Supporting Our Agricultural Community
Farming is more than producing a product to sell - creating a compelling story for your farm, building a customer base, and networking with other farmers are all necessary steps to success as well. There are many organizations and resources available to farmers and producers to learn how to market your business, including workshops put on by Goosefoot, Northwest Agriculture Business Center, and WSU Extension - Island County.
Growing your business brand through social marketing, networking groups, and local brands like Whidbey Island Grown can bring more customers to your products. Sometimes the best advice and support comes from other farmers who are having similar experiences. Whatever your stresses or obstacles are on your farm, you're probably not alone. Reach out to your farm community to find peers or mentors that can help in the hard times and celebrate with you in the good times.
One way to tap into the farm community is by joining the Whidbey Island Growers Association is an informal group comprised of the island's different farmers - both long-term islanders and newcomers, crop, livestock, ranch, and more - and provides the local ag community an opportunity to network, share resources, continue learning, and voice their needs to support organizations. Learn more about the evolution of our group - now a seasonal FarmWalk event series, where you can learn from each other in small groups out on the farm. The Whidbey Island Growers Association is coordinated together between Whidbey Island Conservation District and WSU Extension - Island County.
Walk With Us:
Sign up by clicking the button below to receive email updates about upcoming seasonal FarmWalks, and follow us on Facebook and YouTube, too.
The Whidbey Island Growers Association (WIGA) was originally formed in a very spontaneous way by farmers over five years ago. It has morphed and shifted its purpose and role many times, but I think we’ve landed on something truly great now.
"WIGA exists to provide a space for Whidbey’s farmers to get to know each other, to facilitate and foster an environment where differences of approach and opinion are celebrated, and where solutions may spontaneously be found, creative ideas take hold as the result of new conversations, and understandings of one another deepen to strengthen our farming social landscape."
Beginning in spring 2021, the Whidbey Island Growers Association has teamed with host farms throughout the island to offer seasonal FarmWalks - farmer-to-farmer on-farm events, each featuring a north, central, and south Whidbey farm as the host. Through the theme of Collaboration and Connection, these seasonal FarmWalks are meant to provide a relaxed, low stress break from the busy work lives of our island's farmers and will be kept intentionally small in size (10 pre-registered attendees) as a means to foster new and deeper professional connections between the island's farmers and farm supporters.
At each FarmWalk, not only will the farmer hosts share their stories and provide a walking tour of their farm operations, but as a group you will be encouraged to also share your stories, questions, and insights. By learning from one another we deepen trust and build better understanding of who we are, as people, as professionals, and our island's farmers.
Seasonal FarmWalk Videos
Each seasonal north, central, and south Whidbey FarmWalk will have a featured "highlight video" recapping key insights shared by each farm host. These videos will be included in the FarmWalk Playlist on YouTube, which you can "subscribe" to Whidbey Island Conservation District to be notified when the newest video is uploaded.
Click a Tab Below for More Resources:
Whidbey Island GROWERS ASSOCIATION RESOURCES
Monthly Farmer-to-Farmer Connections on Whidbey Island
Are you a farmer interested in connecting with others on Whidbey? Join our group of agricultural producers who get together through seasonal on-farm walks to share, connect, and network with one another. The Whidbey Island Growers Association is open to any landowner who considers themselves a farmer and is interested in learning more about local and regional resources and connections for agriculture on Whidbey Island, or a farm-enthusiast and supporter. Staff from the Whidbey Island Conservation District and WSU Extension Island County coordinate the communications and meetings, but topics and activities are guided by member feedback and request. To learn more about how the Whidbey Island Growers Association and how it is different than the Whidbey Island Grown brand, visit here.
Want to join the Whidbey Island Growers Association email list or would like an updated potluck schedule? Contact our office at (360) 678-4708 or use our online form here.
whidbey island grown RESOURCES
Whidbey Island Grown (WIG) is an island-wide collaborative of people and businesses that work together to promote the finest locally grown and locally produced food, products, services, and experiences. WIG members are dedicated to providing these goods and services for Island visitors and residents, while preserving a sustainable rural lifestyle.
