Friday, November 23, 2012

Simple Gifts

The old Shakers song says:
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free ... 
The Shakers believed in simplicity and a culture of work, and our County would do well to recall their virtues.

With rare exception, it seems whenever this County is confronted with an option, it chooses the complex over the simple; the grand vision over the here and now; the expensive over the frugal; upshifts over downshifts.

We build empires of coordinating committees, inter-governmental panels, advocacy non-profits, and junior taxation districts. Having chosen to live in a rural community, we then set about making it less rural, wanting improved transportation, bigger roads, signage, more convenient ferry service, complete streets, bike lanes, and a mapped and formally-designated island-wide trail system. And of course, all this stuff needs plans, plans, plans. All this stuff needs grants, grants, grants, including all the administration, reports, and inflated self-puffery that goes along with it. Once we have all that bling, we need to show it off and promote it with brochures and campaigns. Ironically, a lot of this new complexity and development is passed off as conservation, and while all this planning and conserving is going on, the government starts to reach so far into people's lives that virtually nothing escapes its purview. Many who think about starting a business or farm feel they have to do so either illegally or else subject themselves to the indignity and crushing expense of a thousand reviews by limitless bureaucratic know-it-alls ... or maybe not even try at all, just give up before they even give it a go. And the avalanche of government oversight never stops. The visioning never stops. The projections never stop. The plans to link us to bigger and better know-it-alls in a giant know-it-all network never stops.

It has to stop.

Nick Jones has written a Thanksgiving article that was published in the Island Guardian. It is reproduced here in its entirety.

Happy Thanksgiving

This year, as we have for the past eight or nine years, we provided smoked salmon to the Family Resource Center to help fill Thanksgiving baskets for island families.  This is a wonderful service built on collaboration between our island churches, the Resource Center and many individuals.  In the time we have participated, the number of baskets requested has climber from 17 (if my memories are correct) to more than 50.  It is a sobering thought that so many of our friends, neighbors, and fellow islanders are struggling.  Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the blessings we enjoy, to share with those who are struggling, and maybe above all, to celebrate the productivity and vigor of our land, to contemplate the fruits of our labors.
Lately I have been working on preparing paperwork to expand our shellfish operation.  Our attorney tells me to expect to spend at least $30,000 in so doing.  We will pay for multiple studies, vast amounts of legal time and extortionate permit fees to fund the same process on the county side.  The permit will take at least 4 months to process.  We will do all this to prove the sustainability of shellfish growing, which is perhaps the most environmentally positive form of food production on the planet.  The process will not improve the outcome at all.  It will merely eat up scare time and resources, and keep a small army of consultants and bureaucrats busy.  If the permit is approved, we will be able to employ at least four additional people, year round, at family wage jobs. 
 I have no water to haul for developers or coal port operators.  All I know is what we experience:  We farm livestock and shellfish and work with local and tribal fishers to bring local seafood products to market.  Over the past 10 years we have built our business up from nothing to employ 14 people.  We currently supply product as far afield as Hong Kong and the East Coast.   Given current and impending regulatory hurdles, it would be flat-out impossible to build what we have built with the resources we had available then.  As we work to expand further pitched battles with regulators has become our weekly, if not daily, reality.  
I marvel at a system that actively fights people who are trying to build productive businesses.  I marvel at a government that creates barriers for those who want to grow food.  And I marvel at our elected officials who accept and apologize for their insane regulatory structure, who willfully consign so many island families to stunted and stressful lives. 
And so this Thanksgiving I am deeply grateful for the bounty we enjoy and steward.  I am deeply grateful for the robust ecosystem, which supports it.  I am deeply grateful to live in such a caring community, and I am deeply grateful to be able to share some of our good fortune with struggling families.  I am deeply grateful to have the opportunity to provide jobs to our crew and pure food to our customers. I pray that our policy makers will have the vision and fortitude to reclaim a county, state and nation that helps people create lasting, meaningful and productive lives. And I pray that, by consequence of their actions, beginning next year, each successive year will see more jobs created, more businesses started and fewer families in need in San Juan County. 

Nick Jones


  1. Kudos to Nick Jones and also to Peg Manning for her November 23 guest column in the SJ Journal, the latter of which perhaps also deserves reprint here as counterpoint to the ridiculous Kyle Loring diatribe.

