Soil & Sea: Decades of protecting seas and local farmland

This article was originally published in June 2023

Land

As PCC marks its 70th anniversary this year, we’re celebrating highlights of the co-op’s work to protect the environment and support sustainable food and agriculture.

We applaud the generations of forward-thinking members and staff who have consistently worked to make the world a better place. This work sometimes has immediate and tangible results, such as carrots grown on a familiar Sequim farm, and sometimes is bigger-picture, such as removing tons of plastic that would otherwise pollute our oceans. Here is just a small sampling of landmark partnerships that continue to have an impact on farmland and seas—today and into the future. Click here for more information on our Purpose Program and ways to help.

Long Live the Kings

Since 1986, Long Live the Kings (LLTK) has worked on research and conservation efforts to restore wild salmon and steelhead. The nonprofit recently collaborated on the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, a decade-long study involving more than 200 scientists that investigated the crisis of falling salmon and steelhead populations in the Salish Sea. PCC has been a longtime supporter of the nonprofit, including an ongoing partnership with Chinook wines where LLTK receives a $2 donation for every bottle of Chinook’s Long Live the Kings Yakima Valley Red or Yakima Valley White sold. 

Seafood Watch

In 2004 PCC became the first retailer in the U.S. to become a full partner in Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program supporting sustainable seafood. Currently, all fresh and frozen seafood at PCC comes from responsible sources as defined by Seafood Watch. The only exception is Chinook salmon, which is sourced according to our more specific PCC Chinook Sourcing Standard (see Global Ocean Health below). Our seafood standards consider other factors as well. For details click here.

P-Patches

In 1973 co-op member Darlyn Rundberg proposed that PCC manage garden plots on a farm in Wedgwood that was in danger of being sold for development. “That would save it from Suburbia and preserve it for community gardening in the future,” wrote Randy Lee, PCC’s manager at the time and longtime chief financial officer. The 200-plot “P-Patch” organized on the Picardo Farm that year, overseen by PCC employee Koko Hammermeister, seeded what is now one of the country’s biggest and most honored community gardening programs, with the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods overseeing 90 P-Patches around the city. (Click here for the full story.)

Winter Gardening/Tilth Alliance

Binda Colebrook’s landmark book “Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest” was published in 1977 with the help of a PCC loan. Colebrook championed growing local producestudying crops through a PCC Winter Garden Projectat a time when few local gardeners grew cool-weather crops like bok choy and mizuna here, and when few seed varieties were developed for our climate. Her work influenced the founding of the Territorial Seed Company, as well as inspiring generations of local farmers and gardeners. (Click here for more information.) The book was the first published by the Tilth Alliance, and one of a harvest of collaborations between PCC and Tilth over the years. Most recently PCC has been a sponsor of Eat Local First, a source to find local farms, farmers markets and other business purchasing from local food producers (find the Washington Food and Farm Finder at eatlocalfirst.org).

Salmon Safe 

Salmon Safe is devoted to restoring agricultural and urban watersheds so salmon can spawn and thrive. The nonprofit has certified some 95,000 acres of farm and urban lands. PCC had an instrumental role in launching the certification in Washington, said co-founder and Executive Director Dan Kent, encouraging its growers to transition to Salmon Safe certification in 2006. Over the next five years, that drove its growth from four farms in the Snoqualmie Valley to more than 100 farms across the region. 

Zero Waste Washington

Founded in 1979 as Washington Citizens for Recycling, Zero Waste Washington works toward policy changes for a healthy and waste-free world. “What I tell people is, we’re trying to make trash obsolete,” said Executive Director Heather Trim. Through lobbying for legislation, research, publications and pilot projects, the nonprofit has seen Washington change from a state with only limited recycling to one where it’s a national leader on responsible and renewable consumption. Notable projects it’s supported include successfully fighting the use of Teflon-like chemicals in food packaging, supporting new recycling programs for electronics, and supporting a state program to safely dispose of unused medicines. PCC and the organization have worked together on many common priorities, including an update to food safety rules that now allows more options for bringing reusable containers to grocery stores (click here for more information.) 

Reducing plastic waste is among the biggest priorities Trim sees now, including modernizing our recycling systems so that more items are truly recyclable. Want to help? One of the biggest things individuals can do—besides being mindful about what they purchase—is talking to their elected representatives about these issues. At town halls and district meetings, “it will make an impact” if people just raise these topics: “Hey, what are you doing about plastics? Hey, what are you doing about reducing waste?”

