King Conservation District’s Regional Food System Program was established in 2015 to support the action plans of King County’s Local Food Initiative and the Puget Sound Regional Food Policy Council. Based on input from a wide range of local food system advisors, KCD implemented a series of initiatives to strengthen our local food economy. Program components include Regional Food System Grants and Early Action Projects, which are outlined below.
KCD’s Regional Food System Grant Program supports projects that contribute to the economic viability of local farmers, encourage new farmers, expand acreage in food production, improve food access, and increase demand for King County farm products. Eligible applicants include farmers, producer networks, marketing cooperatives, farmers markets, businesses, schools, special districts, nonprofit organizations, tribes, and jurisdictions within KCD’s service area.
In the program’s first two years KCD awarded $1.4 million in grants to 20 organizations to implement a wide range of innovative projects to strengthen our local food economy. See the program page for this year’s timeline and details on previously funded projects.
Early Action Projects
As an essential component of KCD’s Regional Food System Program we initiated a series of Early Action Projects based on the following criteria:
- Actions identified in regional planning goals and by numerous stakeholders.
- Critical early steps toward meeting regional food system economic goals.
- Clearly defined as a specific project or activity.
- Could be accomplished by KCD staff or through contracted work.
Below are examples of some of KCD’s Regional Food System Program early action projects:
Small Scale Chicken Processing Equipment Loan Program
The lack of available farm infrastructure was identified as one of the critical focal areas for the program. Farmers in particular asked us to purchase and loan out the equipment for small-scale poultry processing. In response, KCD acquired a mobile poultry processing unit, which is now available through our Equipment Loan Program. Having the mobile unit available enables more small flock chicken farmers bring poultry to market.
Farm King County: One-Stop-Shop Farm Services
In collaboration with King County and other partner organizations, KCD assisted with funding the development of Farm King County, a web-based directory of farming resources that contains information relevant to starting, operating and growing a successful farm enterprise. Supporting the web-based directory is a network of technical experts that are available to answer questions, assist in navigating the directory, and connect users to organizations and service providers that can provide additional support.
Local Institutional Food Team (LIFT) – $50,000
King Conservation District assisted with formation of the Local Institutional Food Team (LIFT) to increase the amount of local food served in King County schools, hospitals, colleges, and other institutions. A network of food industry experts, LIFT was established to provide technical assistance to purchasers looking for local farm products and those wanting to start or participate in existing projects and programs that support local agriculture. LIFT’s first project is a new web portal to resources available to help institutions buy local agricultural products. To see the wide range of available resources visit the LIFT page.
Snoqualmie Valley Farmers Cooperative
Snoqualmie Valley Farmers Cooperative was incorporated in 2015 with the assistance of a $10,000 grant from King Conservation District. In its first two years the coop grew to 21 farms that collectively market their vegetables. Participating farms range from less than one acre to larger than 80 acres, and the member farmers have a wide range of experience levels—some with just one year of farming under their belts and others with more than 20 years of farming experience.
In 2017 the Snoqualmie Valley Farmers Coop offered a 20-week Veggie Box Program that provided Seattle-area consumers with a diverse array of fresh vegetables through the growing season. In addition to its veggie box program, the coop provided Bulk Sales to restaurants, school districts, institutional cafeterias, and caterers. Snoqualmie Valley farmers are excited about the cooperative’s momentum and look forward to getting products to a larger number of King County eaters!
Auburn Good Food Bag
Auburn International Farmers Market, Tilth Alliance, Washington Community Action Network, and King Conservation District partnered to develop a new approach to providing farm-fresh produce to low-income families. The Good Food Bag program expanded to two new distribution sites allowing the project to reach a broader geographic area, and reaching more priority populations. The project was also able to begin accepting EBT payments for Good Food Bags, increasing accessibility to many low-income families.
Regional Food System Metrics Project
KCD’s Regional Food System Program allocated $125,000 to initiate the Metrics Project to measure progress toward achieving goals of the King County Local Food Initiative. In collaboration with King County and partner organizations, the Food System Program Metrics Project cataloged available farm-related food system data, developed a data mapping portal, supported a local food system metrics dashboard, identified data gaps, and supported baseline data collection to fill key data gaps.
Identifying Direct Market Opportunities and Challenges for King County Farm Businesses: A Strategic Initiative Of King Conservation District
University Of Washington, Center For Public Health Nutrition
Lina Pinero Walkinshaw, Emilee Quinn, Jennifer Otten