The King County Council has allocated $1,380,000 to help King County farmers and farmers markets comply with public health and safety operating requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to overcome losses due to COVID-19.
Numerous studies across the Puget Sound region have confirmed that there is insufficient kitchen, processing, packaging, storage space, and transportation capacity to adequately and efficiently connect local food producers with target markets. Much of the regional infrastructure needed to grow our local food economy no longer exists, is in need of improvement, or is not adequate to meet the needs of small and medium farms and food businesses in our region.
All aspects of the local food economy have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and farmers are on the frontline
Many King County farmers are impacted by the temporary suspension of farmers markets due to COVID-19. Flower growers in particular experience unique challenges because they rely heavily on farmers markets for sales. In addition, many flower growers are immigrants and refugees, and market accessibility and communication barriers only exacerbate an already challenging business landscape.
The Local Food Team spoke with Leigh Newman-Bell, Pike Place Farm Development Coordinator, and Bee Cha, King County Immigrant Farmer Outreach Coordinator, to better understand not only the challenges flower growers face but also the ways consumers can support flower growers during this time.
At a time when our community connections are strained and food security is of concern, it is inspiring to look at a program that is cultivating not just crops, but leadership. At Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands (RBUFW), young people are taking active roles to build a just and abundant food future that is vital to our sustenance and economy. They are working to develop connections with their community and farming through meaningful learning experiences in fields, farms, and kitchens.
Improving the productivity of existing farmland and bringing more land into food production are two of the main objectives of a new Snoqualmie Valley Agriculture Land Resource Strategic Plan that is being developed as part of the historic and innovative Fish, Farm, Flood process (see website here). When completed later this year, the plan will serve as a guide for the agriculture sector in the Snoqualmie Valley and agriculture service providers to implement the priority needs such as drainage improvements, home elevations for flood safety and more. The Plan will also inform future Fish, Farm, Flood decision-making around the agricultural needs of the Valley.
Have you read Fortune’s recent article about the innovative ways restaurants are improving eating and community experiences around the country? If so, you may have heard about a new food hall opening in Tukwila.
The Local Food Team recently spoke with Kara Martin, Food Innovation Network (FIN) Program Director, about the grand opening and importance of the Tukwila Village Food Hall to food entrepreneurs in King County.
A primary strategy identified in the Local Food Initiative is improving the food processing, storage and distribution infrastructure in King County to accommodate and increase food distribution.
This need has been well documented in the last several years by studies, needs assessments, and market evaluations conducted across the region. Building on this research and the work done by food systems stakeholders, King County and partners will further evaluate options for developing additional local food system infrastructure, including a consolidated local food facility.
Is it possible to develop a multi-functional and shared-use food facility that supports small farm and food businesses?
King County and partners have teamed up with ECONorthwest, an economic consulting firm, to answer this question.
In November, American Farmland Trust (AFT) released the Washington state fact sheet summarizing results from its Non-Operating Landowners (NOLs) survey that surveyed individually or partnership-owned lands. This survey revealed that there is significant opportunity for increased conservation practices on rented land to improve soil quality.
Since farming on rented land is very common in King County, these results are particularly valuable for our farming community.
“AFT conducted this survey in 11 states to learn more about NOL and renter relationships, communication in those relationships, conservation attitudes and behaviors, and conservation and outreach needs,” said Courtney Naumann, AFT Pacific Northwest Agricultural Stewardship Program Manager. “These results will help us understand who we should reach out to engage in conversations around agricultural stewardship, and how we can best serve demographics who fall into a renter/owner role.”
There are many ways you can continue to eat local during winter months, including shopping at year-round markets, joining a winter CSA, visiting U-Picks and farm stands, knowing what’s in season, and eating at restaurants that source locally. These options not only support local farmers and the local food economy, but also allow consumers to buy farm fresh local food year round in King County!