Local Food Roundtable
Meeting Notes: 11/03/11
The focus of this session was on Production, the first element of the local food system.
Dick Bergeron, Chimacum Grange President and Chair of the State Small Ag Caucus, spoke to the group about the challenges facing small farmers in the state, and about ongoing efforts to remove legal obstacles and push legislative initiatives that would benefit small farmers.
• He asked for a show of hands of all who could name all three of their State Representatives. Not many hands were raised – he emphasized how important this connection was. “Know your Representatives!” he advised
• “40 years ago we were out in the fields working; now we’re at meetings trying to protect our livelihood.”
• He spoke of the activities of the Chimacum Grange:
o Grange members committed to finding new ways to market locally produced food
o The Chimacum Grange advocates for farmers on legislative issues
o Worked with Port Townsend’s Local 20/20 on new initiatives
o Together they facilitated a Menu for the Future: small group discussions to support local farmers and educate eaters
• Land use regulations
o Dick discussed the challenges of using the land for agricultural purposes while protecting critical areas.
o House Bill 1886 passed in 2011 established the Voluntary Stewardship Program. Counties have until January 2012 to opt into the program or resume the process of updating their critical areas on Ag lands under existing Growth Management Act processes.
o Under the new law, each farm could submit a Stewardship plan for managing their property, which would be reviewed by a committee.
o For farmers who believe they can ignore land use regulations undetected: Dick stated (and Brian Stahl of the Kitsap Conservation District confirmed) that local governments have easy access to information about streams, wetlands, and other critical areas on any piece of land.
• Dick stressed the effectiveness of the Grange as legislative advocates for farmers
o He urged farmers in the group to join their local Grange organization
o The national Grange was formed in 1867 as a fraternal organization for farmers that encourages them to band together for their common economic and political well-being.
o Each local Grange needs to know all of the local farmers so they can have input
o The Washington Grange publishes a Legislative Handbook each year to guide its work in the legislature.
o The state Grange group is currently working on a law that would change how residences on small farm properties are assessed for tax purposes.
o He asked farmers interested in such legislation to contact him.
The group was asked to discuss the obstacles and opportunities facing farmers on Bainbridge Island and in the rest of Kitsap County
• The consensus of the group was that the most pressing need was for new markets for local produce and meat.
• The addition of several new farms in the past year has created the need for more outlets
o Need to grow the customer base for local food through education and outreach
o Only about 1% of the Island’s population frequents the Farmers’ Market. How can we reach a larger segment of the population?
o Need to ensure that new farmers can succeed.
• Rebecca Slattery opened the discussion with a request that the Ferry Farm Stand (FFS) be restarted in 2012 (after being discontinued in 2011).
o The FFS, initially a Sound Food pilot project, was discontinued to allow that group to focus on other initiatives.
o Sallie Maron and Carolyn Goodwin of Sound Food offered to help any entity or group who was interested in restarting the FFS in a non-volunteer format.
• Overall goal: make it easier for a larger segment of the population to access local food
• Bring farmers together to coordinate planting, distribution
o Brian MacWhorter discussed his history in Eugene, Or., where a farmers' co-op guides each farmer in what to plant when, to avoid gluts of produce hitting the market.
o Could the farmers start a similar effort in Kitsap?
• Price perception
o It was agreed that there is a general perception that prices at the BI Farmers Market are higher than at local groceries.
o Farmers said that they monitor store prices, and work to keep their prices equal or lower
o A survey or article comparing prices would help to clarify the issue
• Other ideas for growing sales:
o A customer loyalty program: repeat customers offered special pricing
• Institutional sales:
o Theme based box specials (4th of July picnic box, Thanksgiving box, etc)
o Shopping list idea: Tony D’Onofrio offered an idea to create shopping lists to be distributed at the Farmers Market that would enable consumers to list what they needed from both the Farmers Market and local groceries.
o Create a “Buy Local Food” campaign to be funded by contributions from farmers.
o Get customer testimonials “why I buy from farmer X”
o Home delivery? (Tried and didn’t succeed, but maybe time is right?)
o Restaurants (Chef’s Farm Tour?)
o Preschools: set up Farmers Market when preschools let out at 11:30
o Assisted living facilities
o Grant program for low income households – new farmers could contract in
o Updated consumer info needed: what do consumers want? What would make it more likely for them to buy local?
• Other obstacles (from Betsey Wittick)
o Access to land
o Skilled affordable labor
o Meat processing facilities
• Create work group to look into restarting the Ferry Farm Stand and other new outlets for local food
• Publish a comparison of food prices at the Famers Market and local groceries.
• Bring local farmers together to coordinate marketing and distribution efforts. This could happen through the Bainbridge Grange.
• Next Roundtable topic is Processing. There will be no meeting in December, so the Processing meeting will be on Thursday January 5 at 7pm at the Bainbridge Grange Hall.