Whidbey Island Grown Brand History:
The Whidbey Island Grown brand, first established in 2009, was relaunched most recently in 2017 with new enthusiasm and a more inclusive-focus in building membership by connecting local farmers, wineries, restaurants, caterers, event planners, and more, who all share common value in Whidbey Island as an authentic rural, farm, and culinary destination for those who live and come to visit this place. In 2020, the Whidbey Island Grown movement built and launched an online Food Hub / Co-Op. To access an introductory letter from Northwest Agriculture Business Center, click here.
To learn more about the initial relaunch, read the Whidbey Island Farm Tour to Whidbey Island Grown transition letter. To access the Food Hub and its story, visit here.
Are you interested in becoming a Whidbey Island Grown member? To learn more about membership benefits, visit here. If you are interested in seeing current members, click here.
Whidbey Island Conservation District's Involvement:
Staff from WICD have been involved in the Whidbey Island Grown relaunch effort through past participation in monthly Steering Committee meetings and resources and event support to the brand rebuild.
local AG RESOURCES
Whether you're planning that next stage of your business, looking for opportunities to connect locally with other farmers, interested in financial incentives to increase conservation actions on your property, or something else - below is a selection of local, regional, state, and federal programs that may interest you if you're a farmer or someone who supports local farming on Whidbey Island.
Goosefoot's mission is to build a sense of place and community, preserve rural traditions, enhance local commerce, and help create a healthy, sustainable future. They offer workshops at minimal cost for farmers and others interested in pursuing a small business, as well as host events in the south Whidbey Island area. They also promote economic development through a variety of endeavors. To learn more visit the Goosefoot website.
Chris Williams keeps in touch with the beat of Whidbey Island's farms! This free email listserv is managed by Chris and is a great place to share educational opportunities, or if you're selling a product and want to reach a local audience for free. Check out the Free Range News blog or sign-up to receive regular email updates on everything from cooking classes, gardening tips, events, volunteer opportunities, and personal insights. She's done the investigative work for you, so don't miss this great resource!
The South Whidbey Tilth chapter was founded in 1982 on the mostly rural south end of Whidbey Island. South Whidbey Tilth is a nonprofit corporation whose gardeners and farmers raise crops in the Maritime Northwest cool, wet weather conditions, which often require special measures for success. South Whidbey Tilth's activities include bimonthly member newsletters and business meetings; at least four public educational programs a year; a tour of member's gardens each July; educational booths at public activities like the Whidbey Island Area Fair; ongoing hands-on learning experiences at our developing sustainable agriculture center; and a series of Tilth sponsored gardening classes each winter. To learn more, visit the South Whidbey Tilth website.
Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization with supporters in 150 countries around the world who are linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment. Slow Food Whidbey Island is an educational not for profit organization run by an all-volunteer board of directors. In 2010, Slow Food Whidbey Island was founded and officially got it's 501(c)(3) status in 2013. We are supported by members and a network of volunteers who help with planning and executing our events. We are here to share the idea that food is good, clean and fair food for all.
The Organic Farm School (OFS), located on acreage in the Maxwelton Valley of South Whidbey Island, offers a full-time, 8-month, experiential training program designed for aspiring farmers to learn and practice the skills they need to run a small-scale organic farm. Through attending weekly lectures, discussions, and demonstrations on topics including organic crop and livestock production, soil science, business planning, and direct marketing, as well as cooperatively managing the eight-acre student farm, participants receive a thorough education in organic small farm management. Participants also learn to conduct on-farm research through variety trials and group projects, while bi-weekly field trips to regional farms allow participants to see a variety of farming styles and talk to experienced producers. To learn more, visit the Organic Farm School website.
regional AG RESOURCES
Northwest Agriculture Business Center is based out of Mt. Vernon, but whose services are available to all agricultural producers throughout the region, and provides Northwest Washington farmers with the skills and the resources required to profitably and efficiently supply their products to consumers, retailers, wholesalers, foodservice operators and food manufacturers. For more information, visit www.agbizcenter.org.
