EVERETT, Wash. — Snohomish County leaders hope a new project can help local small farmers get their locally sourced food and produce into the hands of more people.
"Right now, all the farmers are taking their product individually where it needs to go, and that means are taking their time off of the farm,” said Linda Neunzig, the county agriculture coordinator.
County leaders are asking the state Legislature for $2.5 million to help turn county-owned buildings at McCollum Park in Everett into a processing and distribution center for local farmers to use.
Neunzig says the agriculture industry brings in $158 million into Snohomish County, and that number that is growing.
In order for local farmers to take their businesses to the next level, they need the infrastructure, and that can be expensive.
"They needed processing. That means bringing fresh product in out of the field. Maybe it's washing, slicing, dicing, quick freezing,“ said Neunzig.
The first phase of the project would include everything from washing stations to cold storage.
Later phases of the project will include a commercial kitchen space, a teaching kitchen and a potential year-round farmer's market.
Farmers will also be able to team up and fulfill larger orders.
”It increases it all the way around. So, for farmers, it can extend their season, they can grow longer throughout the year,” said Neunzig.
Eric Fritch is a local farmer and sits on the county’s Agriculture Advisory Board.
"It's a bit of a missing link, if you will, a way for farmers to aggregate their products and get them to market in a more efficient manner,” said Fritch.
Neunzig says the commercial kitchen could act as an incubator kitchen, giving new businesses a space to get up and going.
"We have to make sure that farmer can make money and feed his family and take care of the community, in order to keep that farmland in production. Because if we lose the farmland, you know, we're toast, it's gone, it never comes back,” Neunzig said.