Submitted by WSU Extension — San Juan County.
Here in the San Juan Islands, we treasure our small farms and open pastures. Our agricultural future, though, depends on cultivating a new generation of island farmers. San Juan County farmers are, on average, 60.3 years old, compared to 57.5 for their national counterparts, and high land prices in the
islands make it difficult to enter into farming. In order to maintain our rural character and a supply of the good local food we enjoy, we must actively grow our next generation of farmers.
To that end, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture has just awarded a $304,637 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant to a collaborative of local organizations and agencies, including the San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild, San Juan Islands Conservation District, San Juan Islands Food Hub, Northwest Agriculture Business Center, WSU San Juan County Extension, and San Juan County Land Bank.
The Farmers-to-Farmland program will use the funding to implement a holistic approach to providing farmers with technical assistance, education, mentoring, help with navigating markets, and connections to farmland, with a special focus on women and Latinx farmers.
An additional $7,500 toward the program was raised through the San Juan Island Community Foundation Virtual Fair and other private donations to assist farmers with more than ten years of experience who want to ramp up production or who are interested in creating value-added products.
To sign up to participate in the program as a farmer needing assistance or as a landowner seeking a farmer, go to www.sjiagguild.com to fill out an application. For more information about the project or to donate to the program, contact the San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild at (360) 378 0095 or firstname.lastname@example.org.