Olympic Peninsula Farmers Fund
“We were greatly impacted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic…and the funds will be used for the necessary needs that our Q1 income would usually provide. [We are] so excited that this plan will benefit both us and the local food banks. It’s is such as creative and mutually beneficial plan! We are thrilled to be part of this and to share our honey with those locally, who need quality food the most.”– Olympic Peninsula Farmer
Access to nutritious, locally-grown food is a gift that many of us on the Olympic Peninsula treasure. But this season, many of the local farmers who provide this food are struggling — their livelihoods and futures threatened by COVID-19. Restaurant closures dried up wholesale markets, regional delays in farmers markets reduced needed income, and many farmers are having to make new investments to get their food to remaining markets safely and to explore new markets. At the same time, local families who have lost their jobs are struggling to put food on the table and are turning to local food banks and other feeding programs for support.
Those of us who work with local farmers have tracked the impact of Covid-19 on our food system with growing alarm. In response, North Olympic Peninsula Resource Conservation & Development Council (NODC), WSU Extension Small Farms Program, North Olympic Land Trust and Jefferson Land Trust created the Olympic Peninsula Farmers Fund (OPFF).
Administered by NODC, the OPFF provided pre-paid, long term contracts of $1,500 to $5,000 for farmers to provide food for food banks and feeding programs this season and over the next 3-5 years. Farmers can use the money to pay farm expenses such as land leases, payroll, purchases of seed and animal feed, or even equipment or web site design services to help them adapt to new market circumstances. Food banks will gain a stable source of additional fresh, local food to help families with limited food access.
The partner organizations set an initial goal of raising $50,000 and with fundraising campaigns by Jefferson Land Trust, North Olympic Land Trust, NODC and a grant from Jefferson Community Foundation they exceeded that goal and raised nearly $70,000. Of that, $50,250 has been distributed to 12 farms in Jefferson and Clallam counties and our local food banks have already started benefiting from the program.
The Olympic Peninsula was an early seat of agriculture in Washington. The region and its Dungeness Valley were among the first to be farmed in the state. Today, despite pressure from development that has greatly reduced the amount of agricultural land, the area remains home to a diverse network of small farms that supply fresh, healthy food to area residents and larger cities across the Puget Sound. The mild climate and alluvial soils produce greens, mixed vegetables, fruits and berries, grains, dairy, meat and eggs.
Covid-19 has made the future of some of our farms uncertain while our food banks and feeding programs are seeing a tremendous surge in need. The outpouring of community support for the Olympic Peninsula Farmers Fund will help keep local farmers in business while providing food for area families.