Summer has finally hit Washington; it hasn’t rained in Seattle in nearly two weeks. I’ve heard of the elusive “dry period” since my initial move here and am finally pleased to meet her. The last 18 months have had crazy weather; long, cold winters followed extremely stormy springs and falls – I think last summer was all but three weeks. The weather is supposed to hold so drives many city dwellers outside its confines on the weekends and holidays. With that, the farmlands become alive with activity beyond daily agriculture.
In June, I worked with Puget Sound Food Hub to experience how the food was grown in Washington firsthand. Coming from California, it’s vastly different (California is it’s own food/agricultural economy), Washington has up to 220 growth days per year out of 365. Throughout a beautifully overcast – but not rainy! – day, we toured several dairies, organic produce and livestock farms in Skagit Valley. The goal:
To understand the processes of local makers, the environmental and political costs of what it takes for them to produce the food we eat, and to develop a better understanding of why ORGANIC costs more. The day trip was hosted by the Puget Sound Food Hub (PSFH).
For my readers who don’t know, PSFH is a farmer-owned cooperative connecting Western Washington farmers with wholesale buyers online. PSFH began as a weekly wholesale market under a Mount Vernon I-5 overpass. Over time, the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, a non-profit that works collaboratively with farmers and businesses to increase the economic viability of local agriculture, helped the PSFH develop an online ordering system, source cold storage and an aggregated delivery system.
Weekly online fresh sheets connect wholesale buyers to dozens of farmers; orders are made through one invoice and one delivery. Here’s how it works:
- PSFH gives wholesalers access to produce and fresh food from than 50 local farms through an easy-to-use online fresh sheet.
- Buyers purchase from multiple farms, pay with one invoice and receive all products in one delivery directly to their business.
- The online ordering system saves wholesalers time on sourcing local, fresh food. It also helps farmers by allowing them to spend less time delivering product and chasing paperwork by connecting them directly to the buyer.
- Farmers deliver multiple orders to one aggregation site saving them trips, time and money.
Through their system today, PSFH works with wholesalers from restaurants, hotels, hospitals, grocery stores, universities and more to provide the freshest, local products from Pacific Northwest farmers and food producers from Bellingham to Olympia.
For the farmers that participate, PSFH provides access to wholesale markets, helping them to grow their business. The U.S. food distribution system favors big enterprises, making it hard for the local farmer to sell their products to any wholesale buyer or more commercial company without large barriers. The group helps make the possible. After all, we know that local food tastes better, it’s fresher and nutrient dense. I’d rather have something picked in a few days to a week rather than something that took three weeks to be shipped around the globe.
Growing Veterans – Mt. Vernon | Southern Exposure Family Farm | Bow Hill Blueberries | Bellwood Farms | Osprey Hill Farm | Hunter’s Moon Farm | Hedlin Farms | Skagit River Ranch |Boldy Grown Farms | Silva Family Farm
Here is a look at the day!