Beginning and minority farmers and food producers in Northwest Washington stand to benefit from three new projects undertaken by the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, supported by two USDA grant programs. The Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) was created to help educate, mentor, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers. NABC is partnering on two projects funded through that program: one that benefits neighboring counties Island and San Juan, and another that supports new farmers in Skagit County. The Socially Disadvantaged Groups Grant (SDGG) provides support to cooperatives and Cooperative Development Business Centers like NABC seeking to grow their technical business assistance and outreach to socially disadvantaged groups in rural areas.
Whidbey, Camano, and the Islands in the San Juans are geographically isolated, with limited access to regional markets and regional agricultural support services such as those provided by USDA. The BFRDP effort led by NABC will provide critical production and business development training and technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers, expand the capacity of the Organic Farm School on Whidbey Island to deliver farming-based production and curriculum, facilitate access to farmland, and provide a link to experienced local farmers through a mentoring program.
The Skagit County BFRDP project is overseen by Viva Farms. Other partners include NABC, the Economic Development Association of Skagit County (EDASC), Skagit Valley College, WSU Skagit County Extension, and Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland. Similar to the “Islands” project, the diverse program will include land-based practicum training in English and Spanish, business planning support and classes with some dedicated to pastured poultry enterprises, a farmland mapping project to improve access to land, a Farmer-to-Farmer mentorship program, a Farm-to-School program, and a host of educational workshops. Translation and interpretation services will be available for many of the programs as needed.
The SDGG project will impact farmer participants of all levels of experience. NABC will provide one-on-one and group enterprise evaluation, needs assessment, business development support and training workshops to socially disadvantaged farmers throughout NABC’s six-county service area (Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, King and Whatcom counties). Viva Farms will partner to provide some of the workshops, and the land-based practicum. Assistance will be targeted towards individual and cooperative Latino farming and food enterprises, and also build a framework for providing support to Native American and Hmong farming projects. NABC will hire a new Bi-Lingual Project Manager to recruit and work directly with clients from the Latino farming community.
Miguel Martinez, Supervisor on NABC’s Mobile Poultry Processing Unit, has been recruiting Latino poultry students for the program through radio spots, flyer distribution, and word-of-mouth. The beginning farmers he has spoken to have expressed specific information needs that will be addressed through the program.
“These farmers need guidance in working with wholesale customers, how to find them in the first place, and how to ensure they will have enough sales,” said Miguel. “They are concerned about how to obtain business loans to get started, and how to re-pay the loans plus interest.”
Information gathered before and during the project period will be used to shape the curriculum and services offered in order to address such knowledge gaps, help program participants create sounder business plans, and increase NABC’s future capacity to offer business development services to underserved populations.
For more information, please contact the NABC office: 360-336-3727 or firstname.lastname@example.org