The Cultivating Success™ Program offers a series of courses that provide beginning and existing farmers with the planning and decision-making tools, production skills and support necessary to develop a sustainable small acreage farm. The Cultivating Success Program is a collaboration of Washington State University, the University of Idaho and the non-profit organization Rural Roots, and are taught mostly by County Extension educators. Contact Loren Imes at WSU Ext. Island County for questions or to learn more about the program: www.cultivatingsuccess.org &
The Viva Farms Incubator started in 2009. The Port of Skagit leases 33 acres to Viva Farms that are subleased to new farmers to launch and grow their businesses. Viva minimizes prohibitive start-up costs by providing access to shared resources: education, training, equipment, technical assistance, capital, land, and markets. Ongoing agricultural and entrepreneurial support from Viva Farms' staff, local agricultural support groups and peers increases the likelihood of early-stage success. Core areas of support include organic production practices, marketing, sales, distribution, record keeping and liability management. Farmers also complete courses in WSU’s Cultivating Success. Each 12 week course is offered annual Sustainable Small Farming and Ranching in the fall, and Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Farm Business Planning in the spring. The farm incubator is not an end point for farmers. It is a starting point to transition them to farm ownership and secure long-term tenure. Once farmers establish stable agricultural enterprises at the incubator, Viva Farms will help them relocate to new land and continue growing their operations. To learn more, visit the Viva Farms website.
Situated in the beautiful Pacific NW, between the Cascade Mountain Range and the Puget Sound, The Farm serves as the cornerstone for all things Growing Veterans. Using the farm as the platform, we engage local veterans and community members- bridging the gap and providing an example of the amazing things Growing Veterans can accomplish when we work together. For veterans, GV create opportunities for personal and professional development. GV often serves as a professional stepping stone, giving vets an opportunity to build their resume and their individual skill sets. Beyond that, GV is also a place for vets to come, help out, and hang out with other vets who share similar experiences. GV aims to provide as many opportunities for our vets to get involved as possible. Opportunities include employment, professional volunteerism, internships, fellowships, and AmeriCorps positions. Your activities with GV do not have to be limited to peer-support and the farm or market- GV has veterans helping out with organizational development, fundraising, business and community networking, and educational projects. For community members, GV provides a means for veterans and the community to work alongside each other. By sowing seeds in the fields together, GV also sows lasting friendships and helps bridge the gap between the military veteran and civilian populations. A day on the farm with GV's vets removes previously held stereotypes and shows our community that veterans are assets and allies in the sustainable agriculture movement. To learn more, visit the Growing Veteran's website.
Washington FarmLink - A program of Tilth Alliance
Washington FarmLink is the state’s leading program to link aspiring farmers and landowners and help build sustainable farming operations. FarmLink helps ensure that working farms remain in agricultural production and helps facilitate the transition of farms to the next generation by connecting people with the resources and technical expertise necessary to achieve these goals through:
Tilth Alliance - Tilth Alliance, based out of Seattle, has a mission to build an ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially equitable food system. As a non-profit organization, they do their work through trainings, hotlines, workshops, and more. Visit the Tilth Alliance website.
WSU AgWeatherNet - AgWeatherNet provides access to current and historical weather data from the Washington State University's automated weather station network along with a range of models and decision aids. The weather data, advisories, customized weather alerts, and decision support systems provided by AgWeatherNet and WSU can help improve production and product quality, optimize resource use, and reduce environmental impact. Visit the AgWeatherNet website.
state & federal AG RESOURCES
United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service is a federal agency with field offices located throughout Washington state to assist in voluntary conservation on rural lands. NRCS offers voluntary programs to eligible landowners and agricultural producers to provide financial and technical assistance to help manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. Through these programs, the agency approves contracts to provide financial assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns or opportunities to help save energy, improve soil, water, plant, air, animal and related resources on agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest land. Below are a sampling of the financial assistance programs available to rural landowners on Whidbey Island. Click on the link for each program to learn more, or subscribe to receive financial assistance updates directly to your email by visiting here.
Financial Assistance to Rural Landowners
Office Phone: (360) 428-7684
Office Address: 2021 E. College Way, Suite 214, Mt. Vernon, WA 98273
The Washington State Farm Service Agency serves the agricultural community through 25 county USDA service centers and one state office, located in Spokane. The Washington FSA State Committee and locally-elected county committees provide producer input to federal farm programs. FSA helps to ensure a stable food supply for the nation by supporting American farmers. This is accomplished through the implementation of farm programs authorized by Congress. The programs currently carried out in Washington State are categorized under: Conservation, Disaster Assistance, Price Support, Farm Loans, and Energy Programs. To learn more about the FSA's services, visit the Washington State Farm Service Agency website.
