Thursday, January 13, 2022

Local food system infrastructure: What’s needed and how WSDA is preparing to help

When a farmer who runs a small or mid-scale operation wants to sell a value added-product locally— whether it’s berries frozen during peak season, sliced and bagged carrots, milled or malted grains, or simply fresh produce packed for wholesale—they face a unique challenge: accessing food supply chain infrastructure that’s right-scaled for them.

To move their products to market, farms and local food producers need licensed food processing spaces, processing equipment, storage (including cold, dry, frozen, and refrigerated), transportation (especially refrigerated), and other infrastructure. The problem: most of the infrastructure currently in place is scaled for large quantities of product destined for national and international markets, making it unusable for small and mid-scale farming operations. 

Jarred products.
These gaps in our local food supply chain are a key reason it can be difficult to connect local producers and local consumers. They can also hinder the growth and economic viability of local food and agriculture businesses. The pandemic revealed that these gaps stretch across the country; vulnerabilities in the U.S. food system highlight the need for strong local food systems that can contribute to the overall resilience of our food supply. 

For these reasons, WSDA is preparing to award Local Food System Infrastructure and Market Access Grants in the coming year. The grant program’s purpose is to improve food supply chain infrastructure and market access for farms, food processors, and food distributors, with an emphasis on women, minority, and small business owners. 

Washington’s current food processing infrastructure

The processing and supply chain infrastructure needed to make farm products locally available depends on the specific product and the buyer’s needs. Farmers may need to jar preserves to retail at a farmers’ market or specialty food store. A farm may need individual quick freeze (IQF) equipment to freeze fruits and vegetables for school districts and other institutions to use during the winter months, when they need frozen produce most. Processors need equipment to mill or malt grains, package them, and sell to grocery stores, bakeries, brewers, and distillers. Farms may need upgraded on-farm infrastructure to wash, pack, and deliver produce to food banks or restaurant and food service kitchens. And the list goes on. 

Packaged carrots.

Many buyers, especially institutions such school districts, hospitals, or corporate food service accounts, typically purchase minimally processed foods—foods that are cleaned, cut, and ready to use. Lacking the infrastructure to create these products is a significant barrier to expansion for small farms.

For the past four decades our food system trended towards consolidation of food processing, storage, and transportation to make them efficient on a grander scale. Though highly efficient, these systems are inaccessible to smaller operations. The trend has led to lack of investment in regionally scaled infrastructure, including the near-disappearance of co-packers that help small farms develop and process value-added products. Making this infrastructure obtainable is essential to closing the local supply chain loop.

Small-Scale Food Infrastructure in Action

Some farms and food hubs have developed innovative approaches, working together to help fill the gap. Cloud Mountain Farm Center, which is located near Bellingham and serves as an aggregation center for farms in the area, invested in cold food processing equipment and a WSDA-certified processing room more than five years ago. 

Director Elizabeth Hayes says the setup allows small farms to expand into minimally processed cold foods. Currently, three farms regularly use the equipment and another three to five farms use it for special projects each season. Products include cut greens, sliced and bagged carrot coins, kimchi, salsa, and other goods. One farm hosts a dehydrator in the space to dry alliums and Basqe peppers. Farms can also rent cold storage space for their goods.

LINC Malt, a project of LINC Foods, a worker- and farmer-owned food hub based in Spokane, provides small grain producers in the Inland Northwest with malting services to transform their grains into a regionally unique product they can sell to brewers and distillers. Malting is a complex process that involves soaking grains, allowing them to germinate, then drying and toasting them at just the right time. Because the expense and expertise required to run such an operation are far beyond the scope of most growers, this operation opens up markets that would otherwise remain closed to many of Washington’s grain producers.

Brian Estes, partnership director, says LINC’s malting operation produces between 300 and 330 tons of finished malt for six to eight regional growers each year. Since they started the operation in 2016, they have worked with 60-70 brewers and distillers, primarily located in Washington and Oregon. 

These are just two examples of the ways that investments in infrastructure and collaborative approaches create opportunities for individual farms and food businesses and benefit the local food economy.

Infrastructure and Market Access Grants

The cost of developing these systems is far too high for an individual small farm to shoulder alone. But with the help of grants, such as forthcoming WSDA Local Food Infrastructure, Supply Chain, and Market Access Grants, farmers and farming communities can put systems in place that make sense for small and mid-scale farms across Washington State. 

These infrastructure grants are possible because the legislature allocated a total of $17 million to strengthen Washington’s food system and develop small businesses. The grants will include two funds:

  • $8 million for local food system infrastructure and market access grants, prioritized for women, minority, and small business owners.
  • $9 million to improve food supply chain infrastructure and market access for farms, food processors, and food distributors.

WSDA is pleased to support food infrastructure and access projects through these awards. Right now, WSDA Regional Markets Program is gathering input via the Input Survey: WSDA Local Food Infrastructure, Supply Chain and Market Access Grants. Please take the survey and help shape the design of these important grants. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

WSDA advises ag industry to prepare for flooding

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications 

Aerial photograph of flooding in Washington state.
Washington has seen its fair share of wintry weather conditions in recent weeks. Now with warmer temps projected, weather experts forecast significant flooding in areas of Washington. With spring just months away, it is never too late to prepare for more foul weather to come. 

