Mary Embleton has worked for nearly 30 years in the fields of natural resource economics and the environment. Born in Seattle and raised for much of her youth in Montana, Mary brings an understanding of both urban and rural community issues. Her education at UC Berkeley and Montana State University has also given her an appreciation for diversity of issues and people. She worked as a land use and environmental planner in Washington from 1989 to 1995 and started her own economic and environmental consulting business in 1996 and worked around the state on a variety of natural resource, land use, environmental and economic development projects. In 1997 she joined a conversation about ways to foster a sustainable regional food system in Western Washington. Out of that conversation she created her current position as Director of Cascade Harvest Coalition, which she has held since 1999.
As a land use and environmental planner, Mary has worked throughout King County and the region on watershed and community plans. In King County, these included, for example, the Bear Creek, Soos Creek and Hylebos Creek watershed plans. Mary also helped develop a guidebook on the use of water quality swales. She helped guide economic development projects as part of the Ballard-Interbay Manufacturing Area, University District, Pike/Pine, West Seattle Junction, Rainier Beach, Delridge, Columbia City and Dearborn-Hiawatha community plans. Mary helped develop and conduct a survey of local farmers as part of the King County Farm Survey and Inventory Project and helped develop the FarmLink program which links aspiring farmers with farmland owners and provides farmer and farmland owner education. The program transitioned to CHC in 2001.
As Director of CHC, Mary operates a number of programs in addition to FarmLink. Puget Sound Fresh, a ‘buy local’ and consumer education program, produces the Puget Sound Farm Guide, Community Supported Agriculture Directory, and a wide variety of educational materials as part of its community outreach efforts. The program is expanding in 2010 to include sustainably raised forest products. The program actively promotes over 100 farmers markets, retail grocers and other businesses who source locally in the Puget Sound region through cooperative marketing efforts, and consumer research and outreach. Farm-to-Table: Connecting Local Farmers with Local Food Buyers, is a series of workshops that create new market opportunities between local producers and local food buyers and increase access to local food for consumers. The Puget Sound Food Project addresses local processing and distribution infrastructure needs throughout the Puget Sound region. Mary also works on a variety of other efforts to create farmer-policy maker connections like the Local Farms-Healthy Kids legislation and the Seattle Local Food Action Initiative.
Mary is passionate about connecting people to the environment and creating awareness about the impacts that we, as society, have on our surroundings. She discovered early on that local food is a great medium for bringing people together, and provides a great opportunity for introducing people to the importance of how we treat the land, and the people and communities it supports. She is a strong believer in collaboration and has worked to bring together many different communities around issues affecting local food and farming, the environment, sustainable economies and food access.