Viva Farms

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Mission Statement

Together, we preserve sustainable farming, and create a strong and just local food system. We empower aspiring and limited-resource farmers by providing bi-lingual training in holistic and organic farming practices, and access to land, infrastructure, equipment, marketing and capital.

Description

Viva Farms is a non-profit student farm and farm business incubator established in 2009. We operate three farms totaling over 88 acres in Skagit and King counties of Northwest Washington. Western Washington is facing a generational crisis in farming as farmers, with an average age of 58, are retiring and the number of farms, farmland acreage and produce processing facilities are all decreasing. The disappearance of these four vital components of our local and regional food economy threatens our food security and will have a lasting impact on our communities if we do not reverse the trend. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the Puget Sound region has lost 60% of its farmland since 1950. According to the American Farmland Trust (AFT), the last acre of farmland in the region could be bulldozed or paved over by 2053 if this trend continues. It is no surprise then, that AFT designated the region the fifth most threatened agricultural region in the nation. In the next 20 years, 70% of all Washington State farmers are expected to retire, with their farmland changing hands. At the same time, to feed the world in 2050, it is estimated that we will need to grow roughly 40% more food. How will we feed people if these estimates become reality? If we don’t train the next generation of farmers and preserve our farmland, who will have the skills and experience to care for our land, grow our food and nourish our communities?
In both counties where Viva Farms’ operates, Skagit and King, the number of farms has decreased between 14-15% from 2007 to 2017. Skagit County alone has lost 35% of its farmland since 1940, shrinking from 150,000 to 97,664 today. Skagit County has over 150 years of rich farming history and is one of the largest and most diverse agricultural communities west of the Cascade mountain range. It has some of the most productive soil in the world. The agriculture industry is 2nd in the Puget Sound Region, and 10th in the state based on crop value. Local farmers produce $300 million annually in over 90 different commercial food crops. The county is a major seed producer for the nation and the world. More flower bulbs are grown here than in any other U.S. county. Agricultural vitality is directly tied to the social, economic and environmental well-being of our region.
We need well-trained beginning farmers to ensure the future vitality of sustainable agriculture in our area. Historically, the knowledge and resources needed to run a successful farm were passed down through multi-generational farming families. Today, many children of farming families are choosing professions outside of farming, creating a gap in those willing and able to continue to farm the land. Fortunately, we can grow the next generation of farmers by engaging aspiring and limited resource farmers and farm workers and helping them overcome barriers to farm ownership. That is where Viva Farms comes in.

Program Details

Viva Farms provides bilingual training in sustainable organic farming, as well as access to all the essentials needed to run a successful farm. Our accredited nine-month Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture (PSA), offered in partnership with local community colleges, is at the core of our training. We offer aspiring farmers and farm workers real life experiences through a full growing season in every aspect of running a successful farm operation, from business and crop planning to post harvest. In addition to our PSA, we provide bilingual workshops open to greater farming community based on farmer demand in topics such as land access, soil health, pest management, farm finances and more.
Graduates from the PSA are eligible to participate in our Farm Business Incubator Program to access the land, capital, marketing, infrastructure/equipment and access to markets needed to launch a thriving farm business. Our incubating farmers recieve ongoing technical assistance to meet milestones like getting a business license, developing a business and crop plan, getting insurance and taxes in order and obtaining organic or GAP certifications. Incubating farmers have access to infrastructure such as greenhouses, tractors and implements, irrigation, a wash/pack facility and cold storage. We provide technical assistance for farmer grant and loan programs and alternative funding. We also provide marketing support through our wholesale, CSA and SNAP-CSA programs and direct sales guidance.
Since our founding in 2009, Viva Farms has educated over 900 small farmers (250+ Spanish speakers) in sustainable organic farming. During the 2018 season alone, we supported 24 farm businesses (7 Latino owned), 35 incubating farmers, 10 practicum students, and over 150 sustainable agriculture workshop attendees. We are considered a regional leader in the farm to school arena providing technical assistance, outreach and support on local procurement for food service, school gardens and curriculum development in addition to our role as regional farm to school liaison.
Access to fresh food is vital to a healthy community. We owe it to this generation and those to come to steward the environment in a responsible way that strengthens the fertility of our farmland so it can produce the fresh food that will nourish us. It is possible to run an economically viable, sustainable organic small farm. We just have to teach the next generation of farmers how to do it. And Viva Farms is doing just that.
Long live farms! ¡Que viva las granjas!
Primary Issue
Food
Address
15663 Ovenell Rd.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
United States
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