History of Farming in San Juan County
Historically, farmland has been a vital component of the San Juan Islands’ landscape. From 1900 through 1930, agriculture boomed in the islands: both the number of farmers and total acreage of farmland grew each decade. The Depression and World War II put a damper on local agriculture. Learn more about the History of Farming in San Juan County.
Farming in San Juan County Today
Within the last few decades, agriculture in San Juan County has been on the rebound. SJC farmers specialize in crops such as grass-fed meats, berries, tree fruits, and year round production of vegetables for market, as well as fiber, lavender, and herbs. They create value-added products such as jams, jellies, and sauces. Learn more about Farming in San Juan County today.
Island Grown Farmers Cooperative
In 1996, San Juan County farmers, WSU San Juan County Extension, the Lopez Community Land Trust, and local retailers collaborated to create the first USDA-inspected mobile meat processing unit in the nation. The Island Grown Farmers Cooperative (IGFC) was formed to manage the mobile unit for local farmers. Learn more about the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative.
Most farms sell their products directly to the consumers through farm stands and farmers markets, as well as to local retail grocery stores, food coops and restaurants. Increasingly, local meat producers deliver their meat or shellfish directly to high-end restaurants in the Seattle area. Learn more about the Local Markets in San Juan County.
There are currently three licensed dairies in the islands: Our Lady of the Rock (cow milk) on Shaw Island, and Heritage Farm (cow milk) and Quail Croft (goat milk) on San Juan Island. Quail Croft milk is primarily used to make delicious artisan goat cheeses for sale at the farmers market and at local groceries. Learn more about Dairies in San Juan County.
Shallow bays fed by the cold, clean waters of San Juan County offer excellent habitat for shellfish grown in aquaculture farms. In the shallow mudflats of Shoal Bay on the north end of Lopez, Jones Family Farms grows mussels as well as several species of oysters and clams, for sales to high end restaurants in the islands, Seattle, and beyond. Learn more about Aquaculture in San Juan County.
To date, SJC has farm-to-school programs established on San Juan Island, Orcas Island, and Lopez Island. Since the islands have separate school districts, each program is unique, with different funding sources, curriculum focus, and connections to local food. Learn more about Farm-to-School Programs in San Juan County.
San Juan County has a strong land conservation ethic, as is evident in the success of the San Juan Preservation Trust and the San Juan County Land Bank. The Trust and the Land Bank collaborate on selected projects, including those involving farmland, in order to leverage public and private funding and to layer protections.