By Sheryl Wiser, Manager of Business Partnerships & Puget Sound Fresh
Don’t let the name fool you! Whether you are just starting out in farming or you are a seasoned producer looking to diversify your business through the creation of a value-added enterprise, the new Farm King County website is worth a visit, even for those who don’t farm or have farm-related business in the county.
About Farm King County
Launched April 2016 as a one-stop shop for King County farms to help local farmers and other agricultural businesses succeed, the comprehensive web-based directory of farming resources is relevant to anyone looking to start, operate and grow a successful farm enterprise.
“While Farm King County was built as an online resource to help navigate the challenges for new and diversifying farms in King County, the information about business planning, food safety, financing, land preservation and water rights, is the most relevant information for small farms in Washington,” said Patrice Barrentine of King County’s Agriculture Program. “And the information on local zoning and permitting requirements in King County may also inform what farmers need in their own counties across the state. We’re thrilled to make this resource available to everyone online.”
Farm King County is unique compared to other county-based farm sites due to the multi-stakeholder collaboration of nonprofits and government groups committed to expanding local farming, including King County, King Conservation District, Washington State University Extension, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Tilth, City of Seattle, NABC and USDA.
Resources for Success
Featured content contains four sections focused on starting, operating and growing a successful farm enterprise: the Business of Farming (planning tools and financial resources), Access to Farmland (buying, leasing, or building), Food Production (crops, livestock, and soil fertility) and Marketing and Food Safety (assistance with selling successfully and safely).
Need to navigate business planning, financing, farm labor and taxes? You might find the professional services and templates helpful in making business plans clear and fundable. Seeking farm financing or funding to help you purchase or improve your farm? The site walks you through every part of the process from preparing to talk with a bank to applying for a grant.
Farmers seeking land can view past Washington FarmLink workshops online, read up on innovative land transfers, connect with national and statewide loan programs or delve into leasing resources. If you need to brush up on marketing and food safety skills, you’ll find links to the WSDA’s Food Safety Program and regulations for selling specific products, including meat, dairy, fish and shellfish, fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, honey, mushrooms, nursery products, nuts, poultry, salad greens and more. Or look for workshops, classes and courses that are offered throughout the year around the state, as well as videos on cheesemaking, meat processing and retail inspection.
In addition to the web-based directory of resources, Farm King County also offers a network of technical experts available to answer questions, assist in navigating the directory, and connect users to organizations and service providers for additional support.
There are resources for non-English speakers in Spanish, Chinese and Korean that address multiple issues — from farm product regulations to innovative land transfers. There’s even a link for the Washington state food worker card class and online test available in Filipino, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.
“The knowledge base necessary to farm successfully in the 21st century has become enormous,” says Kate Ryan, Agriculture Program Coordinator for WSU Snohomish County Extension. “Today’s farmer must be an expert on myriad topics: soils, pests, regulations, land use, water issues, customers, markets, fertility, food safety, financing, and much more.”
“Having a resource like Farm King County on hand to help bring new and current farmers quickly up to speed on many of these important subjects is a great step towards returning farmlands back into successful businesses that work in harmony with the land while providing local communities with local farm products,” says Ryan. “Even for farmers who are not located in King County, it can be very beneficial.”
Hope you find these resources useful!