| NABC Supports New Producers Co-op Formation in Whatcom County|
On Monday evening March 14, a group of ten family farms in Whatcom County voted to form a new producer-owned co-op. Organizing documents were forwarded to Washington State on Thursday, March 17. The Nooksack Valley Farmers Cooperative is being formed in order to market, aggregate, prepare, and distribute fruit and vegetables.
Participating farms include Alm Hill Gardens, Broadleaf Farm, Cedarville Farm, Cloud Mountain Farm, Moondance Farm, Nooksack 9 Farm, Osprey Hill Farm, Rabbit Fields Farm, Spring Frog Farm, and Terra Verde Farm. This group of Whatcom County row-crop and tree fruit growers will be launching a multi-farm Community Supported Agriculture program with Peace Health-St. Joseph's Hospital beginning in mid-June.
The group elected Michelle Zehr of Nooksack 9 Farm as President, Mike Finger of Cedarville Farm Vice President, and Amy Fontaine of Terra Verde Farm Secretary-Treasurer. Zehr states, "In this group, we have put competition aside to grow as a community of farmers. Through this cooperation, we believe we will be able to better fill the ever growing demand for locally grown produce."
The process of organizing was supported by NABC, Sustainable Connections Food & Farming Program, the WSDA Small Farms and Marketing Program, and Whatcom Community Foundation's Sustainable Whatcom Fund. NABC, an established Cooperative Development Center, provided cooperative and organizational development assistance through a Rural Cooperative Development Grant provided by the USDA Rural Development Department.
| Port Susan Food & Farming Center Plans Are Underway|
A new cooperative food processing center is under development in Snohomish County. The facility will be a center for the production of value-added and niche market agricultural products and business incubation support, with a strong retail and educational component. The project team recently launched an informative web site, www.portsusanfoodandfarmingcenter.org.
The mission is to provide long-term vitality for the food and farming community in Stanwood/Camano Island area by providing bottling, labeling, baking, and curing access among other vital production needs. The project is being organized by Slow Food Port Susan. Leaders for the project include project chair Donna King (owner of Scandia Coffee House & Eatery) and Vivian Henderson, Vice President of Slow Food Port Susan. "We're looking 20 or 50 years into the future," King said, "to when we may not be able to afford to commute and transport goods great distances, to when we can't afford to shop the way we do now."
Henderson and King invite anyone currently or planning to be involved in local farming or food production to add their input and help shape the future of the Food & Farming Center by participating in the needs assessment survey. Farmers and food entrepreneurs are encouraged to log in to the convenient online survey and communicate their needs, and what skills or knowledge they would be willing to contribute to the development efforts. The survey is now available on-line until the end of March at www.surveymonkey.com/s/PortSusanCenter. Printed copies are also available upon request.
For more information about the Port Susan Food & Farming Center, please contact Vivian Henderson or Donna King or visit their web site. For more information about Slow Food Port Susan, please log on to www.slowfoodportsusan.org.
|NABC and PSFN in the National Spotlight |
On March 2, NABC was honored by a visit from U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan. Merrigan was on her way to Portland State University to speak to students and local leaders about farmer-consumer connections and decided to drop by Seattle to pay a special visit to PSFN/NABC projects.
Deputy Secretary Merrigan chose to visit Central Area Senior Center to check out and show her support for the growingFarm to Table (F2T) project PSFN is involved with. One of Merrigan's many roles at the USDA is leading the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food effort. The Farm to Table project, which connects fresh local produce to typically underserved communities such as lower income senior meal programs and child care centers, is part of the larger Seattle and King County public health effort, "Communities Putting Prevention to Work."
The morning of Merrigan's visit, Kia Armstrong of F2T Producer Partner and PSFN Member, Nash's Organic Produce, personally delivered cabbage, parsnips, and triticale flour to Senior Services' Chef and Nutrition Site Coordinator, Anthony Herts. This was the first F2T produce delivery to Central Area Senior Center, and the first F2T delivery to a Senior Services-managed site! Chef Herts then prepared a delectable meal for regular Central Area Senior Center diners and special guests.
