It takes more time and money to run a political campaign in Clark County
As Clark County continues to grow and population numbers skew younger, political campaigns must be able to reach those larger, diverse audiences – those people that did not grow up with the names on the placards. According to several experienced incumbents, a successful campaign in Clark County has got to be technologically sophisticated without losing old-school personal techniques like doorbelling.
“It’s tough to pinpoint if there’s any one ‘silver bullet’ to winning an election,” said Vancouver mayor Tim Leavitt, who is running for reelection this year, “but what is apparent to me from the last several election cycles is that, timing, messaging – whether accurate/genuine or not – money and comprehensive platforming of messaging” are important.
Campaign funding is a new “must”
Melissa Smith, a Camas city councilwoman for eight years, is facing her first opponent.
“I think it’s kind of a good thing to have some competition, as long as they truly want to serve the citizens (not themselves),” said Smith.
But, she said “this year is politically weird all across the county. It seems that there are some people with big money to place people in certain positions.”
Jack Burkman, who is running for re-election on the Vancouver city council, said that each election cycle is more expensive. For example, he said, historically city council candidates spent about $5,000 to $8,000 on the entire campaign. But this year, some candidates have spent $10,000 to $15,000 on just the primary election.
One reason for this, said Burkman, is that there are simply more people to reach. And, as the county population grows, a candidate has to work harder to connect. For instance, in Camas it is possible to personally talk with almost every voter, said Burkman. But, in Vancouver, “you can’t even doorbell a significant section,” any more. This situation leads candidates to do more print advertising, said Burkman, and at 30 to 35 cents each, mailings can get expensive quickly.
Smith mentioned that it seemed that the Republican and Democratic parties are taking an interest in non-partisan positions. She said she received a 22-item questionnaire from the Republican party, which she did not think was appropriate.
“I didn’t feel comfortable answering them. I’ve been hearing a lot of people grumbling about that – parties trying to get involved in areas they don’t need to be involved in,” said Smith.
Burkman, too, noted that the political parties are trying to get into non-partisan races, and “have dollars to invest.”
Going social, getting votes
“Voters, and the public in general, are choosing to search for and obtain information from various sources,” said Leavitt. “With the advent of new means for delivery and receipt of information, campaigns wishing to reach the most people must be adept in working in the new platforms.”
Leavitt said that his successful 2009 campaign utilized virtually all generally recognized social media, including Facebook, Twitter, website and a blog — in addition to conventional media such as mailers and television. Burkman added that cable TV was another opportunity to reach out to the community, and that even social media like Pinterest may become relevant to certain segments of voters. Phone calls, though, said Burkman, are becoming less useful for candidates — primarily due to the increase in the number of people who have only a cell phone.
Of course, personal communication is still important.
“The heart of communication in this county is word of mouth,” said Burkman.
The trick, he said, is to use social media to jumpstart those personal conversations. A well designed Facebook page, for example, has the potential to attract “influential” people — those in the county who have their own smaller audiences. During his previous campaign four years ago, for example, Burkman purchased Facebook ads. He said these ads generated two million impressions from Vancouver residents.
Using digital media, said Leavitt, can better disseminate information and demonstrates a candidate’s ability to keep up with the times and embrace new technology and ideas. Some candidates, said Burkman, may realize the importance of digital media, but are unfamiliar with the technology necessary to implement it. Leavitt said that one contributing factor to his successful use of digital media was that he had “volunteer support that was knowledgeable and comfortable working with digital media, as well as campaign consultants that embraced the use of these tools for broader outreach.”
Although digital media platforms have an important role in reaching certain public audiences, Leavitt added that an effective campaign should still include direct media such as mailers and television, and “a robust ‘ground game’ of in-person outreach through events and door belling activity.
When all is said and done, however, said Leavitt, “nobody has all the answers.”
“The results of the 2012 local elections really challenged the conventional wisdom regarding successful campaign strategy,” said Leavitt.
A candidate who seems ambivalent and who runs a low-key campaign can win. Or, a candidate can spend a lot of money and time and overcome the name recognition of an incumbent. As Burkman quipped, when questioned about what it takes to run a successful campaign, “Ask me in November!”
“I think it’s kind of a good thing to have some competition, as long as they truly want to serve the citizens (not themselves). This year is politically weird all across the county. It seems that there are some people with big money to place people in certain positions.”
– Melissa Smith, facing her first opponent for Camas City Council
photos by anne lawrence
Busy raising their children on a quarter acre lot in east Vancouver, Mark and Cherie Sturtevant always knew they wanted to build a family enterprise. Having read and embraced the principles in Sally Fallon’s groundbreaking book, Nourishing Traditions, Cherie prepared almost all of her family’s food from scratch, but lacked land on which to grow that food. Daughter Heidi says that viewing the 2010 film documentary Food, Inc. was a “game changer” for the family. They wanted a deeper involvement in the production of their food.
Guided by Mark’s entrepreneurial spirit, the family began a yearlong search for land. In early 2011 Mark and Cherie purchased 34 acres with a large home in Brush Prairie, where the family of twelve founded Botany Bay Farm.
