Viva Farms and Partners Receive USDA Grant to Train, Educate, and Mentor Beginning Farmers

In order to help educate, mentor, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced its newest awards for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Viva Farms and its project partners received a $599,999 grant for their project, “Beginning Farmer Development program (BFDP) Skagit County.”

Viva Farms supports aspiring farmers by providing bilingual training in sustainable organic farming, and access to land, infrastructure, equipment, marketing and capital.  They deliver training including: on-farm business incubation, an on-site Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) Student Farm, an accredited land based training program in partnership with Skagit Valley College (SVC), WSU Skagit County Extension (WSU) and through a series of regional workshops. In addition to SVC and WSU, other partners in the
BFDP include the Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC), Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland (SPF), and Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County (EDASC), the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), Future Farmers of America (FFA), and the Skagit Land Trust.

Through July 2019, the grant will fund a broad spectrum of activities related to training aspiring farmers, helping them succeed as both farmers and business people. Programs include Viva Farm’s bilingual land- based training and SVC’s SAgE curriculum, in partnership with the SAgE Collaborative, a regional network of community colleges. Additional programs include NABC’s poultry farmer training; business and financial training from EDASC; and a farmland mapping project with SPF, aimed at increasing knowledge and awareness of available farmland for lease or sale in Skagit County. WSU Skagit County Extension provides translation and interpretation services for many of these programs as needed. Additionally, a Farmer-to- Farmer mentor program will be developed to help connect new and experienced farmers, and a Farm-to- School program bringing local organic food to Skagit County school children.

“There is a concerning trend in the loss of both farmers and farmland here in Skagit County and nationally. Viva Farms and our partners are working to preserve our farming culture and create a strong and just food economy for all of us,” explains Executive Director Michael Frazier. “We are fundamentally bringing together an effective network of experienced partners with essential strengths and a commitment to create a landscape in which beginning, current and retiring farmers have the support they need to be successful.”

About Viva Farms: Viva Farms is a non-profit farm business training organization established in 2009 to grow the next generation of farmers. It is located at the Port of Skagit in Skagit County, home to some of the most productive soil in the world which produces over $300 million annually in over 90 different food crops.  The organization has educated over 500 farmers (100+ Spanish speakers) in sustainable organic farming and helped to educate and feed many thousands of community members over the last 7 years. With the USDA reporting that 10% of farmland representing over 93 million acres will be exchanging hands in only the next 3 years and this being a continuing trend, and current farmers with an average age of 58 retiring over the next 10 years, Viva Farms believes training todays and future generations of farmers is essential to ensuring a long term success of our farming community.

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