At the meal site, NABC was also honored by the presence of Seattle Mayor, Mike McGinn. Mayor McGinn and Deputy Secretary Merrigan (former classmates at Williams College) both spoke on the importance of local food connections and praised PSFN's work on theFarm to Table project as well as the work NABC does to strengthen the regional food economy. McGinn and Merrigan recognized the dual nature of the project, which helps small and mid-size farms find untapped institutional market opportunities, while also helping to provide the freshest, healthiest produce for those most in need in King County.
After a delicious lunch, Deputy Secretary Merrigan and her staff joined PSFN/NABC-affiliated local producers and NABC staff at Central Market in Shoreline. Producers had an opportunity to introduce Ms. Merrigan to their products featured at Central Market as they toured the store together. Merrigan spoke to each producer individually and sampled their high-quality products. Merrigan and local producers then set up camp in the abundant produce department at Central Market, where she candidly fielded questions from producers.
What a day! NABC was extraordinarily honored by Deputy Secretary Merrigan's visit and level of engagement with producers. Thanks to all the PSFN/NABC-affiliated producers and partners who made the trip to Seattle for this momentous day! For a full photo album of Deputy Secretary Merrigan's visit, see PSFN's Facebook Page.
|New Farmer to Business CSA Program|
Whatcom County's PeaceHealth-St. Joseph Medical Center is partnering with the Nooksack Valley Farmers Co-op to launch a multi-farmer-to-staff Community Supported Agriculture program. The medical center is promoting the St. Joe's Farm Share program in which staff have the opportunity to purchase a share in advance from the farmers' cooperative, and receive a box of fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables for twenty weeks beginning in mid-June. The boxes will be delivered on Wednesdays to specified drop sites at the hospital and Peace Health's Cordata facility.
"We are very excited about providing the opportunity for our health facilities and staff to have a direct connection with local farms. This is just one part of a greater vision we have here at PeaceHealth. Whether it's working in partnership with local sources to provide fresh nutritious food, or working towards zero waste in our recycling and waste reduction efforts, PeaceHealth and St. Joseph Medical Center are committed to promoting personal and community health," states Chris Phillips, Director for Community Affairs and Strategic Communication.
Ten Whatcom County family farms have recently formed a cooperative in order to pool, aggregate, pack, and deliver their crops. Cheryl Thornton, co-owner of Cloud Mountain Farm is serving as Operations Manager for the co-op. "This is a wonderful opportunity for local farms to work together and provide for a larger market opportunity. Peace Health-St. Joseph's has been really supportive of this effort and partnership. We look forward to working with them now and in the future."
Announcing the 2011 Skagit Wholesale Market
The Puget Sound Food Network and the Skagit Valley Food Coop are pleased to announce the sophomore season of the Skagit Wholesale Market. The Skagit Wholesale Market was conceived and implemented in 2010 as a central location to connect local food producers and farmers to local wholesale and commercial buyers. It is the only grassroots business-to-business market of its kind in the region. As the shift to a more sustainable regional food system evolves, venues like the Skagit Wholesale Market will become increasingly important. Visit our donate page to find out how you can help.
The Skagit Wholesale Market will be held from mid-July to mid-September on Thursday mornings, 8:30 -10:30 a.m. The market will again take place in the underpass parking lot of the Skagit Valley Food Coop, 202 South 1st Street in Mount Vernon. Interested vendors should contact Ann Leason, email@example.com. To join our weekly buyers list and receive a ''Fresh Sheet" of products available at the market, contact Ellen Manderfield, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Final planning is still underway for our Seattle Wholesale Market. Stay tuned for more details.
2011 Transitioning to Value-Added Products Course Anounced
The viability of Northwest Washington agricultural production is constantly threatened by limited farmland availability, high production costs and expanding urbanization. In response, area producers have strategically moved from commodity production to more specialized production. Consumer demand for locally produced prepackaged and prepared foods continues to grow. The food system is structured so that processors and marketers capture the profits, leaving slim margins and increased risk for producers. Value-added products offer higher margins and can reduce financial risks. Beginning this fall, Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC) will offer a course geared towards farmers who are ready and interested in entering a new value added market. NABC's goal is to take 30 producers through an 8 month course on value-added enterprise development which includes providing technical assistance and mentoring as they evaluate market opportunities. The objective: adding one value-added product to each participant's product lines.
