As many farmers markets across King County wind down until next summer, the Local Food Initiative team wanted to share another way you can source fresh, local produce, and even have it delivered to your doorstep. We spoke with Chris Teeny, co-owner of Pacific Coast Harvest (PCH) and Farmstand Local Foods, about what these brands are doing to make it easy for individuals – and for larger customers such as restaurants – to support local growers.
Rows of kale, eggplant, corn, and other late summer vegetables extend for nearly 5 acres across one corner of Horseneck Farm in early September, located just a few miles south of downtown Kent. On a clear day, Mt. Rainier towers behind the trees in the distance. This setting – a small, green retreat within a hub of manufacturing – is just one of five King County-owned farms leased to area farmers through its Farmland Leasing Program. The goal is for marginalized and beginning farmers to have land access to grow their agricultural businesses despite increasingly expensive property prices across the county.
epartment of Agriculture. While beekeeping is often done in rural areas, with some hives being transported farm to farm to foster pollination, a small company is supporting local farms and bottling honey produced in the Seattle metro area through a network of beehive hosts.
On a typical day, you can find Caitlin Ames harvesting vegetables, guiding interns and volunteers, and generally keeping tabs on the ever-evolving to-do list at Matsuda Farm, where they have been manager for five years.
According to the nonprofit ReFED, over a third of food products in the U.S. went to waste in 2019. From crops that are unharvested, to grocery stores that stock excess inventory, to shoppers who buy more than they can use, food waste propels climate change and harms the budgets of key players in our food system.
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.
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!
Have you ever wondered how food banks access local farm fresh produce in King County?
Harvest Against Hunger, formerly Rotary First Harvest, works with farmers, truckers, volunteers and others to bring valuable skills and resources into hunger relief efforts in communities across Washington state and beyond. The Harvest Against Hunger (HAH) Farmers Share Program helps increase access to healthy fresh foods in high need populations by developing direct purchasing agreements between farmers and food banks. This new program is funded through the Regional Food System Grant from the King Conservation District.
The Local Food Team spoke with David Bobanick, HAH Executive Director, and Gayle Lautenschlager, HAH Farmer’s Share Americorps VISTA, about the Farmer’s Share program and how they are cultivating relationships with and between farmers and food banks.
Rising land costs have made finding affordable farmland a significant challenge to starting a new farm business in King County. In order to help new farmers overcome this land access challenge, SnoValley Tilth created the Experience Farming Project (EFP), which leases farmland and infrastructure to farmers looking to start sustainable businesses and offers easy access to resources, education and community through SnoValley Tilth’s Farm Services.
Thanks to a strategic partnership between SnoValley Tilth and King County, EFP will continue to expand and offer its programming to more farmers.