My grandfather moved to the Tualatin Valley in 1898 as a young man to begin farming its rich fertile soils. My family continues to farm in the Verboort and Forest Grove area, now well into our fourth generation. We raise wheat, grass seed, alfalfa, beef cattle, pigs, and recently my niece and nephew added a farm fresh produce stand on the farm.
In the past decade, our goal has been to replant native vegetation along Council Creek to restore fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and pollinator habitat. Our farm is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program—a nationally recognized partnership between the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District (TSWCD), Clean Water Services and others. TSWCD has 60 years of trusted experience working with farmers to protect clean water and healthy soil. And we couldn’t have made the move to growing habitat without them.
TSWCD staff worked to plan out which parts of the farm would be best for riparian restoration. They also developed a whole farm conservation plan to help think about efficient water use, limiting soil erosion, and keeping excess nutrients out of Council Creek. When it came time to do the work, TSWCD and their contractors prepared the restoration site, planted the trees, and controlled weeds to assure the survival of thousands of newly planted native trees and shrubs.
This kind of partnership with private landowners for providing high-quality conservation is exactly what Washington County needs more of. There are 11,000 new people moving into Washington County each year. My farm now borders the backyards of new homes. Those 11,000 people get their drinking water from the forests and farms of the Upper Tualatin River Basin. There are few places in Oregon with such a strong connection between what goes on in agriculture and what is needed in urban areas to support healthy communities. The boundaries of Washington County closely match the boundaries of the Tualatin River, with water falling on small family forests, flowing through farms, and then through the urban parts of the county. And most of those lands are privately owned.
TSCWD is the only soil and water conservation district in the metro area without a stable tax base, just when the demands for its services are growing. Volunteer, donate and help at YES for Clean Water Healthy Soil.
TSWCD is straining under the growing need to protect clean water and maintain healthy soil while also helping farmers provide safe local food. TSCWD is the only soil and water conservation district in the metro area without a stable tax base, just when the demands for its services are growing.
When Yamhill SWCD passed a tax base, it immediately began working with vineyard and other owners to protect and restore oak habitat. When East Multnomah SWCD passed its tax base, it was able to engage private homeowners to install rain gardens, support backyard habitat, and provide information on reducing use of pesticides. Washington County needs the TSWCD, and the TSWCD needs more support.
If there’s one vote you can make this fall to support family farms, Measure 34-269 is it! The TSWCD has asked voters to approve a permanent $0.09/$1,000 of assessed property value tax assessment. For a property assessed at $200,000, that’s just $18 a year.
The Measure needs 140,000 votes in Washington County to win, and early signs are pointing to good support. But we need help letting people know how important the TSWCD is. Here’s what we need help with most:
- Vote yes on Measure 34-269, and call 10 of your Washington County friends to let them know why this is important.
- Follow us on Facebook, and get your friends to follow us too.
- Volunteer with us as we staff events and speaking gigs.
- Donate, so we can get the word out further.
We don’t like taxes all that much. But Measure 34-269 is different. It protects those natural resources that are vital for our very survival. It’s different because it supports TSWCD building on its 60-year track record of trusted service in protecting clean water; helping private landowners provide good, local food; and making an environment clean and healthy so our grandkids can thrive.
The funds collected by this measure will be carefully managed by a citizen elected Board to:
- Encourage good stewardship practices that keep pesticides and fertilizers out of our water supply.
- Educate landowners about efficient irrigation and how to minimize the use of water.
- Improve soil health by controlling erosion, fighting invasive weeds, and protecting against damaging rainstorms and drought.
- Partner with urban landowners, neighborhood organizations and public agencies to plant trees in urban areas and promote urban farms/gardens.
- Help small woodland and private forest owners to improve forest health, protect water quality, reduce fire risks, and improve fish and wildlife habitat.
- Educate county residents, particularly youth, educators and underserved residents, to learn about conservation, nature and gardening.
- Support local farmers who provide fresh, healthy, affordable food and beverages.
- Promote better protection of pollinators.
- Support partnerships with the Tualatin River Watershed Council and farmers markets.
- Work with partners to fill mutually identified gaps while avoiding duplication.
Washington County’s natural resource heritage is built on partnerships between cities, farms and others. Our farm plays a pivotal role in providing habitat for fish and wildlife, and clean drinking water, to people in cities.
As the county grows, we need to have a TSWCD capable of providing information, supporting restoration and doing its other work with urban residents, farms and forests. Vote Yes for Measure 34-269. Learn more at www.cleanwaterhealthysoil.com.