Agriculture in Thurston County
WSU Extension Thurston County provides research-based information and educational programs to farmers, consumers, decision-makers, and others involved in the South Sound food system. Currently, there is no Agriculture Extension Faculty assigned for Thurston County exclusively. Our county is also served by Gary Fredricks, Small Farms, Livestock and Dairy Area Agent.
Thurston County’s farmland is rapidly disappearing. Between 2002 and 2007, the acreage of actively farmed land has dropped nearly in half – from 74,420 acres to 38,718 acres. Since the mid 1950s, when Thurston County was primarily farmland, the County has lost over 75 percent of its working agricultural lands.Though the land area dedicated to agricultural activities has been steadily eroding, agricultural production it is still of significant importance to the County’s economy. The total market value of agricultural production in Thurston County is about $118 million from 1,288 farms, with crops accounting for approximately 42% of the total and livestock and poultry the remaining 58% (U.S. Census of Agriculture). These figures are greater than that of all adjacent counties.
Farming activity is varied, ranging from berry farming, egg farms, organic produce, and tree farming. Much of the economic viability of farming is tied to access to local markets, including the six farmers markets operating in the County: Olympia Farmers Market, West Olympia Farmers Market, Tumwater Farmers Market, Lacey Community Market, Tenino Farmers Market, and Yelm Farmers Market. Direct-to-institution relationships are also increasing in importance, including sales to schools and hospitals. The County is centrally-situated between the Seattle-Tacoma and Portland metropolitan areas, two large markets experiencing a resurgence of interest in local foods. The South of the Sound Community Land Trust maintains a South Sound Direct Sales Farm Map which lists many local farms engaging in direct-market sales. Additionally, the Thurston Food System Council was recently formed as a grassroots citizens organization composed of a diverse group of community stakeholders empowered by the community and recognized by local government to foster collaboration and active engagement in the local food system.
- (2013) Agriculture: A Cornerstone of Thurston County’s Economy, Lucas Patzek, WSU Extension.
- (2013-2003) Washington Annual Agriculture Bulletin, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.
- (2012) Thurston County Agricultural Protection, American Farmland Trust.
- (2009) Thurston County Farmland Inventory, Jeff Fisher and Lea Mitchell, South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust.
- (2007) Census of Agriculture Thurston County Profile, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Food and Farming Reports:
- (2013) Profile of Small Farms in Washington State Agriculture, Marcia Ostrom and Colleen Donovan, WSU Extension.
- (2012) Report on Washington’s Food System: Response to Executive Order 10-02, Inter-Agency Working group, Washington State.
- (2012) Losing Ground: Farmland Protection in the Puget Sound Region, Dennis Canty, Alex Martinsons, and Anshika Kumar, American Farmland Trust.
- (2012) A Comprehensive Valuation of Agriculture Lands: A Perpetual Investment in Oregon’s Economy and Environment with Washington County Case Study, Brent Searle, Oregon Department of Agriculture. (Note: relevant to western Washington counties).
- (2011) Building a Future with Farmers: Challenges Faced by Young, American Farmers and a National Strategy to Help Them Succeed, Lindsey Lusher Shute, National Young Farmers’ Coalition, NY. (Note: relevant to western Washington counties).
- (2010) Access to Healthy Foods in Washington, Access to Healthy Foods Coalition.