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October 20, 2020

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15 minutes with Melissa Bogart Campbell

She's executive director of the State of Washington Farmland Trust

15 minutes with
Melissa (Bogart) Campbell,
1997 Bluffton High School graduate

We understand you are director of the  Washington Farmland Trust. Tell us about it.

Melissa: I've worked at Washington Farmland Trust for over 12 years and have held various roles throughout the organization during that time. Originally hired as the Stewardship Manager to oversee the land management, farmland leases and annual monitoring work of the organization, I then moved to Conservation Director to develop our conservation strategy and then Deputy Director before becoming Executive Director in 2019.

What's the focus of the trust? 
Melissa: The work of Washington Farmland Trust is to ensure a future for farming in Washington State.

We do that by permanently protecting farmland either by purchasing a conservation easement, which permanently restricts the property and ensures that the property stays in farming, forever, or by purchasing the property outright and leasing it back to a farmer until the farmer is able to purchase the property back from us.

My role as Executive Director is to support our staff and board so that they all have the resources and tools they need to achieve our mission and have a little fun along the way.

Increasingly, we are building strategies into our conservation work to address climate impacts to local farmland (flooding, ensuring access to irrigation water) as well as addressing current and historic inequities in accessing farmland.

You can learn more at www.wafarmlandtrust.org

Give us the short version of how you landed in the state of Washington? 
After working several years, I decided I wanted to pursue graduate school and at the same time my husband was exploring medical school.

We landed on the Pacific Northwest as a place where we both could pursue our professional goals as well as personal interests. We ended up in Seattle where Ryan studied Naturopathic Medicine and Acupuncture at Bastyr University and I landed at Antioch University studying the connections between our communities and the environment.

We assumed we would be in Seattle only for our degree programs—five-years max and then return to Ohio, but 15 years and three kids later, we’re still here!

Tell us about your family: 
Melissa: Our hands and our hearts are very full these days. We have three kids—Calan, who is 7 years old and in 2nd grade, Sylvie who is 4 and in preschool and Talia who is 16 months.

We live in West Seattle where my husband owns a Direct Primary Care clinic called GoodMed where he focuses on affordable access to natural medicine and primary care. We also have a flock of eight bantam hens who joined our family earlier this spring. We love camping, gardening, hiking, reading, biking, surfing and being active outside.  

What Bluffton teachers inspired you to enter into the plant sciences?
Melissa: I was so lucky to have so many impactful teachers who shaped my experience as a child and built a love of learning and particularly, my love of science.

In elementary school, Mr. Miller shaped my early love of science. In middle school, Mrs. Kessler and Mr. Wright opened up my mind to geology and biology. In high school Juan Jorge (Mr. George) furthered my interests and curiosities in the sciences and made learning so much fun and Mrs. Antibus taught me so much about the ecology of our region, trees and the fundamentals of environmental science. 

Is there a similar farmland trust in Ohio? 
Melissa: Yes, and an organization that serves northwest Ohio, in fact. The Black Swamp Conservancy is an excellent organization who is committed to the protection of agriculture and natural areas.

They’re doing great work, check them out! www.blackswamp.org. and if you want to learn about other land protection efforts in Ohio, visit www.lta.org where you can find land trusts that serve other geographies throughout the state and region.

Where did you attend college and what was your focus? 
Melissa: For my undergraduate degree, I attended The Ohio State University and studied Plant Disease Management (Plant Pathology) and Environmental Economics.

As a student, I worked in the Plant Pathology and Entomology departments where I spent several years working alongside amazing and hilarious mentors studying crop diseases and doing fun things like counting bugs on tomatoes, gourds and other crops. Fun!

As a graduate student at Antioch, I focused my studies on the intersections of farmland conservation and access to affordable farmland. My primary graduate project focused on supporting local Hmong farmers in their search for long term access to farmland.

Well, thanks for talking with us. It's great getting caught up with you. Hope to see you in Bluffton sometime soon.