Nonprofit helps local farmers connect with markets

The Northwest Agriculture Business Center connects farmers directly with markets in an effort to connect locally grown food to close urban areas and keep farmland growing.

Jeff Voltz, a project manager for NABC, said that the nonprofit was started to figure out how to preserve farmland on the “urban fringe” in Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties in Washington state.

The NABC is a nonprofit organization that was established through the Washington State Legislature and receives some of its funding from the Washington State Department of Commerce. The center offers services including marketing and business plans, access to capital and introduction to markets. NABC usually works with small or mid-sized farms in the area.

When the NABC was started the idea was to protect farmland near urban areas and make sure food production acreage wasn’t lost, according to Voltz.

“If we can make farmers successful the farmland can remain farming,” he said.

The Puget Sound Food Hub, is one way for the NABC to connect growers with markets. The general idea of the hub is for multiple farmers to deliver products to the hub, in turn, buyers can purchase from multiple growers but receive only one bill for all of it.

While the food hub operates, only in the area that NABC serves, Voltz said, the idea is for the model to be easily duplicated by other regions. Eventually other region food hubs could partner together and create a network of the same type of model.

Recently, as an example of the centers cervices, Voltz said, NABC helped a dairy transition from being a supplier of Dairgold to bottling its own milk. Twin Brook Creamery, is run by the fourth- and fifth-generation farmers, according to Voltz. They had built an initial bottling facility but when it needed to be expanded the NABC helped them gain access to the capital to triple the operation’s size. It also assisted the creamery in accessing markets to sell their milk, Volt said.