Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Grab a cuppa and improve your farm or land

Karla Salp

The Thurston Conservation District in Olympia has a unique opportunity for farmers and others to learn about their services - Coffee with Your Conservation District.

The concept is simple – meet up once a month at various local coffee joints and allow community members to come and learn how the conservation district can help them be better stewards of their land. No commitment is required – not even a sign-in list is passed around.

At the January meet-up, half a dozen community members gathered around a large table at a coffee shop in Lacey and peppered the conservation district with questions about how the conservation district could help them. Some of the available services they discovered include:

  • Soil and nutrient testing
  • Removal and replacement of invasive species
  • Landowner succession planning
  • Linking new farmers with landowners
  • Assistance in finding financing resources 
  • Cost-share programs, such as exclusion fencing and nutrient management projects
  • Farmland preservation
  • Small equipment rentals
  • Workshops and training for farmers and landowners
  • Voluntary Stewardship Programs 
  • Shoreline protection
  • Shellfish recovery
  • Conservation planning

These are just some of the projects offered at the Thurston Conservation District, and most conservations districts around the state offer similar programs appropriate for their land and ecosystems.

But it’s not only the services they offer that makes conservation districts an interesting option for landowners, it’s their philosophy of doing business, which stresses partnerships over regulation.

Here are the top five reasons you might want to get involved with your own local conservation district. 

  1. Trusted partners. One of the most attractive and unique qualities of conservation districts is that they are specifically non-regulatory. They provide technical assistance and partner with landowners to improve stewardship of their land or come into compliance with state law without the threat fines. 
  2. Local experts and leadership. Staff offer landowners expertise in fields such as soil resource management, conservation biology, forest and ecological engineering, and more. Each district is directed by a five-member board of supervisors. Three members are elected locally, at least two of whom must be landowners or operators of a farm. 
  3. Personal investment. Because conservation districts are run by people who live in the community, they are experts in local issues and are very familiar with the natural resource and environmental issues unique to each region. They care about protecting the environment in their backyards. 
  4. Free and low-cost. Most conservation district services are either free or low-cost. Their services are partially paid through grants and property taxes, allowing them to keep costs affordable for everyone. 
  5. Protect the environment. The role of the conservation district is to help landowners be better stewards of their land. By working together, the environment is improved for all. 
Conservation district staff and community members gathered
at a local coffee spot in Lacey. 
You don’t have to live in Thurston County to benefit from conservation district services. There are dozens of conservation districts throughout the state. Visit the Washington State Conservation Commission’s website at  to find a conservation district near you.