Making food go further through waste reduction and innovation

Impact Bioenergy™, a startup company that was formed in 2013 in Seattle, converts restaurant compost bin waste and spent yeast from breweries into renewable energy and organic plant food. Impact Bioenergy’s mission is to change the paradigm and get food “waste” to be recognized as a valuable renewable resource, which empowers communities by making renewable energy and organic plant food locally through organic materials recycling. 

King County Solid Waste Division (SWD) has supported Impact Bioenergy through their commercial food waste grants for projects that aim to reduce food waste generated by the commercial sector (non-residential) within King County.

The Local Food team spoke with Srirup Kumar, Community Engagement Officer at Impact Bioenergy, to learn more about why bioenergy is valuable to King County farmers and residents and how a circular economy is being created on Vashon Island.

2017 Census of Agriculture: Main takeaways for King County

The Census of Agriculture, conducted once every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a voluntary mail survey that counts the number of U.S. farms and ranches, and looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income, and expenditures.

The Census of Agriculture provides comprehensive agriculture data for every county in the nation. There are limitations to the Census due to the voluntary nature of the Census survey. Census surveys do not capture every farmer in the U.S., and the survey questions present categories that may not be relevant or applicable to every farmer.

However, the Census is currently the one of the best ways to glean countywide data about producers and the economic role of agriculture, which can influence decisions that will shape the future of agriculture in King County.

Cascadia Cooperative Farms: Connecting farmers to new markets in King County

Cascadia Cooperative Farms (CCF) is an egg and pastured poultry cooperative in King and Snohomish counties that brings together small local farms raising pastured poultry to help connect member farmers to new markets, help them earn fair compensation for their products, and alleviate some of the administrative burden related to producing poultry products.

The Local Food team spoke with Libby Reed, farmer at Orange Star Farm, to learn more about the cooperative farm model and why she believes cooperative farms work well for farmers with small businesses.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Learn about how you can support mental health for farmers

In 2019, Washington farmers and their families are facing tough challenges – increased development pressures, economic uncertainties, and spring weather challenges have added to the normal stresses of farming. Barriers to getting help may be equally challenging. Where can farmers go for support to deal with these stressful times?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and King County is dedicated to supporting mental health for farmers this month and every month. Farmers are a high-risk population, with suicide rates consistently above those of the general population. Read this blog post to read about the resources that may help if you are a farmer who needs to talk to someone, or you are someone who is worried about a farmer.

Farmstand Local Foods: Addressing barriers to small-scale farmers through distribution efforts

Farmstand Local Foods is an organization that links urban commercial customers to a diverse range of local ingredients through the use of a modern, convenient ordering and delivery system. Farmstand focuses on facilitating and maintaining connections between producers and consumers to demonstrate the value and importance of viable local farms.

The Local Food team interviewed Austin Becker, Farmstand Local Foods manager, to better understand how Farmstand serves small-scale farmers through farm-to-restaurant connections and distribution efforts.

The story of The Grange restaurant: why investing in local food matters to restaurants, farmers, and consumers

Many organizations in King County exist to support the farm-to-restaurant pipeline. The Seattle Good Business Network (SGBN) is an organization that connects and inspires people to buy, produce, and invest locally, so that everyone has a meaningful stake in the local economy. The Local Food team interviewed Andrea Porter, SGBN Seattle Made Program Manager, to learn more about why local food matters to restaurants and consumers.

After better understanding why local food matters to restaurants and their customers, the Local Food Team interviewed Luke Woodward, farmer, owner of The Grange restaurant, and part-time program manager of the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, to better understand how his extensive farming experience has influenced his restaurant decisions to source locally.

From soil to table: A local farmer’s perspective on working with chefs in King County

Steel Wheel Farm in the Snoqualmie Valley is a small, first-generation family farm focused on improving the way produce is grown, harvested, and distributed. Steel Wheel sells their produce to local restaurants and at farmers markets in Issaquah, University District, and Capitol Hill, as well as at their on-site farm stand in Fall City.

The Local Food team spoke with Steel Wheel farmer Ryan Lichtenegger about how he builds relationships with restaurants, the challenges and opportunities Steel Wheel faces when working with restaurants, and some of his future plans for the farm.

Year-round farmers markets bring creativity, connections, and enjoyment to King County

There has been an increase in year-round farmers markets in King County over the past decade that provide shoppers with access to local food and new varieties of fruits and vegetables throughout the year. There are also challenges that come with the choice to farm year-round.

The Local Food Initiative team recently spoke with Jennifer Antos, Executive Director of the Neighborhood Farmers Markets (NFM) to learn more about why farmers choose to sell year-round; the challenges and opportunities of year-round markets; and what’s next for year-round markets in King County.

Recycled water use in King County: Navigating water rights with innovative solutions

Many agricultural lands in King County lack access to irrigation water or do not have sufficient water to meet the farm’s needs. Access to a stable water source significantly influences how farmland can be used. Irrigation improves crop yields, allows for more diverse crops, and can generate higher revenues for farmers.

To more accurately understand the scope of water needs in King County, the King County Agricultural Program will begin a County-wide agricultural water needs assessment in 2019. There is not enough current information to determine how much water is needed for King County farms to successfully produce crops. The water needs assessment will be important for managing and conserving water in King County.

Meanwhile, King County is exploring innovative solutions in the Sammamish Valley to provide increased access to irrigation. One solution is using recycled water on farmland, which is called out as a priority action in King County’s Local Food initiative.