As food supply chains break down and we face a global hunger crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus, Washington state farmers, policymakers, and consumers are making changes that help feed the community and solve climate change at the same time.
Amid the pandemic, Washington state has recognized the value of supporting farmers who could be the key to both short-term food security and long-term climate solutions. The “Sustainable Farms and Fields” bill, which creates grant funding for farms switching to sustainable practices, was championed by Carbon Washington and signed into law in April 2020.
Despite the pandemic highlighting processing bottlenecks for essentials like meat and dairy, local trends show that people are increasingly valuing a shorter supply chain between food and table. At the 21 Acres Center for Local Food Farm Market—a Woodinville hub connecting local, sustainably produced food from farmers to customers—total sales on average have doubled over last year.
Local farms are filling that need for fresh food. Justice-focused organizations such as the Black Farmers Collective’s Yes Farm in Seattle are striving to eliminate food scarcity and envision an equitable future. Local farmers are getting creative; Songbird Haven farm in Woodinville (whose owners Noa Kay and Mark Albonizio are climate advocates) have nimbly shifted to address hunger. Some farmer's markets throughout the Puget Sound region have re-opened amid myriad regulatory challenges and customers are responding in droves.
These and many more small-scale farms and local food organizations are poised to feed the community during food shortages that derive from failings of big agriculture and a consolidated and commodified food chain. In the Sammamish and Snohomish Valleys, small farms have been producing food for years on the principles of carbon sequestration and healthy soil management for long-term agricultural viability.
To save food sources and the climate at the same time, a long-term and widespread shift away from conventional practices and toward regenerative farming will necessitate a combination of consumer buying priorities, robust education, ongoing adoption of legislation, and government buy-in.
People, practices, and policies are pivoting during this critical juncture to transform the way we farm, eat and solve climate change. This growing body of new customers who have been driven to local food by the coronavirus is ultimately contributing to systemic climate initiatives that will keep Washington state fed far into the future.