Thursday, May 29, 2008

Further Comments About "Growing Peas"

peas, a former Island industry

I got a comment from Wes on my recent post, Lets Grow Peas. I'm creating a new post and featuring it because I think this is an important discussion for our community to have.

WES SAID: I have a tourism marketing book that talks a lot about the health of local economies. Some tourist economies are very healthy and some are not. The ones that are the most healthy are the ones that have a high "multiplier effect" a high multiplier effect is where the money that comes in from the tourism keeps on getting recycled in the local community and has a very low likelihood of being exported out of the community. If all of our bed and breakfasts and hotels used produce from the Farmer's market and purchased artwork from local artisans and saved their profits into local investments instead of off island banks we would have a much higher multiplier effect. Our islands are definitely turning into a Martha's Vineyard style destination.


PEGGY SUE REPLIES: Thanks for your comment Wes. You make some excellent points. I was thinking more about real estate speculation than tourism in my complaint. I do think there are good kinds of tourism. I think cruise ships are great because they bring an older group of visitors to town without bringing cars onto the Island. These visitors shop and are otherwise low impact. Also, I work at the Whale Museum. People come here from all over the world to learn about Whales and and again tend to shop, eat in local restaurants and are primarily low impact. Elderhostle is another positive form of tourism that provides visitors with enjoyable educational activities without leaving a big footprint.

You are absolutely right about the Martha's Vineyard Syndrome. For some of us it is deeply disheartening to go from a rural fishing and farming economy, not to mention culture and aesthetic, to a yuppie condo bourgeoisie elitist foo foo town. Hence my sentimental recollection of the old pea farms and cannery.

Its real estate developers that I consider the most destructive. Real Estate speculation does not improve life on the Island for anyone but the speculator. As property speculators "make a killing" the cost of living goes up for those of us on limited incomes. Real Estate speculation caters to people who do not live here yet on the backs of the people who do.


  1. That being said I do have a few admissions to make; I was not born in the islands and we moved there in 1984 along with the California invasion. I'm sure we paid far more for our house than the guy who built it before us. My parents ran a small real estate company for several years in the 90s. And my mother works at a real estate company now. I had several jobs during the summers working for contractors who were building new and beautiful homes on San Juan Island. One of my really good friends is starting to do a little bit of contracting in the islands and has worked construction for several years. A couple other friends of mine who grew up here have made good money buying and holding onto or buying and selling homes here in the islands. To say that the real estate costs only benefit the speculators is a little oversimplified. I have some other friends that make bronze sculptures and sell those to wealthy tourists and islanders. Another friend of mine made good money selling wooden bowls to those who could afford them.

    The natural beauty and lifestyle of the San Juan Islands is what everyone is cultivating or buying in one way or another. The cost of real estate rises when the profitability of hotels and bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals goes up.

    My website shows off the natural beauty of the islands and promotes tourism and I accept money from real estate agents and companies.

    I think it is good to have this discussion so that islanders realize what they have and do not sell themselves short. Why sell all of your land when you can develop it responsibly and rent it from there.

    Selling everything off for the highest dollar to make a profit is much easier than putting in hard work and playing with different business models to make the same or higher profits.

    Having discussions like these is one of the reasons that I set up a message board on

    The message board is meant to be a place to have conversations on issues affecting islanders... at the moment I am the only guy in there posting headlines and commenting. Check it out if you have time.

    Back to work.

  2. Thanks again for your comments. It is hard for me to even think about the land my family once held here without feeling ill because my Mom sold the last of it a few years ago.

    I live in a low-income housing apartment now and work for low pay at the Whale Museum. I used to be able to live, not a fancy life but a good life here, now I really struggle just to be poor. I've never been a big capitalist. Better not get me started on the evils of capitalism. For me the quality of life here has been steadily going down.

    I moved to Lopez in the 80s because I couldn't stand the development going on here. This is not just economics but is also a cultural and aesthetic preference. I like a small close community and an old farmhouse much more than condos and boutiques. Now I've ended up back in Friday Harbor. Friday Harbor is my home if only because it is my "default" position and I'm not sure where else to go.

    Thats nice for your friends that they are doing so well. Some of my friends are doing quite well too. But I'm not and of course that is why I am so disgruntled

    I will check out you blog. Again, thank you very much for your thoughtful comments.