USDA's Rural Development Office is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America. The office offers loans, grants, and loan guarantees to help create jobs and support economic development and essential services, and supports loans to businesses through banks, credit unions, and community-managed lending pools. Additionally, technical assistance is offered through the office to help agricultural producers and cooperatives get started and improve operations effectiveness.
To learn more, visit the USDA Washington State Rural Development office website.
The Office of Farmland Preservation (OFP), a program within the Washington State Conservation Commission, works to address the rapid loss of working farm and forest lands in our state. They do this through:
The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has been serving the state's agriculture community and the public for more than 100 years. The mission is: Through service, regulation, and advocacy, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) supports the viability and vitality of agriculture while protecting consumers, public health, and the environment. The nature of WSDA's work falls into three categories:
WorkSource is a statewide partnership of state, local and nonprofit agencies that provides an array of employment and training services to job seekers and employers in Washington. Customers access services electronically through WorkSourceWA.com or through a network of more than 60 WorkSource centers, affiliates and connection sites. Here in Washington state, WorkSource helps thousands of farmworkers find jobs and connect with important community resources. To learn more, visit the WorkSourceWA Farmerworkers Resources page.
Did you know that Puget Sound Energy (PSE) offers free energy upgrades for your farm and agricultural business? If you are looking to cut your energy bills, you should consider visiting PSE's website to learn about the services available at-no-cost to you at www.pse.com/sbdi.
Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS) - The Agricultural Marketing Service is an agency within the United States Department of Agriculture and has programs in five commodity areas: cotton and tobacco, dairy, fruit and vegetation, livestock and seed, and poultry. These programs provide testing, standardization, grading and market news services for those commodities, and oversee marketing agreements and orders, administer research and promotion programs, and purchase commodities for federal food programs. Visit the AMS website.
ATTRA National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service - ATTRA is a program developed and managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). NCAT is a private nonprofit organization, founded in 1976, which manages a series of projects that promote self-reliance and sustainable lifestyles through wise use of appropriate technology. Its programs deal with sustainable and renewable energy, energy conservation, resource-efficient housing, sustainable community development, and sustainable agriculture. Check our ATTRA's National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website.
Better Ground -Better Ground is about taking small stewardship actions at home and in our communities to conserve land, water, forests, wildlife, and related natural resources. "Better Ground" is an effort to increase conservation outcomes in the Puget Sound region and to enroll more citizens in conservation efforts. It's a collective initiative of your regional Puget Sound Conservation Districts, a group of 12 trusted agencies who help you find solutions for your backyard, farm, forest, or property within your community - and all for free! Visit the Better Ground website.
Farmers.gov - Farmers.gov provides farmers, ranchers, private foresters, and agricultural producers with online self-service applications, educational materials, engagement opportunities, and business tools to increase efficiency and productivity while preserving and fostering long-held traditional relationships between local USDA offices and producers. Visit the Farmers.gov website.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) -
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. NSAC’s vision of agriculture is one where a safe, nutritious, ample, and affordable food supply is produced by a legion of family farmers who make a decent living pursuing their trade, while protecting the environment, and contributing to the strength and stability of their communities. There are some great resources for farmers on the NSAC Publications page.
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) - Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education is a competitive research and outreach program that advances sustainable agriculture across the whole of American agriculture. SARE is administered through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and is run by four regional councils of producers, researchers, educators, and government representatives that set SARE policy and make grants. Successful SARE grantees are producers, researchers, nonprofit organizations, and educators engaged in projects that simultaneously address the three "P's" of sustainability:
Web Soil Survey (WSS) - Web Soil Survey provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. Operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), it provides access to the largest natural resource informatino system in the world. NRCS has soil maps and data available online for more than 95 percent of the nation's counties. The site is updated and maintained online as the single authoritative source of soil survey information. Visit the Web Soil Survey website.
District staff also provide technical assistance to farm operators to enhance productivity and protect natural resources.
Where Can You Market Your Farm?
Whidbey Island Grown is a collaboration of local producers and businesses that promotes locally grown food, services, and experiences to residents and tourists on the island. You can buy and sell local products via their Food Hub, join a member cooperative and participate in a farm product buyer's club for discounted products.
The Puget Sound Food Hub is a farmer-owner cooperative operating in the Puget Sound region that aggregates, and distributes locally produced food from local farms to restaurants, hospitals, preschools, grocery stores, universities and more.