Small- and medium-sized farmers and ranchers are the heart of King County’s local food system. However, many of these producers operate at thin margins and can find it difficult to save up the capital necessary for infrastructure improvements to expand their businesses.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture is offering $6 million of grant funding this year to help small and medium-sized producers through Local Food System Infrastructure Grants.
Owner-operated farms and ranches in Washington with less than $1 million in annual farm income are eligible, as well as non-farm food businesses with less than $5 million of annual revenue and fewer than 200 employees. Non-farm food businesses must primarily work with foods grown, caught, or raised in Washington.
The purpose of the Local Food System Infrastructure Grant program is to support local food supply chains and market access for farms, ranches, food processors, and food distributors and fund projects that expand and strengthen collaboration across linkages in the regional food supply chain.
There are two categories of grants: Rapid & Ready and Large Projects.
Rapid & Ready grants are $10,000-$75,000 and must be completed in five months. This category is intended for simple and straightforward purchases or projects, such as purchasing a refrigerated truck or building a wash-pack station.
Large Project grant awards range from $75,000-$500,000. Grantees have an additional year to complete these projects. This category is more suited to large, multi-step projects such as building out processing facilities or irrigation infrastructure.
Recent grantees from King County include Bumblebee Farm, Farms for Life, Jacobs Agro, Lee Family Farm, Patty Pan Co., Rising Sign Farm, Sammamish Farms, Sariwa Farm LLC, SnoValley Tilth, Steel Wheel Farm LLC, Timeless Villages LLC, TOJO Properties LLC, and Washington Hmong Farmers Cooperative.
Expanding local market access with improvements in the regional food supply chain allows small and mid-sized farms, ranches, and food businesses to retain more of the value chain dollar. Ultimately, this grant program benefits Washington consumers by enhancing the resiliency of the local food supply.
To learn more or apply for a grant, visit agr.wa.gov. The application period closes on Nov.15, and applicants will be notified of their award status in February 2024.