Farmers Fighting Farmers

I’ve lived in the Snoqualmie Valley for 30 years.  The Snoqualmie Valley is an agricultural paradise with dairy herds, organic vegetable farms and hmong flower growers co-existing with the river’s ebbs and flows.  We support each other’s business and will drive miles out of the way to buy a locally grown head of cabbage.  It would never occur to any of us residents to do anything but support each other.

We formed an alliance called Savor Snoqualmie Valley.  It is a cooperative effort to celebrate and promote the local food and farms, arts and culture, heritage, outdoor activities, and independent businesses of the Snoqualmie Valley.  We promote berry farms in the spring time, cooking classes that incorporate summer’s bounty, pumpkin growers and corn mazes in the fall, and u-cut tree farms during the holidays. Members include Sno-Valley Tilth, the NW Railway Museum, 5 abundant farmers markets, restaurants, wineries, farm to table purveyors, bee keepers, breweries, coffee shops, lodging, farms, non-profit companies, csa’s, art and music festivals, and the famous parade – March of the Vegetables.

I’m working with a long-time valley resident.  He was our country dentist, and for many years the only dentist in Duvall.  Sam always had a strong interest in making wine – it was in his Spanish heritage and he had the juice in various stages in his garage for years.  A few years ago, he was able to finally retire and he traded in his dentist hands to those of a farmer.  He took his life savings, bought a wheat farm in eastern Washington and replaced those grains with grapes.  He planted those vines seven years ago, and now they are finally producing fruit.  In the meantime, his son Chris went to college and got a viticulture/enology degree and so now he and his dad are producing high quality Spanish wine.

He had trouble selling the wine, it was delicious, but his main customers were on the western side of the mountains – 5.5 hours away.  He had seen sales flourish for wineries in Woodinville, and that was close to the Seattle consumers.  So he talked to a guy who was selling mead out of a beat up old house in the Sammamish Valley.  He secured the property, and started rehabilitating it.  It was an exciting opening in 2012 and bringing his harvest to the market started paying off for the family business.  The customers loved the setting, in a rural environment overlooking the agricultural areas and the Sammamish River.

I have worked with Sam for the last three years.  We have obtained permits from King County to entitle the tasting room in Woodinville, and have worked across the table with stakeholders including neighborhood groups, other wineries, jurisdictional decision makers.  I built a qualified team to build the permitted infrastructure in a budget friendly manner.

In 2016, King County started working on new regulations for wineries, breweries and distilleries, and a neighborhood group formed to oppose these businesses (including Sam’s) with a large grass roots effort.  They convinced the farmers of the Sammamish Valley that the wineries were going to pave over the agricultural area, and that land speculators were buying up land that should be farmed.

And so here we are today.  Grape farmers are totally freaked out that they are going to lose their way of life.  In the Sammamish Valley Farmers are fighting Farmers.



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