Lisa Nash Lawrence and Jim Lawrence: Moratorium would set a precedent

My interest in the Debate on the Potential Moratorium on Greenhouses & Cannabis, is to keep farming and business alive in San Juan County.

My two main concerns:

1. Cannabis farming is farming, it grows in soil, needs sun, air and water. If grown in a greenhouse it needs all the things any plant needs, just like a tomato. Overregulation of Cannabis will have a DIRECT effect on ALL farming practices in our county. Any restriction on the cultivation of cannabis due to the effects of safety, aesthetic, smell, noise, traffic, visuals etc., will be used to restrict the cultivation of any other plants or animals when the neighbors start complaining. It sets a PRECEDENT.

2. When a small group of wealthy neighbors can litigate a farmer from farming horses as well as cannabis on an Agricultural zoned property, it is illegal, see Wash. Rev. Code §§ 7.48.300 to 7.48.320. Our State and County Government needs to step in to support our farmers and their business enterprise.  The momentum to stop farming is gentrification at it’s ugliest, bullying at it’s worst and blatant hypocrisy when you know the players and learn the motive. It honestly sickens me to hear how these neighbors are treating the farmers, and that in the lawsuit now asks for a cut of the profits from the farming business, aptly called “unjust enrichment”. Even if just posturing it reeks of greed. They will continue squeezing this young woman until she has nothing left.

Thoughts on these overlapping issues:

First of all look at the facts. This is a perception issue. This debate has run ragged with misinformation and self serving rumor. SJ Sungrown (cannabis operation) did cover only ONE ACRE of land (they have closed their doors due to litigation by neighbors, unending legal fees and personal harassment). It was surrounded by tall fir trees and no lights were installed.

At the Grange sponsored “debate” it was mentioned by the pro moratorium speaker that no small scale, "mom and pop" farmer would ever need a greenhouse over 3,000 square feet and that someone growing tomatoes would not need the same scale as a cannabis operation. The concerns were light & noise pollution among others, (interesting coming from the manager of our biggest resort). Our farm currently has 9,000 s/f of greenhouses and we could definitely use more.

Another fact: it is bad for the community and business, and is not fair nor intelligent for the future of farming in San Juan County. Growing cannabis is a viable agricultural commodity now for the island economy including the employees that build and work at the facility. Just like vacation rentals have become, and other small scale business. There will be others. Just imagine if you are a Bed and Breakfast owner and your neighbors decide to file a claim of unjust enrichment, asking for a cut of the proceeds because they don’t want you using the road? Even if this is just posturing, you have to fight the lawsuit. This whole predicament has become bigger than cannabis and farming.

The actions of the neighbors mentioned above and the consequences thereof are far reaching. This will negatively impact the spirit of neighborliness and life here in the islands that my family has loved our whole life. This is how communities divide. The folks with the deepest pockets get what they want. It is extremely sad for us. If I have one request it is for the neighbors to drop this lawsuit and let the farm be farmed, as it has been farmed for much longer than we’ve all been here on earth.

Clearly the loudest opponents to the cannabis farms are the people near them, or perceive to see them - the NIMBY attitude. I understand why they object to this, as I may object to the thousands of square feet of homes plopped in the valleys and hills, with glowing lights at night. I dislike hearing huge dump trucks accelerate and brake up and down my country roads. The thousands of tourists that come to the resorts, taking up ferry and road space. I dislike that my taxes pay for roads that are torn up by these enterprises. I live here, they are my neighbors, I still treat them with respect. There will always be a neighbor that dislikes farming for some reason. Opening a door such as the proposed moratorium is opening Pandora’s box.

Another concern seems to be the environmental impact of greenhouses. Please consider that importing our food from the mainland is a far, far greater environmental impact than the inconvenience of greenhouses in ones view, and also supports your local economy. Greenhouses need light to function so the idea of burying them into the ground or hiding them in the forest are unreasonable. Greenhouses save energy by using solar energy. Imagine that!

This county depends on our farmers now and we may one day solely depend on the products they provide in an emergency situation, which is not that far fetched in our water locked community. We must be forward thinking when regulating farms, land and infrastructure. This is why we have the “Right to Farm Act”, to protect us from ourselves, when urban sprawl inches toward rural lands.

Let’s be careful here. My family has lived and worked here for over 8 generations.

Lisa Nash Lawrence and Jim Lawrence

Thirsty Goose Farm

Here's our beautiful little Thirsty Goose Farm, including a couple of our greenhouses that helped support us over the 40 years we've been lucky enough to live on this land. Those greenhouses have been providing the community with healthy food, and allowing us to grow into the winter months. And now, our daughter Mara and Lars, continue the legacy. PLEASE, San Juan County residents, pay attention to what is happening with farming in our community. Greenhouses add to the diversification of Ag in the islands where getting fresh food to us will become more difficult and expensive in the future. 

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