Strategic Planning for Agricultural Lands

Author: Jennifer Axelrod Published: April 8, 2014

PCC Farmland Trust’s (PCCFT) mission is to secure, preserve, and steward threatened farmland in the Northwest, ensuring that generations of local farmers productively farm using sustainable, organic methods. Under a new strategic plan, PCCFT adopted geographic focal areas for targeted farmland preservation work, based on areas in Washington State with the highest threat of farmland loss – Pierce and King counties.

To support this focused strategy, PCCFT teamed with us to develop a GIS-based suitability analysis to prioritize the most threatened farmland for conservation in these focal areas. The resulting GIS data will be used as a decision support tool to assist PCCFT in identifying acquisition opportunities. PCCFT was inventive and capitalized on their grant for conservation planning by also including GIS capacity building components into the project deliverables. The primary capacity building goals were to: (1) obtain and standardize spatial data relevant to PCCFT’s mapping needs for grant applications, conservation, and stewardship efforts; and (2) to create map templates, standardized base maps and document appropriate workflow for streamlining map generation throughout the organization.

In addition, PCCFT was able to leverage their existing grant in a simultaneous collaboration with the Pierce County Agricultural Roundtable (PCAR), a group of community leaders, citizens and representative of agricultural and open space related organizations. In this partnership, PCAR took advantage of PCCFT’s analysis of currently farmed lands and expanded it to include potentially farmable lands and to develop maps to support a regulatory strategy for conservation of Pierce County farmlands. A key part of this project was the development of a custom web mapping application portal for collaboration among PCAR members. The results of this work are now informing a ten-year conservation strategy and provide a strategic plan to guide PCAR stakeholders through coordinated land conservation transactions and regulatory proposals to local government.