Contact: David Bauermeister
Phone: (360) 336-3727
NORTHWEST AGRICULTURE BUSINESS CENTER FUNDED FOR COOPERATIVE DEVELOPMENT
[October 23, 2012] The Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC) has been awarded a third round of $175,000 in grant funding to support the development of agricultural related cooperatives throughout the northern Puget Sound region. The funding comes through the USDA Rural Development Department and its Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program. Established as a Rural Cooperative Development Center in 2010, NABC will continue to provide business planning assistance and marketing support to two producer-owned cooperatives and businesses it helped to form in 2011, as well as embarking on two new cooperative development projects in the upcoming year.
The following projects have been selected to be the primary focus of NABC’s USDA program funds:
• North Cascades Meat Producers Cooperative (a new farmers’ cooperative)
• Nooksack Valley Farmers Cooperative (a new farmers’ cooperative)
• Whidbey Island CSA Farmers Cooperative (a proposed farmers’ cooperative)
• Skagit/Whatcom poultry processing cooperative (a proposed farmers’ cooperative)
During the past grant year (Oct. 2011 to Sep. 2012), NABC staff and contractors provided technical assistance to the Nooksack Valley Farmers Cooperative, a business owned by ten (10) family farms that produce row crops in Whatcom County. During the 2012 growing season, the cooperative worked with one of its members, Cloud Mountain Farm Center, to aggregate produce from all its member-farms to supply Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs with staff employed with Peace Health Medical Centers and the Bellingham Police Department. NABC staff and contractors also supported the ten (10) producer-owners of the North Cascades Meat Producers Cooperative, helping to create a common brand and business plan to target sales of locally produced pasture-raised meats to two Whatcom County-based supermarket chains, seven restaurants, and Western Washington University and Peace Health Medical Center food services. This cooperative is offering member equity shares to meat producers throughout the North Cascades region.
New projects slated for this third round of funding include working with the North Puget Sound region’s poultry producers to diversify to bring certified organic pastured poultry to regional markets; and the start-up of a producer-owned cooperative to implement a CSA program to staff employed at Whidbey Island-based businesses and institutions.
Pasture-raised beef producer and North Cascades Meat Producer Cooperative member Sandy Matheson of Matheson Farms, Whatcom County comes from a family farming tradition. “Individually farmers don’t have the time or level of expertise to organize a multi-farmer owned organization or to figure out how to coordinate production and relationships with markets and institutions. That’s where NABC comes in and provides incredible value that can help us get organized, connect us to the market, and re-create many of the infrastructure needs that have disappeared from our region.”
NABC’s mission is to improve the economic vitality of the agriculture industry within the Northwest Washington Counties of Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom by providing business resources and hands-on guidance to new or existing businesses that produce value-added or innovative agricultural products and services. For more information go to http:www.agbizcenter.org