Yakima Forever

By Gregg Bafundo, Trout Unlimited

I grow most of my own veggies. I buy my dairy from a local farm and have it delivered to my door. I also hunt for my meat. What do I do when winter arrives or when we have a long cold wet spring and my crops won’t grow? How about when I want something I can’t or don’t grow? Or when I don’t kill an elk?

Well, like most of us, I go to the store. What do I do when I’m there? I’ve heard it’s politically correct to buy local. It makes sense to me that the impact of buying an apple grown in Yakima is less than buying one grown in Ecuador, Chile or China. Did you know that a large amount of honey sold in the United States comes from China? I’d rather get my honey at the local farmer’s market. Meeting the guy who owns the bees is pretty cool. It’s even cooler when he says, “These bees fed in lavender fields all year and this honey here comes from bees that pollinate my apple orchard.”

What am I getting at here? I’m not trying to preach to you. I’m certainly not trying to convince you that what works for me will work for you. What you choose to eat is frankly none of my business. But I’ve heard folks talk about the virtues of “buying local.”

So, we try to buy local – to support our economy, our neighbors and our friends – but is simply buying this food enough? What if the local valley where our food comes from is under an increased threat every year from drought, development and maybe climate change? What happens to the farmers who grow our food? How much do we really owe them?

These fears are coming to life in the Yakima Basin, the “bread basket” of Washington state. There are some folks who believe that buying the local food is enough and that’s fair. I think we should look further.

Before I challenge you to think beyond this, we need to get some of the truths out on the table. Has water been wasted in the Yakima Basin? Yes. Has the Bureau of Reclamation been perfect in their water management and policies in the West? No. But I for one believe in the ability to change. I’ve changed my opinion and my actions before so why can’t the farmers and the Bureau?

Anyway, that’s what I see happening in the Yakima Basin. Many of the farmers have recognized the need to change. And those same farmers are asking our help with protecting the basin that feeds not only Seattle, but in many cases the rest of the world.

That is what the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan is all about. It helps those farmers who feed us healthy, local food. In return some amazing wild lands are protected; hundreds of thousands of salmon are brought back to the river; and necessary upgrades are provided to the water delivery systems in the basin.

Is the plan perfect? No. Is it perfection we need? Not really. We need to be proactive fighting the threats facing the basin and this plan will do it.

So, the next time you head up to the store and grab that Washington grown onion or a crisp Fuji apple, or perhaps a bottle of your favorite Red Mountain wine for your next dinner party ask yourself: “Is this enough?”

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