By Liza Burke, Communications Director
We are excited to announce that Cascade Harvest Coalition is merging with Seattle Tilth. That means signature programs Puget Sound Fresh and Washington FarmLink will be added to Seattle Tilth’s menu of programs and resources. In a quick turn of events, the merger became effective on December 1, 2015.
Key funding was no longer available to Cascade Harvest Coalition to ensure programs could continue. Therefore, staff and board decided to find a suitable organization to steward their main programs, Puget Sound Fresh and Washington FarmLink. Those programs will continue to operate under the steady management of experienced staff members Sheryl Wiser and Sarah Lowry who are joining the Seattle Tilth team.
Launched in 1998, Puget Sound Fresh is the region’s leading farm-to-table resource for consumers offering comprehensive tools and information to help people find what’s fresh, local and in-season, directly from farms and farmers markets throughout Washington State. Have you seen the Farm Guide? That’s Puget Sound Fresh! If you’ve not had the opportunity to explore their online tools or download the mobile app, check them out.
Washington FarmLink is the state’s primary program linking aspiring farmers and landowners, helping ensure that working farms remain in production by facilitating the transition of farms to the next generation. Did you know that FarmLink has helped save over 3,000 acres of farmland since its beginning five years ago? Good stuff. FarmLink also provides new farmers with resources and training to establish sustainable farming enterprises.
Unifying for a Greater Impact
The timing synchronizes with the recent announcement of a new statewide organization being formed by Seattle Tilth and Tilth Producers of Washington who are joining forces effective January 1, 2016.
Puget Sound Fresh and Washington FarmLink are community-focused agriculture programs and resources that have a regional and statewide reach. With another suite of farm education and advocacy programs coming from Tilth Producers of Washington, the three organizations will now be able to advocate for and create greater systems change on a larger scale as one unified organization.
Executive Director Andrea Dwyer explains, “By unifying our three organizations, we hope to develop one powerful voice that can really make a difference in creating an equitable and sustainable food system. Much work needs to happen before we are fully integrated, and we will proceed in a thoughtful manner. We will be able to do much more together than we ever could working separately.”
The current mission and work of Seattle Tilth and Tilth Producers of Washington is closely aligned with Cascade Harvest Coalition. With their main offices all housed in Seattle’s Good Shepherd Center, all three organizations have maintained a collaborative relationship during Cascade Harvest Coalition’s 17 year history. Each organization has been working to improve local food systems, with programs that support farmers and educate growers and consumers. While the focus and delivery of educational programs have differed, they all share the goal of building a healthy food system.
Seattle Tilth has a history of successfully adopting programs started by other organizations, including Seattle Youth Garden Works, Just Garden, Community Kitchens Northwest and Seattle Tilth Farm Works, all of which have been stabilized, refined and expanded. Seattle Tilth’s programs address sustainability and equity in the full spectrum of the food system: earth, farm, garden, market and kitchen.
The merger with Seattle Tilth brings welcome new energy and development, says Cascade Harvest Coalition’s former Executive Director Mary Embleton. “I’m excited by the potential this new partnership brings. The combined strengths, capacity and vision of these organizations provide fertile ground for growing the legacy and impact of Puget Sound Fresh and Washington FarmLink to producers and consumers throughout the state.”
Why is Cascade Harvest Coalition merging with Seattle Tilth?
Cascade Harvest Coalition learned in September that anticipated grants that have provided ongoing funding would no longer be available. Their board and staff concluded the work of the organization would be best served by joining a larger organization with a strong infrastructure to ensure these important programs could continue to grow and benefit our communities.
What are the advantages of the merger?
The new Tilth organization will benefit greatly from the addition of two excellent programs, Puget Sound Fresh, which includes the widely circulated Farm Guide (over 2.5 million copies in five years!) and great online tools connecting farmers and consumers, and FarmLink, which supports farmers with essential resources such as land. It’s an enormous benefit to farmers, consumers and the entire community that those programs will continue. The staff members that have been managing them will continue, so we expect to keep things running smoothly in the transition.
What are the challenges?
The timeline with Cascade Harvest Coalition has been fast, but ties in well to the planning process to integrate Seattle Tilth and Tilth Producers. Integrating all three organizations will require thoughtful planning which we will be doing throughout 2016. Even though it will not be easy, we are delighted by the opportunity and enthusiasm to build a new organization that will have a greater impact building an equitable and sustainable food system across the state.
What is going to happen with Cascade Harvest Coalition staff?
Cascade Harvest Coalition’s Executive Director Mary Embleton is now manager of the Regional Food System Grant Program with King Conservation District and we wish her all the best. Puget Sound Fresh Manager Sheryl Wiser (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Washington FarmLink Manager Sarah Lowry (email@example.com) are continuing to manage their programs through Seattle Tilth.
What are next steps?
Programs in all three organizations will continue as usual while we learn more about how our combination can lead us to a stronger future. We are beginning a thoughtful and thorough planning process to integrate the three organizations, Cascade Harvest Coalition, Tilth Producers and Seattle Tilth. This is a tremendously exciting time and we look forward to a bright future full of new opportunities.
Stay tuned for updates! We welcome you to share your thoughts and ideas. If you have any questions or feedback, you are welcome to contact Communications Director Liza Burke at (206) 633-0451 ext 103, firstname.lastname@example.org or Executive Director Andrea Dwyer at (206) 633-0451 ext. 104, email@example.com.