  2. Does Kyle Loring know where his food comes from and what it takes to produce it?

    It is the depths of political cynicism to hear on the one hand that one of the Washington Environmental Council's top policy priorities is to promote small family farms while they do everything in their power to crush them.

  3. Yes Empires. Great post ECK. Here is a link that really exposes the uncontrollable, unmanageable, unaccountable, ever expanding nightmare that government has become. And this is just the Federal Government. Much of this nonsense is duplicated at the state level. It doesn't matter who is President or who represents us in Congress. We're told this could all work if only the "rich" would pay their "fair share".

  4. I'm going to try and rope this in and introduce what I think is an important topic.

    By now many 365 residents of SJC have received two well written and presented membership recruitment mailings from the San Juan Preservation Trust. (Full disclosure, I have contributed to this organization.)

    Tim Seifert, Executive Director of the Trust trumpets their success in this past year. He goes so far as to hoist his lovely very young daughter on his shoulder and say he is doing all this great work for her eventual benefit.

    So the bottom line is that Mr. Seifert running a very respectable land preservation outfit has "protected" ONE THOUSAND, FOUR HUNDRED ACRES during the year of 2012.

    Nick Jones talks about food production,and the barrier of permitting costs, while the ever "with it" Peg Manning takes the time to explain the latest gibberish from FOSJ.

    Seems to me it remains all about land use, and I think we have reached the tipping point.

    Now, as a past supporter of The San Juan Preservation Trust, when Mr. Seifert says he just "protected ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED ACRES" in one year, well he scares the shit out of me!

    Seifert brags that that his trust is ranked # 24 out of 1,700 such trusts.

    My statement to Mr. Seifert is: "I understand this "protection" deal is all about fund raising, but what if that wonderful daughter of yours grows up and wants to put that 1,400 acres to into some kind of usefull production, like foods stuffs, or something a nice guy like Nick Jones might help her with, well what then?

    What if the Land Bank and the San Juan Juan Preservation Trust continue at their present pace of concentrating more and more load of taxes on the free hold tax payers.

    Yes, I think we have reached or passed the tipping point.

    "Protection." What is that? I don't think strip mining or oil well drilling is eminent, do you? With our existing zoning "protection" is a misnomer. So, "protection" from what? (Maybe Mr. Seifert's grown up daughter will want to farm a field of that stuff.)

    So back to the tipping point. Should the Land Bank STOP buying land? Should the Land Bank, something we can control, shift gears and maintain the lands they already have and then make effort to do environmental remediation projects?

    PS: Sorry, I'm not up on the LB, but rumor is this outfit has got a big time cash flow problem.

  5. Simple Gifts ("till by turning, turning we come around right") is the perfect tune to ponder what is happening to our rural character.

    What are these various power "grubs" (sic) doing to us, and to our islands?

    Eating us.

    Have you ever woken up on a perfect winter morning ... the kind of day the tourists don't care about but the kind of day you live here for ... maybe in the late winter ... you know what's its like on a day that that ...

    Play Aaron Copeland's Appalachian Spring and listen for Simple Gifts woven through that classic as its central theme.

    And think upon what it is here we are so quickly losing. We are at the tipping point. But we can still put a stop to this authoritarian madness. There's not much time. But there is still time. This is not about Obama or Fox News. This is about us, right here, right now.

  6. Come on, be real. King County (Bellevue) already owns this place. Look at the tax records, you tenants. Seifert is selling them his gospel.

  7. Did Kevin Ranker leave that last remark. (Just kidding, sort of).

    Don't forget what King County tried to do to rural property owners a few years back.

    Don't forget that our original storm water ordinance was a copy/past chop job from King County.

    Seifert is selling us out. We don't need a building moratorium. We need a land preservation moratorium. We don't have the resources to manage what we have taken off the tax roles as it is.

    And of course private stewardship is no longer available to those lands to the extent enjoyed historically.

    The Preservation Trust is a fine organization but they need to pivot towards managing their holdings now.

    As to the Land Bank. It is a mitigation back. We just have to make the laws work to that purpose. And they have to stop spending "new revenues" because they have leveraged us to the hilt.