Submitted by: Sustainable Connections

Food To Bank On, a beginning farmer business training program facilitated by Sustainable Connections, is currently accepting applications for up to four new participants in 2019. They are proud to announce that one of the current Food to Bank on mentors was recognized at the Farm Fund Hootenanny awards last weekend.

Food to Bank On provides farmers with business planning resources, connects beginning farmers with mentor farmers, coordinates specialized workshops and provides new market opportunities. Participants are also paid to deliver fresh food to local food banks and shelters. Whatcom County food banks, soup kitchens and women’s shelters have received over $100,000 in local products including fresh produce, eggs and meats since the program’s start in 2003.

Participants go through a business planning series each winter, working with a cohort of peer and mentor farmers to write and revisit their business plans. They also receive marketing assistance and free membership to Sustainable Connections, enabling them to build their business through relationships with retailers, restaurants and other established farmers. Fifty-two farmers have completed the three-year program and 80 percent are still successfully farming – an outstanding rate for any beginning business. In order to provide a diversity of local agricultural products, the farmers chosen for Food To Bank On grow and raise a variety of foods like vegetables, meats, eggs, flowers and more.

During last Sunday’s Community Food Co-op Farm Fund Hootenanny, co-hosted by Sustainable Connections, Food to Bank On mentor Anna and Geoff Martin from Osprey Hill Farm took home the award for Mentor Farmer of the Year. Their constant support of beginning farmers and willingness to share their knowledge, experience and their poultry processing facility have had huge positive impacts on our local farming community. Osprey Hill sells mixed vegetables and fruit as well as pastured poultry and eggs and has been open for nearly 20 years.

To get a program application or view current Food To Bank On participants visit Sustainable Connections’ website. Applications are due October 19, 2018. Farmers seeking more information can contact Food To Bank On Coordinator Alex Smith at alex@sustainableconnections.org.

Program funding comes in part from the following generous sponsors: Whatcom Community Foundation, Pizza’zza, Diane Padys Photography, Haggen, Industrial Credit Union, Heritage Bank, Community Food Co-op, Aslan Brewing Co., Organic Valley, Frontier Natural Food Co-op, Woodstock Foods, GloryBee, Nancy’s Yogurt, Scratch and Peck Feeds, Grace Harbor Farms, and Tony’s Coffee and Teas.

More information can be found at sustainableconnections.org/programs/food-farming/food-to-bank-on/.

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