Friday, December 3, 2021

Small farms succeed with assistance from WSDA’s Regional Markets team

Laura Raymond
WSDA Regional Markets Program Manager 

If you run a small or midsize direct-marketing farm in Washington state, you know it takes a lot for your business to succeed.

You need to understand the local, state, and federal rules, regulations, and standards and know how to comply with them. You need an effective distribution infrastructure and relationships to ensure that the products you grow or raise can reach customers. If you want to sell in a different marketplace—such as wholesale instead of retail—you need information and guidance to decide whether that market is a good fit and how to be successful within it. You might even need to learn to farm differently. 

WSDA’s Regional Markets team helps small and mid-scale farms in Washington state with all of this—and much more. Their central objective is to help these farms succeed and strengthen local food systems. 

What Regional Markets does

Small farms, which make up 89% of the state’s 39,000 farms, have unique needs when it comes to selling their products on a local or regional scale. Planning, planting, tending, harvesting, storage, processing, and distribution all require different systems than those that are set up for larger producers. 

To help these farms succeed, Regional Markets offers wide range of support, including efforts to:

  • Increase small farm access to local markets.
  • Increase the availability of Washington-grown products in schools and institutions.
  • Encourage connections and infrastructure to boost regional food economies. 
  • Provide farms and food buyers with technical assistance.
  • Provide farms with marketing support and guidance.
  • Facilitate farmer-buyer connections.
  • Support and regulatory guidance for good food safety practices.
  • Advocate for small farms at the national and local levels.
  • Create resources and publications to help farms strengthen local market connections.
  • Provide opportunities to grow or strengthen their businesses through state grant programs. 

Regional Markets is often the first stop for farmers and local food businesses searching for information and resources to sell in their chosen markets. The program also helps buyers such as school districts that want to include local farm products in their menus. They might attend a Farm to School Institute, participate in a Farmer-Buyer Meeting, take part in regularly scheduled Community of Practice calls to connect with others in their sector, or download The Handbook for Small and Direct Marketing Farms (“The Green Book”), the Regional Market's complete guide to direct marketing strategies and regulations. 

By giving small and mid-scale farms the support they need, Regional Markets functions as a key program under the Focus on Food Initiative, which works to connect Washington farmers and food producers with buyers and to ensure that everyone in our state has access to good food.

Learn more about Regional Markets

To learn more about how this program supports small farms, visit the Regional Markets webpage or where you can find information about these grants, and more:

  • Small Meat Processor Capacity Grants
  • COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Grants
  • Farm to School Purchasing Grants
  • Profiting From Your Pivot Program
  • Local Food System Infrastructure Capacity Grants