Solar Fridge - 041521

 Andrew Ely, Viva Farms King County, assists with the installation of the new cold storage refrigeration unit. 

While farmers and farm practices have evolved throughout the years, one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for cold storage refrigeration. 

Woodinville Rotary and Rotary District 5030 are working together to address this issue in the Sammamish Valley farming community with their innovative Keep it Cool, Keep It Fresh refrigeration project. Andrew Ely of Viva Farms King County will coordinate the use of a solar-powered refrigeration unit with farm properties nearby, and then open up available room to others if space allows.

“When we can share resources, that is the most important success story for all of us,” said Brenda Vanderloop, executive director of the Sammamish Valley Alliance.

According to a press release, organizers of the refrigeration project seek to aid small acreage farmers in the Sammamish Valley in their efforts to bolster a sustainable food system while also protecting the environment. The project provides a cold storage unit located in the middle of the Sammamish Valley Agricultural Production District (APD) for farmers in need of a place to store fresh produce.

Vanderloop said farmers cannot rely on picking produce and delivering it to costumers all in one day. The refrigeration unit will serve as a storage place for food until delivery or CSA (community supported agriculture) pickup, she added.

As early as the late 1930s, when the effects of the depression were still strong, area co-operatives like the Grange Cold Storage Association provided refrigeration services for farmers and families needing to protect and prolong their fare. Now, almost 100 years later, faced with another era of food insecurity, people are beginning to re-embrace local food markets and farm fresh foods.

Beginning in spring, this first-of-its-kind refrigeration unit will be entirely solar powered, making it a uniquely off-grid form of cold storage. With a grant from Rotary International and matching club funds from Woodinville Rotary’s Charitable Foundation, this unit will provide reliable storage for perishable products to farmers in the Sammamish Valley.  

An additional investment from A Farm in The Sammamish Valley, LLC contributed to the construction of the solar array and the associated equipment to power the unit. Other community-supported partners include Viva Farms, 21 Acres, Sammamish Valley Alliance, Woodinville Rotary and Rotary District 5030 for collaborating to bring this essential asset to local farmers.  

The valley could supply local, organic vegetables to 80,000 people annually when farmed to the full potential, the press release said. These sustainable high yields are essential as climate change impacts harvests in the Midwest and California. 

As food chains become less predictable due to climate change, storms and pandemics, these local farmers serve an increasingly important role in providing food security to the community. Sammamish Valley farmers have become well-versed at producing food based on the principles of carbon sequestration and healthy soil management for lasting agricultural viability. 

A recognition event is being planned for Earth Day 2021 to celebrate the Keep It Cool, Keep It Fresh refrigeration project in Woodinville. For more information visit sammamishvalley.org and woodinvillerotary.org.

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