messages and discussed their hopes, dreams, challenges and solutions for the future.

Their messages touched on growth and development, agriculture land preservation, climate change, the value of local and sustainable food and farm culture.

"Snohomish county is beating its plowshares to condos. Once, our living came from the land.  Now, we crowd into compact developments, shop at big box stores and work in urban environments. Arable land is disappearing."  -Bill Pierce, Soaring Swallow Farm

While these issues may sound large, too complex or overwhelming, this collection of 21 photos articulate the issues simply and provide a personal connection that inspires us that real change is possible.

View all Photos from the Workshops:

Thank you to the seven farms that participated in the this project: Caruso Farm, Hazel Blue Acres Farm, Orange Star Farm, RainySunday Ranch, Raising Cane Ranch, Soaring Swallow Farm and Justamare Farm. We also want to thank Creative Narrations for facilitating the Photovoice workshops and the Snohomish Conservation District for partnering with us on this project.