ELECTION VIEW: Elenbaas backs Whatcom County farms and business growth

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 16, 2013 

This election is about one thing: Jobs. Whether you work in agribusiness or in the city, whether water rights or common sense stewardship of our lands are your No. 1 interest, it all comes back to jobs.

On your ballot, I am Ben Elenbaas, but some of you already know me as Farmer Ben. The question I get asked most often on the campaign trail is why I am running for Whatcom County Council and why people should vote for me? The answer to the first question is that I recognize a need on the council that is not being met. The second part of that answer is the need not being met not only affects my ability to live and work in Whatcom County, but also my children, as well as my children's children and that concerned me. Why you should vote for me is quite simple: I have a unique mix of experience that no other current council member or candidate can offer. It is said that we are all shaped by our past. That is especially true for me.

I am a fifth-generation Whatcom County resident. My wife Jessica and I raise our three children on our farm, less than one mile from the farm that my great, great-grandpa Elenbaas brought his family to when they moved to Whatcom County in 1901 from the Netherlands.

On our farm, my wife and I raise and direct-market grass-fed beef, pastured Berkshire pork, and pastured poultry to local food enthusiasts. Direct marketing our products has given me the opportunity to meet a diverse group of Whatcom County residents. I have seen, firsthand, the benefits our local agricultural community offers the community as a whole -- a community that strives for sustainability and prides itself in its local flavor. I see the benefits of our farmland not just in terms of the security that locally produced food provides for us, but the economic benefit that agriculture gives our county.

I understand that it doesn't do us much good to save farmland if we don't preserve our ability to farm. I am the only County Council candidate engaged in a full-scale farming effort.

After graduating from Lynden High School, I attended WWU to play football. My career aspirations at the time were to be a dairy farmer. With a long family tradition of farming and learning from past generations' agronomic principles, I felt a duty to better understand my impact on the environment as a farmer in Whatcom County. I decided to apply for and study environmental topics at WWU's Huxley College of the Environment.

In addition to farming, I have worked at the BP refinery since 2001 where I currently work as an operations foreman and am focused on safety performance, environmental compliance and production.

Working at the refinery, which is one of the largest employers in Whatcom County, gives me an appreciation for the importance of a viable economy providing jobs in Whatcom County. As a father, this is important to me, because I want our children to be able to make their success story here in Whatcom County.

I also have the honor of serving as a Whatcom County planning commissioner. I know that thriving cities and thriving rural areas are not mutually exclusive -- a fact that is often lost in the discussion about growth. My district has abundant agricultural and rural land along with six urban areas within it.

As a councilmember I believe that we need a balanced approach to growth. Residents should have choices. Residents should be enticed into their residential preference and not forced into them. An adequate land supply for both rural and urban living is a fundamental component to that choice. I believe that this should be Whatcom County's goal as we plan into the future.

For over 110 years my family has lived and farmed in Whatcom County. I will work on council to ensure that my children, and yours, have the same opportunities available to them. Help me secure that future. Eat local, buy local, be local, vote local, vote Ben Elenbaas for County Council -- the only farmer on the ballot.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ben Elenbaas is the challenger for Whatcom County Council, District 2, position A. Vote-by-mail ballots will be mailed Oct. 19 and the general election is Nov. 5.

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