Supporting local farms and community with the Farm to Food Pantry program

Supporting local farms and community with the Farm to Food Pantry program

Have you heard of the Farm to Food Pantry program?  

The program was established to purchase produce from local small farms for distribution to food banks. The funding for the program comes from WSDA (Washington State Department of Agriculture) and Harvest Against Hunger grant funding, as well as community donations from businesses and individuals. Last year two individuals even donated their stimulus checks to support the program!

Contracts are written between a farmer and their assigned food bank for produce items that are popular and useful to food bank visitors. The farmer is paid up front in the Spring and given the flexibility to fulfill the contract to the Food Bank throughout the growing season. 

The program is especially helpful to small and new farmers building their businesses as it provides guaranteed income early in the growing season when they need it the most.  Food banks benefit by getting the freshest local produce available and by building a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship with local farmers.  And the visitors to the food banks benefit by getting fresh, nutritious, tasty, and often organically grown food.  This all adds up to create a stronger community for us all! 

Both Jefferson and Clallam Counties participate in this program.  The Jefferson County partner is Jefferson County Food Bank Association and in Clallam county the program is facilitated through WSU Clallam County Extension.

In 2020, 3,084 pounds of produce were purchased through the Clallam County Farm to Food Pantry Program!  Many farms also donated extra produce beyond what they were contracted for. Thirty different types of produce were purchased through this program, ranging from items like cauliflower and snap peas, to salad mix, raspberries and cherry tomatoes. 

Produce was provided by The Farm, Joy Farm, Chi’s Farm and River Run Farm in Sequim, Wild Edge Farm in Port Angeles, and Purple House Farm and Reaume’s Organic Farm in Beaver. 

Elli and Baylan Rose of Joy Farm who still farm using draft horses

.The produce was distributed to the Jamestown S’Klallam Food Bank, Sequim Food Bank, Lower Elwha Food Bank, Port Angeles Food Bank, Forks Food Bank, Quileute Food Bank, and the Neah Bay Food Bank. 

This is the 6th year that Clallam County is participating in the program.  SisterLand Farms and Hidden Penny Farm, both in Port Angeles, have joined the program for 2021. 

Sharah Truett with WSU Clallam County Extension serves as the Farm to Food Pantry program lead for Clallam County.  She recently had the privilege of visiting with farmer Melissa Levenstein at Hidden Penny Farm.  This is the second year that this inspiring new 1/3 acre no-till farm is in operation.  Sharah said of this small farm located near downtown Port Angeles:  

“It is incredibly tidy, productive and dense. Melissa sells a diverse range of produce at the Farmers Market as well as to the Farm to Food Pantry Program. Melissa told me she was grateful to have the prepaid Farm to Food Pantry contract this Spring, because it came in at a time when she needed to buy farm supplies like seeds. We are so grateful to Melissa for her contribution and dedication to the program. She has worked incredibly hard this year to expand her farm, especially considering she was holding down a second job and planning her wedding at the same time. Well done, Farmer Melissa!”

Melissa at her Hidden Penny Farm. Photo credit: Jimena Peck

And indeed, Melissa is doing a great job as she works to build her farm and bring local goodness to our community’s tables.  She is growing food with care and concern for the soil and the climate and is offering a farm walk and talk on Sunday, October 10th to explain how she uses no till methods and its benefits.  Sign up here.  

In addition she has an on-line ordering system on which you can also purchase Wild Edge Farm’s pastured pork & beef, and veggies–an easy way to get your local food.  She happily accepts EBT for payment for those using food assistance programs. You can order online here. In honor of Eat Local First month, if you place an order online with Hidden Penny during the month of September you will get an additional gift of something delicious and local and you might even find an Eat Local First Olympic Peninsula bumper sticker or magnet in there too.

When you support our local farmers you are doing SO much more than buying fresh healthy produce for your family, you are truly supporting our neighbors, our small businesses, our economy, our natural resources and more.  

Sally Constant, River Run Farm, Sequim

Learn more about the Food to Farm Pantry program that supports farmers like Hidden Penn, Joy Farm, River Run and so many more as they support our neighbors who rely on food banks: 

WSDA’s Farm to Food Pantry Initiative page 




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