Submitted by San Juan County Agricultural Guild
We are standing at a point of unprecedented possibility in the development of a resilient food system in the San Juan Islands. The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the supply chains that we’ve always taken for granted, from runs on staples like flour to the massive waste of animal life as commercial meat production was brought to a halt across the United States.
“Here in the San Juans, the pandemic has also revealed our community’s superpower to protect and support our vulnerable neighbors, quickly devise new collaborative ways to grow and deliver food, and take the leap to create an inter-island market in which producers can prosper and more islanders than ever can access delicious local food,” Board Chair of the San Juan Island Agricultural Guild Sarah Pope said
Several effective food production and food distribution initiatives fostered by the San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild (known locally as the Ag Guild) have been pivotal in increasing food security and responding to the stressors of the pandemic. One successful example of food system solutions on the production side is the FARM Fund, managed by the Ag Guild. The FARM Fund is a grant-making fund started by the Orcas Food Co-op in January, moved to Ag Guild management and became a multi-island opportunity for investing locally-raised support directly in critical farm infrastructure.
During the first seven months of the pandemic, through collaboration with the Orcas Community Foundation and the Food Co-op, the FARM Fund has distributed $117,000 in competitive grant awards to support local farm infrastructure improvements, from irrigation to greenhouses. The award caveat is that grantee food producers agree to increase the quantity of island-grown produce available to food bank participants. As the severity of the pandemic became visible, this direct grant to farmers helped local communities respond in the face of the doubling demand for food bank services that skyrocketed due to COVID-driven job losses.
The Ag Guild invites the community to expand support of the FARM Fund. During October the Ag Guild is hosting an Island Goods online auction fundraiser featuring island-made foods, art, music, farm experiences and more. Auction proceeds support Ag Guild programs such as the FARM Fund. To lend your support to the Ag Guild, go to sjiagguild.com to make a direct donation to the FARM Fund and join in the auction Oct 10-31. Auction preview is Oct 3-9. Special music guests, childrens performers, poetry, storytellers and more will be featured throughout October as part of the festivities. Show your support for agriculture innovations and help strengthen San Juan County’s small farms.