Cold weather and severe storms can affect both animal and human health. When it comes to livestock care, remember that wind chill and prolonged cold increases an animal's need for shelter, food, and water. 

Severe weather and flooding events such as Washington has seen recently have the potential to cause catastrophic loss of life and property, as well as financial, crop, and environmental damage to local communities. Animals may be displaced and need temporary sheltering, feeding, and care. They may also be injured or diseased and need veterinary attention. 

With the forecast for flooding in mind, be sure to check out our 10 tips for flood preparation. When flooding has subsided, remove wet hay from barns as soon as possible to prevent spontaneous hay combustion. 

For additional resources and to stay up-to-date on flooding, storms and other emergency or disaster events, visit:

For overall disaster prep: 

For pets and livestock:
Disaster Prep  and county emergency management:
Prep for veterinarians:
Report damage to farms, crops, or livestock to your local U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency Office (USDA FSA). The USDA FSA manages several disaster assistance programs for farmers and ranchers. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Santa’s reindeer cleared to fly into Washington State on Christmas Eve

Dr. Amber Itle
Interim Washington State Veterinarian

Photo courtesy of Ed and Sonya Benhardt
Reindeer Express LLC, Reardan, Wash.
Not all elves make toys, some take care of Santa’s team of reindeer. Washington Interim State Veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle met with Santa’s elf herdsman that oversees reindeer husbandry and care at the North Pole. Santa’s biosecurity plan was reviewed in preparation for his big trip around the world and his paperwork was checked to make sure that all the reindeer met the Washington state animal health import requirements. 

The elves have all been preparing for the big day by taking special care to properly condition the team to ensure they can endure the long flight. The elves work hard to minimize stress by providing reindeer with optimal nutrition, fresh air, clean bedding, and lots of space. 

Santa’s Top 10 Biosecurity Tips 

1. No visitors to the North Pole.

2. Keep a closed reindeer herd.

3. Perform annual laboratory testing for diseases of concern.

4. Establish a relationship with a veterinarian and perform annual exams and vaccinations. 

5. Bring your own reindeer grain, hay, and water for the journey.

6. When traveling, never land on the ground; rooftops are cleaner. 

7. Avoid direct contact with wildlife and domestic animals.

8. Clean and disinfect your sleigh and boots between rooftops, states, and countries and when returning to the North Pole. 

9. Isolate all reindeer returning from toy delivery for 30 days.

10. Designate elves to care for reindeer who have traveled.  

All the reindeer that cross state lines must receive a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) and a permit number to move between States for toy delivery. A CVI is a special animal health document that certifies that the animals listed “are not showing signs of infectious, contagious and/or communicable diseases” and have met all the required vaccinations and testing requirements. Santa’s reindeer tested negative for tuberculosis, brucellosis, and meningeal worms and have maintained “free” status in the CWD Herd Certification Program. 

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph all received clearance to fly into Washington state.  

Make sure to track Santa and the reindeer’s flight path on December 24 using NORAD’s Santa Tracker. 

Remember, if you are moving animals across state lines this holiday season to check to meet the interstate animal movement requirements. 

Santa's certificate of veterinary inspection is all set for the big night. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Grant applications now open for Farm to Food Bank, a program to reduce food waste and feed Washingtonians

Nichole Garden
WSDA Food Assistance Program 

Photo Courtesy of Maddie Price,
Harvest Against Hunger.
A food bank client in Kitsap County visited a local restaurant to thank the chef, who made soup they received at a local food bank during the pandemic shutdown.

The soup the client’s family received—made from scratch using locally grown, donated produce—was just a fraction of the 680 quarts of soup processed and distributed in the area from September 2020 to March 2021 through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Farm to Food Bank grant. 

The soup project was run by Kitsap Conservation District with support from the Olympic Community Action Program. They worked with local chefs who processed more than one ton of gleaned and donated vegetables into 25 different types of soups, which were frozen before distribution to food pantry clients. 

The project provided access to healthy, ready-to-eat meals to food pantry clients, helped reduce on-farm food waste, and even kept a restaurant’s staff employed during the worst part of the shutdown.

TEFAP Farm to Food Bank projects, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the 2018 Farm Bill, helps capture food from agricultural producers to distribute to food pantry clients, while also reducing food waste through partnerships with farms, gleaning operations, and others. 

Another round of Farm to Food Bank grants opened on December 10 for public agencies, tribes, and nonprofit organizations for services provided from April 1 – October 31, 2022.

About the Farm to Food Bank program

With USDA’s TEFAP Farm to Food Bank funding, WSDA is able to support projects across the state that—like the one in Kitsap County—help with the harvest, processing, packaging, or transportation of unharvested, unprocessed, or unpackaged foods that are donated by agricultural producers, processors, or distributors. The food is then distributed by TEFAP emergency feeding organizations to food-insecure Washingtonians. These projects help build relationships between agricultural producers, processors, and distributors.

