How 4 local food ‘heroes’ nurture Washington’s innovative spirit — and ensure our resiliency

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I’LL BE HONEST. I wrestled with this one.

The subject of climate change is a gnarly beast in and of itself, ripe with sobering science and charged political debate, overlaid here with the vast topic of food and wine production in this state. I could have picked just one industry to focus on — say, how Washington wine is adapting to climate change. Or oysters.

Instead, this piece focuses on four dedicated individuals in different parts of Washington, from tideflats in the west to vineyards in the southeast. Joining these four are thousands of other people working to ensure the state’s resiliency.


I’ve always considered Washington a hub of innovation — aerospace, technology, coffee, food. But through reporting this story, I’ve learned about another world: that of the people who give us our food — and the researchers committed to making sure they will still be able to.

I enjoyed meeting passionate people dedicated to making things better.

I visited places I’d never been, like the picturesque Kitsap Peninsula and the green banks of the swollen Snohomish River. I talked to farmers who own land near the Skagit, Snoqualmie, Snohomish and Chehalis rivers. They are on the front lines of climate change, in one way or another, and they became some of my new heroes. The work they are doing is, for the most part, quiet. The word “climate” is not in their titles, and might not even be uttered during the course of a day. But it is a big part of why they do what they do.

I heard concerns about other factors, too, that threaten farming: globalization, development, consolidation and a scarcity of young workers to take over for an aging population. But those are other stories.

As a food writer, I was interested in how our region will continue to produce iconic foods such as apples, wheat, oysters, salmon — and wine to go with it all. If you care about the future of food, you can’t get very far without talking about science. Scientists at Washington State University, the University of Washington and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife patiently answered my questions.

In the face of daunting climate projections, I am somewhat reassured to know that there are smart, creative people working together, breaking new ground, in true Northwest fashion, to make sure we not only retain our ability to grow healthy food, but also to preserve this special and irreplaceable place we call home.