Thumbnail image for reardonbestof.jpg
Photo by Renee McMahon
Reardon wants to save area farms. It doesn't hurt that he already has a Superman stance.
Now that the knock-down, drag-out

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Reardon Watch: Goin' Country

Thumbnail image for reardonbestof.jpg
Photo by Renee McMahon
Reardon wants to save area farms. It doesn't hurt that he already has a Superman stance.
Now that the knock-down, drag-out fight over control of Seattle and King County is over, we turn our attention north. You may remember stopping over a certain Best of Seattle profile back in 2008 and thinking to yourself: "I have no idea who this guy is and I really don't care. What a jaw line!"

But you should care. That was Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, an up and coming politician worth keeping an eye on--and we do mean with a very long gaze. Today marks the inaugural edition of Reardon Watch, a weekly feature in which we wander north of the King County border to check in on a rising political star who makes us swoon.

He's got a new beard.

More on the facial hair in a second. First, believe it or not, Snohomish has economic concerns beyond Boeing's departure. Last week, Reardon turned his attention from airplanes to agriculture. He kicked off the 2009 Focus on Farming conference at Tulalip Casino saying: "The same amount of effort that we put in to trying to keep the second line of the 787 in Washington state, to keep that legacy company here, needs to be applied to agriculture."

Look closely at the video of Reardon's address (posted below) and you'll notice the shadow of a goatee on his incredibly strong chin. The clean-shaven Reardon shown above is swoon-worthy in a bring-him-home-to-mom kind of way. But this new more rugged Reardon looks like a man who might be well at home on the range for a few days. The kind of man you adopt a southern accent for (my word!). The kind of man who can make sure we don't let big shiny airplanes distract from the needs of other local industries.

Ahem... anywho. Like King County, most of Snohomish's 684,000 people live along the I-5 corridor, leaving large swaths of rural land to the east. According to the county, there are over 1,600 farms operating there. The Washington State Department of Agriculture reports that those farms bringing in $126 million, more than predominately rural counties like Lewis and Kittitas. (King County takes in $127 million from agriculture.)

But these days it's hard to make a living farming. Department of Agriculture spokesperson Jason Kelly says the price of almost all Washington crops is down in the international markets where the Washington growers have traditionally sold, especially cattle ranchers. "The dairy industry is hurting in a serious way right now," he says. That's bad news for Snohomish, where cattle and milk are among the biggest farm products.

Kelly says that the farmers who are getting through the soft market have been successful by refocusing locally. By selling to farmers' markets and area restaurants, it's easier to set your prices based on quality, not just market rates, he explains. And staying in state, growers can avoid costs associated with long-distance shipping.

To that end, Reardon's farming summit included sessions designed to help growers retool their marketing strategy to local buyers and be more environmentally friendly (a must if you're going to survive in Seattle's farmers' markets.)

Reardon claimed in a release that more than 500 people showed up this year. To get tips on saving your farm and spend a little quality time staring at that mug, who wouldn't?

 
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