That same year, daughters Heidi and Sarah, along with sons Joe and Caleb, and Sarah’s husband Camden, traveled to Swope, VA., for a day-long educational tour of Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. Cherie and Mark, along with sons Joshua and Christian, toured Polyface Farm in spring of 2013. From Salatin, they learned firsthand about rotational grazing and holistic farm management as a method to raise healthy animals and nutritious food without chemicals in a symbiotic relationship with the land. The three siblings returned to Brush Prairie overflowing with new knowledge and enthusiasm.
The Sturtevants planned the layout, cleared out overgrown blackberries, customized existing outbuildings, added and repaired fencing, and built movable structures for animal housing. In spring of 2012, the family launched a website and began selling to local consumers. The farm’s beef, pork, chicken, rabbit, eggs and lamb are all raised on pasture without hormones or antibiotics. Their supplemental feed is non-GMO and soy-free. They graze following a rotational cycle that regularly moves the animals to fresh pasture. No chemical pesticides or herbicides are used on the farm.
At Botany Bay, each family member works at his or her specialty. Daughter Sarah created the website. Son Joe, a computer science major, keeps the computers running smoothly. Heidi is responsible for marketing, and Caleb is the general manager, assisted by John. Maria creates the farm’s line of natural bath and body products. On harvest days, the entire family works together preparing the meat for their local consumers.
Daughter Heidi shared her love of the family enterprise: “One of the things I appreciate most about living on the farm is the many opportunities we have to work together as a family, whether it’s getting our hands dirty in the field or solving problems around the dinner table.”
Botany Bay Farm chicken and other meats can be preordered for pickup at the farm. The next pork harvest is scheduled for late October. Their whole fresh chickens are also available at Chuck’s Produce and New Seasons Market.
Botany Bay Farm
13513 N.E. 132nd Ave., Brush Prairie
photos by jessica swanson
When Lorrie Conway was a young girl in 4-H, she defied her cattle ranching father – by raising a goat. When her eldest daughter chose a goat as her 4-H project 20 years ago, goats came back into her life. Now, she can’t give them up. So in addition to her full time job and homestead, Lorrie wakes at 4 a.m. each day to milk 15 to 20 Nubian does. “It’s my Zen time,” she says.
Lorrie estimates that she and her husband Shaun spend six hours a day with the goats, providing around 55 loyal customers with fresh raw goat milk every week from their Grade A raw milk dairy. She sets high standards for her products and the health of her animals, and she expects customers to bring the same commitment. She considers each customer a partner, and each must visit the farm and meet with her before becoming a customer.
The Conways also have a small farm store, where you can find woolen yarn and blankets from the farm’s sheep, the occasional dozen eggs, and a few other homemade products. In addition, there is a u-pick blueberry patch, and this year, the Conways built a cheese cave to store cheese made from excess goat milk.
The farm is a member of the Washington State University Clark County Extension Service Model Properties Program, and the Conways are always seeking innovative ways to keep their prices down while sustainably stewarding their partially wooded five-acre parcel. For example, the futures market indicated “no relief in rising feed costs,” said Lorrie. So this year, they put in a hydroponic sprout growing system, so they can feed their pastured goats fresh green grass daily in addition to alfalfa hay but at less than a third of the cost.
Over the last four years, Clark County has seen a rise in the number of small farms, but a decrease in the average acreage. In fact, when Lorrie and Shaun first moved on to their acreage more than 20 years ago, she thought they would eventually go bigger. But today, she believes they have cultivated a “culture of excellence” at their farm, by having to be discriminating and fastidious in all of their ventures. She says, “We are hell bent on showing people what you can do on five acres. It’s big enough. You just have to be efficient.”
This year’s tour offers an inside look at a variety of farms, from stalwarts such as Kunze Farm and Bizi Farms to brand new family operations such as Botany Bay Farm and Five Spouts Farm. (For more on Botany Bay Farm, see the Green Life section on page 8.) Doug Stienbarger, WSU Clark County Extension director, said that in the last two to four years, while the number of small farms has been increasing, the amount of acreage each sits on is decreasing, which supports recent anecdotal evidence that there are simply more, smaller farms.
Eric Lambert, Extension Small Acreage Program coordinator, says properties of most sizes are welcome under the small acreage banner. It’s more about “how you intend to use your land,” he said. “If you have ten acres of lawn, it doesn’t really work, [but if you are] growing some food, raising some animals, and having wildlife habitat, it’s a good fit whether it’s 40 acres or two.”
The Harvest Celebration started in 1998 in Clallam County and spread to 13 or 14 counties in the state. While some counties coordinate a farm dinner and other events, Clark County farms are left to decide what they would like to offer. Most host a day’s worth of family friendly activities. This year, as in years past Northwest Organic Farms is hosting a popular garlic and tomato festival, which draws 500 people, and Half Moon Farm will put on a honey festival to celebrate bees and bee products. An apple fest is also in the works.
“We are trying to connect consumers with their food and agriculture products. Most people didn’t grow up on farms. They don’t know where their food comes from,” said Lambert. “Building relationships is one of the key goals of this event.”