She’s seen the results over the years, with crucial bills sometimes failing one year but ultimately succeeding.

“People say how can you do your work, because it seems like a downer,” she said, but she actually thinks the reverse is true. “You have to be in it for the long game, it’s true, but we are. And PCC is a part of that.”

Global Ocean Health

A 2018 tragedy in our region’s Southern Resident killer whale pods sparked one PCC collaboration with Global Ocean Health (GOH), a program of the National Fisheries Conservation Center. An orca named Tahlequah by researchers had a stillborn calf and carried it on her body for 18 days swimming around the Salish Sea. The whales’ numbers had been declining, attributed in part to diminished runs of Chinook salmon, but seeing Tahlequah gave the public a vivid, urgent picture of the consequences.

PCC worked with Global Ocean Health to develop a Chinook sourcing standard that would help ensure the salmon the co-op sells is not taking food away from the Southern Resident whales. (The Tulalip Bay Chinook Fishery is one of the few that meets these tough standards.) 

It’s one small example of the kind of work the center does with its commitment to address, as founder and director Brad Warren put it, the modern world’s “huge unraveling of ecosystems” and associated disruptions. 

Through the center he’s worked on ways to bring people and organizations together across their divides, “people who didn’t trust each other, didn’t know each other, didn’t want to know each other, but who needed to be part of the solution.” It’s led to important changes on seemingly intractable issues, such as bringing fishermen to Congress in 2010 to successfully push for needed federal research on ocean acidification, or supporting Washington’s Climate Commitment Act, far-reaching 2021 legislation aimed at slashing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

A major new initiative is Building Tribal Leadership in Carbon Removal, bringing together participants from tribal nations to work on greenhouse gas removal strategies. As a landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report showed, carbon removal is a crucial part of limiting rising global temperatures.

“You can’t solve this problem just by making less mess. You have to actively clean up the mess we’ve already made,” Warren said. And it was clear, working with the late Terry Williams, a Tulalip tribal fisheries leader and GOH board member who helped launch the program, that tribal members “have to get to the table and into the boardroom and into the wheelhouse to guide this.” It builds on their earlier decades of “indefatigable” leadership in restoration and conservation, accountable “not just to shareholders for next quarters profits, but to your ancestors back into unfathomably deep time and your descendants into the unfathomably deep future.” 

WASHINGTON Farmland Trust

When Sequim farmer Nash Huber, a longtime PCC supplier, learned a neighboring farm was in danger of being developed, he called then-PCC produce merchandiser Joe Hardiman. The co-op understood the need for preserving that land—swiftly raising money for its purchase—and the need to preserve more. The fund grew into a separate nonprofit, the PCC Farmland Trust, where contributors understood, as leader Jody Aliesan wrote in a fundraising letter, that “By working to save farmland, we’re saving ourselves.” In 2020 it became the Washington Farmland Trust, which has conserved 30 farm properties and started new programs to further its mission (see Community Voices, to learn about its new Farm to Farmer program).

How to help

Watch for a limited-edition tote bag, available mid-June to mid-August at PCC stores, with artwork by Stevie Shao. Five dollars from the sale of each tote will support Long Live the Kings.

Learn about PCC’s work with Monterey Bay Aquarium at a virtual Member event on June 6. Click here for details.

PCC’s summer store fundraiser from June 21 to July 31 will benefit Global Ocean Health and Salmon Safe. Shoppers are invited to donate at the registers or online here anytime.

Learn more about the Farm to Farmer program at a virtual Member event on Aug. 1 featuring Washington Farmland Trust. Details will be online here later this summer. 

Beginning in August, while supplies last, 100% of sales from a camp mug by Miir at PCC stores will support Washington Farmland Trust. Watch for PCC emails and social media posts in August for other ways to support WFT. 

Join us Aug. 12 for an Ocean + Land Happy Hour at the Ballard PCC with special guests including Long Live the Kings, Salmon Safe and Washington Farmland Trust. Details will be online here later this summer.

Also in this issue

The Life Cycle of a Farmer

What does “success” look like for a small independent farmer through the years?

Trail nutrition: Simple foods and drinks for summer hikes

A little advance planning will help you meet your nutritional needs on the trail.

Fresh ideas for cutting food waste

Slash your grocery bill and environmental impact with tips from the book “Perfectly Good Food.”