Regional South Puget Sound needs assessments identified food system infrastructure gaps, including for dry, refrigerated and frozen storage, food processing facilities, grain handling and storage, and aggregation, distribution for collective marketing. Among other problems, lack of farm infrastructure in the region is dampening market opportunities, and likely contributing to long-term loss of farmland. Since 1950, farmland has dropped from 170,640 to 76,000 acres in Thurston County, and from 304,253 to 132,839 in Lewis County. This project evaluates the potential of regionalized aggregation and distribution networks, and community-based value-added processing to expand market access for crop producers and improve food system resilience in the region. Funding for this project has been provided by the Port of Olympia.
Valued-Added Production Research and Education Focus Areas:
The SW WA Food Hub Planning and Implementation Project is a collaborative project focused on the development of a farmer-owned, cooperative aggregation and distribution system serving farmers, ranchers, and value-added food manufacturers in Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, and Thurston Counties. The project is funded by a USDA Local Food Promotion Planning grant. Project partners include the SW Washington Growers Cooperative, Thurston Economic Development Council, the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, and WSU Thurston County Extension. Project collaborators include the Port of Olympia (providing in-kind match of a warehouse distribution center), Thurston Conservation District, and the signatories to the Regional Agriculture Development (RAD) partnership.
The present work on minimally processed produce for local and regional markets aims to evaluate the economic viability of a food processing facility for vegetables and fruit grown in South Puget Sound, and Western Washington more generally. The focus of this effort is on minimally processed vegetable and fruit products available both raw and frozen. “Minimal processing” refers to processes that improve convenience for the end-user without altering the fundamental nature and nutritional value of the product, including peeling, slicing, cutting, dicing, and chopping. This feasibility assessment focuses on non-chilled products, but such a facility is readily augmented with capacity to blanch and chill to produce frozen minimally processed vegetables and fruit.
3. Value-Added Cropping Systems Education and Field Trials
This webpage is currently under development.