Year 1 results

In 2020, with little time to implement the program, WSDA prioritized projects with Farm to Food Pantry subcontractors who were already gleaning a tremendous amount of produce for food pantries and meal programs in rural areas, as well as areas identified as food deserts by the USDA. 

In addition to the production of ready-to-eat soups in Kitsap County, Farm to Food Bank funded these activities in its first year.

  • Gleaning: Harvest Against Hunger, our Farm to Food Pantry partner, purchased and distributed harvesting materials, including collapsible produce crates, compostable produce bags, twist-ties, and electronic scales, to aid gleaning organizations that provide food to TEFAP food pantries and meal programs across the state.
  • Refrigeration: Chelan Douglas Community Action Council purchased a refrigerated container and supported the installation of a walk-in refrigerator at Upper Valley MEND, a nonprofit that runs a food pantry and vibrant gleaning program in the heart of orchard country. These investments expanded access to freshly gleaned produce from just a few families to recipients across two counties. 
  • Weekly deliveries and centralized storage: The North East Washington Hunger Coalition made weekly produce deliveries to 15 food pantries across 260 miles. In partnership with Rural Resources Community Action Council they were able to purchase a refrigerated container along the delivery route to safely store donated produce between pickups or transfers to food pantries, reducing the time it takes to deliver perishable foods in this large service area. The funding also employed a dedicated gleaning coordinator. 

Together, these projects captured more than 82,000 pounds of donated produce and aided the production of 1,400 pounds of processed soups that were distributed through TEFAP food pantries. Investments in building refrigerated capacity will help reduce waste for years to come.

Year 2 projects

In the program’s second year, 2021, WSDA opened a grant application period that was open to all of our current contractors. Year 2 projects include:

  • Gleaning: WSDA continued to collaborate with Harvest Against Hunger to fund harvest supplies for qualified gleaning organizations. New items included produce washing stations, tree fruit harvesting bags, and more.
  • Value-added processing support: Chelan Douglas Community Action provided harvesting supplies and funded gleaning coordinator salaries for their subcontractor, Upper Valley MEND. Due to staffing shortages, they were unable to pursue value-added processing by restaurants to the extent they had hoped. Instead, they purchased equipment to support in-house processing in the future.
  • Pantry on the Go: Central Kitsap Conservation District was able to support a portion of their Pantry on the Go Program, a mobile food pantry that supplements TEFAP commodities with donated produce. The program provides food for seniors and people living in low-income housing in rural, underserved areas. They also partnered with Kitsap Conservation District to continue the soup project from Year 1.

Year 3 grant applications 

The application period for the next round of Farm to Food Bank grants are open until January 31 for services that will be provided between April 1 – October 31, 2022. Grants will be a minimum of $30,000 with the total amount allocated $140,000. 

The application is open to public agencies, tribes, and nonprofit organizations. For more details on qualifications and to apply, visit the TEFAP Farm to Food Bank Grants webpage. Email Nichole Garden at for any questions about the TEFAP Farm to Food Bank grant.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Proposed beetle quarantine prompts survey of small businesses in the Grandview area

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

WSDA is working to eradicate Japanese
beetles in the Grandview, Washington area. 
If you have business in the Grandview area, WSDA wants to hear from you as it develops a Japanese beetle quarantine to control the spread of this pest.

Grandview has been dealing with an infestation of Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica). During adult flight season, between May and October, WSDA trappers caught more than 24,000 beetles. It’s a startling number given that only three beetles were caught in the area in 2020 and the kind of damage these invasive pests can do. 

In an effort to control and eradicate the pest, WSDA is planning a multi-faceted approach, including a proposal to quarantine soil and certain other items that could potentially spread the beetles if moved out of the area. 

Before doing that, we’d like to hear from businesses in and around Grandview who may be affected by the rule. The input of business owners and other stakeholders is vital to the rulemaking process. If you think your business might be impacted by the proposed quarantine, please take our survey

Proposed quarantine

WSDA is proposing to amend the quarantine for Japanese beetle by creating a quarantine area around a 49-square mile grid centered on Grandview, Washington. This proposed quarantine area is designed to prevent the spread of Japanese beetle from infested sites within Yakima and Benton counties. 

The proposed quarantine would regulate certain items and impose restrictions on their movement out of the quarantine area. Items for proposed regulation year-round include:

  • Soil (residential, agricultural, construction, and commercial)
  • Humus, compost, and growing media
  • Manure
  • Grass sod (turf)
  • Yard debris
  • Potted plants
  • Bulbs
  • Plant crowns

Items that would only be regulated during adult flight season (May 15 through October 15) include:  

  • Cut flowers
  • Hop bines
  • Corn stalks/harvest silage  

Information collected in the survey will aid in compiling a Small Businesses Economic Impact Statement, which assesses potential impacts the proposed quarantine might have on small and large businesses. The information received will only be used in our assessment of impacts to businesses.

If you do business in the proposed quarantine area and move any of the items listed above out of the quarantine area, please take the survey and help us understand the potential impacts to your business as we formulate a Japanese beetle quarantine for infested areas in the state.

Visit our website to learn more about the Japanese beetle quarantine