Skagit Valley’s Viva Farms Receives Nearly $500,000 Grant from USDA
Viva Farms, one of the Skagit Valley Food Co-op’s 4% Friday recipients, is a non-profit organic farm business incubator dedicated to preserving sustainable farming and creating a strong and just food system. On August 9, 2017, Viva Farms was awarded a $488,759 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for their 4-year project, “Farms to Families CSA: Providing SNAP Clients Affordable Access to Local Produce and Food Education through Community Partnerships” in order to “increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers participating in [SNAP].”
SNAP is the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps) designed to help low-income consumers stretch their food dollars and buy healthy food. The Farms to Families Skagit Project will connect family farms and over 40 varieties of healthy produce to low-income SNAP and other consumers in Skagit County. The goal of the project is to increase access, purchase, and consumption of fresh, local, produce by low-income community members through outreach and education; and strengthen community food security through strategic partnerships that connect low-income consumers and regional agricultural producers. Nutrition and food education will be provided to SNAP participants by Washington State University Skagit County Extension (WSU), a major partner in the project. WSU will also create and promote a healthy eating campaign, encouraging increased intake of fruits and vegetables by incorporating locally grown produce into meals.
“This project will not only increase access to healthy produce for limited resourced shoppers, but will introduce them to different ways of preparing and serving the bounty from our farmers,” says Diane Smith, WSU faculty and Food Access Specialist with Skagit Extension. “This benefits both individual health and economic vitality.”
As part of Viva Farms’ mission to support beginning and limited resource farmers, the program provides a new market opportunity for the 13 farm businesses in Skagit currently incubating at Viva Farms. Project Director Michael Frazier says, “It just makes sense for the USDA to invest and connect the produce from local family farms to local consumers who need food assistance. This will help ensure the viability of family farms, while at the same time creating access to healthy food for low income families in our community.”
Viva Farms is a non-profit organic farm business incubator established in 2009. They provide these essentials to new and experienced farmers: bilingual training in sustainable organic farming, and access to land, infrastructure, equipment, marketing and capital. Viva has educated over 700 small farmers (150+ Spanish speakers) in sustainable organic farming, and aggregates and distributes locally grown organic produce via both wholesale and direct to consumer markets in Skagit, Whatcom and King Counties.