Food and Farming Center
After over a decade of visioning and planning, efforts to construct a food and farming center for Snohomish County are finally underway. The Snohomish County Food and Farming Center will be a resource for fruit and vegetable farmers in Snohomish, Whatcom, Skagit, and King counties. Farmers will have access to equipment and infrastructure for the processing, aggregation, distribution, value-added production, direct and wholesale sales of locally produced agricultural products! The center will be accompanied by a commercial kitchen to facilitate value-added production.
Farmers across the region have needed this infrastructure for well over a decade. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the realization of how fragile our food system is and the severe lack of understanding by consumers as to where their food comes from and how to access locally produced food became even more apparent. It became apparent that the key infrastructure needed for farmers to consumers is lacking throughout the region. Our food security is linked to the farms in our own backyards yet the ability to process and sell it is limited.
Snohomish County will not be operating the center but building it and providing the space for an organization to lease and operate the facility.
McCollum Park is being looked at as a possible location.
The Snohomish County Food and Farming Center will be a centrally located facility that will provide access to resources for the processing, aggregation, distribution, valued added production, direct and wholesale sales of locally produced agricultural products. These components were identified by the agricultural community as vital infrastructure for the viability of their farming businesses.
The Snohomish County food hub will include a year-round indoor farmers market, processing, aggregation and distribution center of local farm products.
The Food and Farming Center aims to accomplish the following:
- Provide a link between farmers, producers and buyers in the region.
- Give local farmers and producers the means to market and sell their products to high‐volume buyers. We don't have funding for the market, should we identify this or have less about the market?
- Create a place to purchase local, healthy and fresh food year‐round as well as value‐added foods produced with local ingredients.
- Provide farmers and local entrepreneurs with a commercial kitchen they can rent to process surplus produce and develop value‐added products to sell at the market or deliver throughout the region.
- Contribute to economic viability of agriculture in Snohomish County.
The Food Hub will include these main components:
- A year‐round farmers market, a commercial kitchen, and distribution facilities. Identify this will be in a future phase
- Core operational functions, which include aggregation and distribution and marketing, as well as space and equipment for storage and value‐added processing.
- Coordination efforts with producers in areas such as production planning and delivery logistics.
The Food and Farming Center will provide needed processing, aggregation and a distribution center that will allow for off-farm processing and group distribution and sales. Washing, slicing, packaging, freezing and other services to be identified by the ag community will be available. Processing is desperately needed regionally. Snohomish County farmers are currently not connected to a food hub which leaves each farmer to do their own distribution.
A commercial kitchen for valued added production providing year-round income for producers as well as potential export products. A shared-use kitchen, where individuals can rent existing infrastructure for hourly or daily time blocks, provides a convenient way for food entrepreneurs to access existing infrastructure without the high startup costs. The kitchen will contain (1) commissary kitchens, whose business model is to rent out kitchen time, equipment, and storage; and (2) incubator kitchens, whose business model is to rent out kitchen time, equipment, and storage; with the addition of business development assistance, business counseling.
Some food hubs provide training in areas like food safety or post‐harvest handling and packing. Food hubs also offer community services through educational programs, health‐awareness campaigns and food bank donations, community kitchens etc. Many food hubs include wholesale and retail vending space. The processing facility is anticipated to include equipment for cleaning, slicing, IQF, canning, and product storage.
- Completed community outreach and feedback gathering from local farmers through meetings and surveys on what type of services are needed/wanted for the facility
- Currently seeking and in discussion with companies interested in leasing and operating the future facility
- Currently in process of securing legal representation and owner’s representation for progressive design-build
- Secured $2.5 million in funding from the state and $4.5 million from the county 2022. The county is currently seeking additional funding.
HISTORY AND NEED
A study completed in 2009 titled “A Community Vision for Sustainable Agriculture in Snohomish County, identifies processing, aggregation and distribution as well as commercial kitchen space as key infrastructure needs in the region to sustain the viability of the agricultural industry, meeting increasing regulations and create a sustainable, healthy food system. https://snohomishcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/34998
The Washington State Food Policy Forum was created to make recommendations for improving the food system in Washington. The forums goals are to Increase direct marketing sales and consumption of Washington-grown foods; Expand and promote programs that bring healthy and nutritious Washington-grown foods to Washington residents; Examine ways to encourage retention of an adequate number of farmers for small scale farms, meet the educational needs for the next generation of farmers, and provide for the continued economic viability of local food production, processing, and distribution in the state; and Reduce food insecurity and hunger in the state. The forum has identified processing, distribution, and commercial kitchens as key missing infrastructure. https://www.scc.wa.gov/food-policy
- Focus on Farming
- County aims to help small farmers thrive with new ag center
- Snohomish County proposes agriculture center to help small farmers meet demand
- Bringing “Another Breath of Life” to Agriculture
- Snohomish County Food Hub Roadmap to Redevelopment
Snohomish County Agricultural Coordinator