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, and direct and wholesale sales of locally produced agricultural products! The center will be accompanied by a commercial kitchen and an indoor farmers market.
Farmers across the region have needed this infrastructure for over a decade as many local farmers do not have this infrastructure on their own farms. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became apparent how fragile our food system is and that there is a lack of understanding by consumers as to where their food comes from and how to access locally produced food. Our food security is linked to the farms in our own backyards, yet the ability for local farmers to process and sell it to local consumers is limited.
Snohomish County will build the food and farming center and will provide the space for an organization to lease and operate the facility.
McCollum Park is being analyzed 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, and 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 and Farming Center will include a year-round indoor farmers market, a commercial kitchen and a processing, aggregation and distribution center for 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.
- Create a place to purchase local, healthy and fresh food year‐round.
- 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 and Farming Center will include these main components:
- A year‐round farmers market, a commercial kitchen, and distribution facilities.
- Core operational functions, which include aggregation, 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 processing, aggregation and a distribution center that will allow for processing and group distribution and sales. Washing, slicing, packaging, freezing and other services to be identified by the agricultural community will be available.
The commercial kitchen will allow for valued added production providing year-round income for producers and 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 a commissary kitchen, whose business model is to rent out kitchen time, equipment, and storage; and two incubator kitchens, whose business model is to rent out kitchen time, equipment, and storage; with the addition of business development assistance, and business counseling.
The Food and Farming center may provide training in areas like food safety or post‐harvest handling and packing. It may also offer community services through educational programs, health‐awareness campaigns and food bank donations, community kitchens etc.
- 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 construction
- Secured $2.5 million in funding from the state and $4.5 million from the county in 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. This will help to sustain the viability of the local agricultural industry; meeting increasing regulations and creating 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.
- 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