WSDA Regional Markets
Recently, more than 30 farmers, chefs, school nutrition workers and others gathered together in the Methow Valley to connect, tour local farms and discuss the challenges they all face in the local agriculture region.
The gathering was the Methow Valley Farm-to-Chef & Shelf Farm Tour and Business Networking Event, held on May 8. The project was a partnership between WSDA’s Food Assistance and Regional Markets program, or FARM, and the Methow Conservancy’s Agricultural Program. The group included small to mid-sized diversified farmers, buyers from restaurants, schools and resorts as well as retailers.
|Stina Book explains the grafting process for fruit trees at Booth Canyon Orchard.|
The WSDA FARM Team’s Local Buying Mission Project aim is to connect Washington specialty crop farmers with interested buyers, and educate both sides on the components of a successful buying and selling relationship.
Participants visited two farms to learn about their unique marketing outlets within the Methow region and the Seattle area. One was Booth Canyon Orchards, which has more than 55 varieties of organic tree-ripened pears and apples that they sell into the Seattle area market. The other was Willowbrook Organic Farm, a diversified row crop operation specializing in serving the Methow Valley market with produce ranging from micro-greens and root crop vegetables to value-added sauerkraut varieties. These farm stops highlighted the diversity of farming opportunities in the Methow and got buyers out on the farm to see the grit and hard work that goes into daily farming operations.
The afternoon wrapped up with a group discussion on the opportunities and challenges in sourcing and selling in the Methow Valley.
During the discussion, the group explored reasons why farmers in the Methow choose to sell outside of the region, with some farmers explaining that it is harder to make multiple small deliveries in a fairly large region like the Methow Valley than selling in the Seattle area, where they can get a higher price and sell larger volumes.
Buyers expressed interest in sourcing from Methow producers and their commitment to finding innovative ideas to make it work.
|Participants sample kraut at Willowbrook Organic Farm’s commercial kitchen.|
The farmers attending the event were happily surprised by the support they have in the region and expressed gratitude towards having shared values of local food in their community.
The day concluded with additional time for participants to network, establish new relationships and explore potential sales. You can visit www.methowgrown.org for more information about the diversity of farmers and the products they offer in the Methow Valley.