A role for land stewardship education
Some of the farms on the Harvest Celebration Tour are part of the Model Properties Program, a collaboration with Clark County Environmental Services. Lambert said “landowners and farmers can show their commitment to land stewardship,” and receive a designation that they are implementing clean water management practices and good land stewardship on their acreage. These practices include guttering to reduce mud, fencing to keep animals from eroding streams, composting manure and covering compost, siting outbuildings to improve efficiency, properly storing chemicals and fuels away from wells and septic systems, keeping vegetation around waterways and wetlands, limiting bare soil areas and trying to keep a weed free pasture.
Lambert does a casual site visit of a property at the request of an owner, and makes recommendations that fit the above criteria. When the property meets the criteria, it receives a placard recognizing the steward’s efforts.
Several farms on this year’s tour are model properties, including Conway Family Farms, Five Sprouts Farm, Storytree Farm and Garden Delights Herb Farm and CSA, with five other properties in the county currently carrying the designation.
Erin Harwood is a farmer and co-owner of Garden Delights, as well as the previous small acreage coordinator.
“I would say it takes a lot of effort [to become a model property] – all of it well worth it!” she said. “Our family has owned our farm property for more than 20 years, and we have continually worked to improve it over time. This included improving our knowledge, experience and also management skills. While all of this sounds challenging, it is definitely feasible to become a model property! I suspect there are a lot of properties out there that would qualify, they just set such high standards for themselves – which is great and exactly why they would qualify.”
WSU Clark County Extension’s flagship course is coming up in September. Living on the Land: Stewardship for Small Acreages is a 12-week course that includes modules on soil management, best water practices, livestock and animal management, and “Turning Dreams into Reality.” This course is open to anyone who has land or is thinking about acquiring it. Lambert says that farmers who attend this class along with an early winter business planning class have a great shot at success on their land.
While the Harvest Celebration is a great opportunity to connect with farmers once a year, there are ways to connect year round, including an online Farm Finder accessible at http://smallfarms.wsu.edu/farms/locate_search.asp.
“A lot of people are demanding more local food, having that connection with your famer and supporting local economy,” said Stienbarger. “We are trying to preserve the agricultural roots that we have in this county.”
photos by jessica swanson
When Brenda Calvert’s husband Bob retired from the Navy 10 years ago, he was looking for a hobby. Already flourishing was Brenda’s garden art business and small farm on eight acres in Brush Prairie. When Bob became interested in beekeeping, it was a perfect complement to the business – obviously – and soon, it became a large part of the couple’s business.
“He got hooked,” Brenda said, “and then I got hooked.”
Bees are in the news a lot these days – and it’s never good news. This summer’s lowlight was a 50,000-bee pesticide death in Oregon that prompted the Oregon Department of Agriculture to place a 180-day ban on the use of dinotefuron, a pesticide based on neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide associated with massive bee die-offs. The couple currently manages 18 beehives, each of which can produce up to 250 pounds of honey in a season from a variety of flower sources. More importantly Brenda has become a leader in the beekeeping community, an advocate for bees and sustainable practices, and a mentor to aspiring beekeepers.
Half Moon Farm is a steward of bees and the land use practices they need to survive. When the Calverts moved onto their acreage in 1998, they cleared the overgrown blackberries with pigs, who uprooted the whole property and allowed the Calverts to avoid spraying toxic chemicals on their land. They have continued to develop their land in similar ways, sustainably and in tune with nature. The couple has various pollinator gardens, a large lavender patch with more than 400 plants of various European varieties, heirloom pumpkins and a variety of vegetables, fruits and nuts thriving in concert with a diverse wooded acreage.
Brenda does not use spray pesticides, rather opting for torching weeds, using boiling water on them or, if necessary, injecting them with apple cider vinegar or a “touch of Round Up.” She beams with pride at the amount of beneficial insects and other creatures living on the property, such as praying mantises and “about a million frogs.” For fertilizer, Brenda uses organic chicken and mushroom compost and diatomaceous earth. She raises chickens for eggs, which are in high demand, and this year, a few pigs are hanging out in the front garden. This fall, a new farm store will house all of Half Moon’s products in one place.
Half Moon is not a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, but instead its customers check for availability and then make appointments to come by and pick up produce, flowers and honey. Brenda grew up on her family’s land in the area and remembers “riding my horse to Battle Ground” and remarking that the landscape has truly changed since there were dozens of dairies dotting Clark County and bees weren’t dying by 30 percent a year.
There are a number of theories about why bees are dying at alarming rates – one of Brenda’s is that there are so many chemicals, their immune systems are simply breaking down and the hive cannot stay as strong as it used to. These days, bees need extra care. In the Pacific Northwest, the bees must be protected from the dampness, and to that end the hives at Half Moon Farms have eaves to keep the homes dry.
There is a bit of interest blooming in backyard beekeeping, but Brenda encourages pragmatism – taking a bee-first attitude. “Forget about the honey” she said, and concentrate on establishing the bees when first getting started. A hive of bees needs almost 100 pounds of honey to survive and they spend the first few years establishing themselves.
For more on keeping bees and bee awareness, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or check for up-to-date local information on the Washington Beekeepers Association website: wasba.org/local-beekeeping-organizations/#2.