Farmers are the beating heart of the local food system. However, many of them continue to face barriers such as finding aff ordable land and combating added challenges of climate change.

In support of these farmers, Viva Farms and Washington Farmland Trust are partnering to host a virtual benefit concert on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. The second annual concert, called Love the Land, aims to raise $330,000 for local farms and engage over 1,000 people in a conversation about the equitable future of farming.

“[Love the Land] is a really engaging way to learn a little more about a couple of organizations who are tackling pieces of the puzzle,” said Gina Kilbridge, senior development manager for Washington Farmland Trust. “And also, you get to see and hear great music from Pacifi c Northwest artists.”

The program will feature words from organizational leaders, testimonials from local farmers, and musical performances by The Decemberists, True Loves, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Whitney Mongé and Sera Cahoone. Local documentarian and photographer Audra Mulkern is emceeing the event.

Danielle Halstead, development and communications manager at Viva Farms, said this benefit concert first launched in 2020 and raised $200,000. The event attracted more than 800 households, she added.

“It was a really huge event, so we're building on what was already a really successful event,” she said.

Viva Farms and Washington Farmland Trust are longtime nonprofit partners with a history of collaborating on specific initiatives related to accessing land for new and beginning farmers, according to a press release from both organizations.

“Together, we fill the holistic needs of beginning farmers,” Halstead said. “And so, we're raising money to fund the operations of both of our organizations to continue doing really important work.”

According to Halstead, Viva Farms provides bilingual training and essential resources for beginning farmers. Through the Farm Business Incubator program, farmers are able to build their businesses while completing certain milestones along the way until they are considered independent commercial farmers.

She said the organization owns 119 acres total, which includes a small 10-acre farm in Woodinville and another 109 acres in Skagit County.

Kilbridge said the core objective of Washington Farmland Trust is to protect acres of land in order to “farm into the future” and support a new generation of farmers. Access to land is routinely cited for beginning farmers as their greatest barriers, she said.

Washington Farmland Trust works across the state to identify areas where there might be highly threatened farmland. Kilbridge said Viva Farms is a “natural collaborator” due to its work in empowering farmers with the training and skills needed to start businesses.

“Their success is directly tied to our success in promoting sustainable agriculture into the future,” she said. “Land and farmers go hand-in-hand, so we're doing really interrelated work, and both of our organizations have been growing over time.”

During the last 18 months, Kilbridge said, many people saw how supply chains were interrupted as a result of the pandemic. She invites anyone who has become “suddenly more attuned” to how local food systems operate to attend the virtual benefit concert on Sept. 22.

Tickets for the virtual event cost $10, and can be purchased online at https://vivafarms.org/get-involved/ events/love-the-land-2021/ or https://wafarmlandtrust.org/event/ love-the-land/. Information about how to tune into the event via YouTube Live will be sent after purchasing a ticket.

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