The NABC in cooperation with Sustainable Connections, WSU Extension, WSDA, and experienced farm business consultants will join forces to assist farmers in successfully transitioning into value-added products. The project will focus on food crop and livestock operations, for maximum local food production impact. This program offers not only education, but also hands-on technical assistance, planning expertise and market development help. This program augments other NABC programs and NABC's ability to successfully deliver business development services to clients. Successful program participants will encourage other producers to implement their own value-added projects. The course offers business and market development expertise from NABC, WSDA Food Safety and processing specialists, food product development and small-scale processing consulting from expert consultants.
Producers continue to face competition on volume production and consumer affordability, while struggling with limited processing/distribution resources. Businesses needing support to negotiate these barriers will profit from this hands-on program. Enterprises that could be expanded through this course include preserves (i.e. pickles, sauerkraut, jams, jellies), misc. specialty foods, hard cider & wines, artisanal cheese & yogurt, and distilled beverages. Meat producers seek the kind of marketing options that the program presents, such as development of cooperatives, to help overcome lack of small-scale processing facilities.
Participants will be directed through a multi-phase business development process. Sessions on value-added enterprise analysis and marketing plan development will follow the initial class discussing potential value-added product lines. The curriculum will include enterprise analysis and market assessment templates that have been developed by the NABC and existing Land Grant University farm management courses. These templates will be applicable to business development programs in the future. Producers will be mentored and encouraged through each step with the support of the project team and their fellow participants. Hands-on individual guidance is expected to increase understanding and success. Upon completion of enterprise analyses and business plans, the final measured outcome will be the successful market entry and sales of a value-added product.
For more information about this course please contact Project Managers Jake Fowler & Jeff Voltz.
| PSFN - Creating Efficient Distribution to King County|
SAVE MONEY, GAS & TIME - GAIN NEW BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
Come summer when you are busy about the farm you won't have time to consider efficiencies of direct distribution to King County. Let's do it now. PSFN Farm to Table Coordinator Karen Mauden is putting aggregation systems in place for direct delivery to King County. Resource efficiency is the key!
F2T has sites that need your produce!
Explore adding these opportunities to your business model.
Contact Karen Mauden, PSFN
Email: email@example.com Mobile: 425-466-8722
| WSDA Farm-To-School Survey for Producers|
Hello Farm-to-School Community!
As you know, the Washington State Department of Agriculture Farm-to-School Program supports connections between farms and schools throughout the state. We also support connections to other institutions, including hospitals, prisons, child care and senior care programs.
Communication and engagement between farmers, school staff, agencies, and community members has been vital to the farm-to-school progress and success in Washington. And in the past year, farm-to-school efforts in Washington have had great success!
Nearly 50 farms and 60 school districts participated in Taste Washington Day, farm-to-school pilot programs and mobile tours are happening throughout the state, and we will soon be launching an on-line WSDA Farm-to-School Toolkit to gather and share resources from our local and national partners.
We continuously seek feedback to inform how to evolve our program to help support and advance your farm-to-school work. One way we seek this feedback is through a biennial survey to producers and school district food service directors. We have already sent this producer survey to many growers and producers throughout the state, and we know there are more who are interested in selling to schools that we've not yet reached.
Please forward this email along to your networks and share with growers who may be interested in farm-to-school. The 2011 Farm-to-School Producer Survey found here. A link to the survey is also available on the right hand column of the WSDA Farm-to-School website. The deadline for the survey is Friday, April 15th.
Your outreach will be enormously helpful to our team as we connect the dots on how to make farm-to-school work for you and for schools in Washington. Thank you again for your time, feedback, and helping to grow Farm-to-School in Washington.
Let us know how we can assist you, and thanks for your great work.
Tricia, Sue, Becky and Shoko
Washington State Department of Agriculture
|Kneading Conference West - SAVE THE DATE|