By Susannah Weaver
The San Juan County FARM Fund is a grant program for increasing local food production and developing sustainable agriculture in SJC. Applications are now being accepted for the 2019 cycle. Producers throughout SJC are eligible to apply for grants up to $2,500. A total of up to $10,000 is available.
The San Juan Islands are experiencing a resurgence of local food and farming in recent years, with both the number of farms and total farm revenue on an upward trajectory. Despite recent gains, many barriers exist that are holding producers back from meeting the increasing demand for local food. One of the primary barriers to increasing production on farms is access to capital.
Beginning as a project of the Orcas Food Co-op, FARM Fund grants are funded by a combination of 0.5 percent of all Orcas Food Co-op Produce Department Sales, funds raised as part of the Orcas Food Co-op Community Hero Program and other community donations.
Created in 2015, the fund awarded over $5,000 to six projects on Orcas Island in its first two years. Now the program is being made available countywide. Learner Limbach, Orcas Food Co-op’s general manager said, “This is the first time the FARM Fund will be available for producers throughout the county, and we are hoping to receive applications for projects on all the islands.”
Past recipient, Marta Nielson of Rainbow Chicken Ranch used the funds to successfully increase organic egg production. “We are grateful to have received a grant two years ago which helped us to improve our water storage system, enabling us to be a supplier of local organic eggs for the co-op.”
The grant submission process is simple, being only a few pages long with minimal reporting. Farmers need only describe their project and commit to an update about how the funding helped them.
In 2018 a relationship was established between the Orcas Food Co-op, Orcas Island Community Foundation, and Island Stewards, an Orcas-based nonprofit, in order to make tax-deductible contributions to the FARM Fund possible. The Co-op is calling on partners that support local agriculture such as nonprofits and businesses that sell local food to help grow the FARM Fund.
“The partnership with OICF and Island Stewards at this stage is important because it means the fund can receive tax-deductible contributions. Our hope is that eventually, the co-op becomes just one of many partners in our community contributing to the fund year after year,” says Limbach. “We recognize that there is a much greater need in our islands than the fund can currently meet. We are grateful to all the partners that have made this step possible”.
The deadline to submit a grant application for the 2019 cycle is March 4. To apply for a FARM Fund grant or to learn more about the program, visit www.orcasfood.coop/farm_fund .
To inquire about becoming a Sustainable FARM Fund Partner please email email@example.com.