A presentation to the South Fidalgo Community Council

by Carol Havens in February 2008

Thank you for including me in today's comments. I am expressing my opinions as a 19 year resident of South Fidalgo. I am also the Leader of this region's Slow Food Convivium, or chapter. Slow Food is an International educational organization supporting sustainable, local food production, food traditions, and food community. I speak for many of our neighbors.

My strong personal concern, which has led me to my work for Slow Food, and drives my support for food producers in Skagit, has brought me here. Every one of us needs to eat every day. Food is not a luxury. Food is an every day, constant part of our lives.

It is normal, and it is right, for people to grow and produce food near where they live. Near where they eat. Historically, vegetables, eggs, meat, and fruit have always been grown pretty much everywhere that there were people. It's only recently that we've allowed our food production to become distant, centralized, and impersonal.

I fear a future image of South Fidalgo as 50's style suburbia. A region reduced to bedrooms and cars is not a sustainable community. It's not a community at all.

Traditionally, communities develop and interact around the growing and selling of food. We are an island. We hope to enjoy community and sustainability. Small scale food production and commerce provide the connections we need to develop and maintain community, and keep us from being separated by our dependence on driving somewhere else for everything we need. We can be less dependent on the big boxes, more secure of our food supply, and more connected with our neighbors.

So, I'm here to remind you, as you participate in the development of plans and land use regulations for the future of South Fidalgo, that we must nurture, support, and promote the continuance and expansion of small scale, clean, appropriate food production and distribution in our community.

Imagine the community that you want to live in. Do you want a community that is just a place to sleep and park your car? I want a community where I can still have a few hens in my backyard, or choose to buy my eggs from a neighbor who does. I want a community where I can join a CSA, and pick up my bag of fresh picked organic fruits and vegetables right here on South Fidalgo, rather than driving out to Mount Vernon. I want a community that can produce some of its own fruit, eggs, meat, dairy, and vegetables. A community that includes food as a priority.

Please don't forget that these small scale food producers need to be able to sell their food products directly in the community. We need to be careful that we don't let the regulations that are meant to protect us from car dealerships and strip malls, make it difficult or impossible for us to buy food products within our community.

Food creates community. With all appropriate protections for our health and safety, we need to treat food production and commerce as a special category. We need to recognize that growing and raising food, and the community interactions involved with the sale of those products, are a great benefit to our community, to be encouraged and supported.

So, let's not lose the last of our island's food production. Let's make sure that we don't regulate away our food security, our community, our rural character. Let's turn around and look back a little way, to see a better future than just houses and cars.

Some examples to keep in mind:
A manned or honor stand for fruit or vegetables or eggs.
Goats, cows , or sheep to produce milk, cheese & butter.
A little store/office next to the house to sell cheese or milk or eggs.
A greenhouse to raise greens year round, for neighbors or local restaurants.
Raising cattle, pigs, or lamb for meat.
Raising turkeys or chickens for meat and eggs.
A garden spot to buy vegetable starts, fruit trees, and growing supplies.
Agriturism in some form? Growing food and bringing in tourist dollars besides.
(This model has kept food production healthy throughout Italy, even as property values have soared, and does not interfere with a healthy community.)
If someone wants to make bread, or other value added food products, and complies with all health department regulations, can they sell their bread, or cookies, or pies, directly in the community?
A retail store, selling local food products, from local growers and producers, to local consumers.

Currently we have 2 small stores, one restaurant and one retail food stand. If we make it impossible to add any new food retailing, we severely limit our community food options and interactions. Besides protecting small scale food production, perhaps we need a special category of business to allow select food related retail to develop appropriately, for our food producers benefit, and for the benefit of our community.

Carol Havens
Slow Food Skagit River Salish Sea