In 2009, a longtime farmer in Washington's productive Sammamish River Valley looked in frustration at the surplus crops she was not able to sell. She was also well aware that many people do not have funds to purchase the nutritious food that farmers like her grow. Farmers love to donate food, and do so as much as time and money allow. However, if they have surplus crops in their fields, they often cannot afford to pay labor to pick, clean, package and deliver this produce where it is needed. Usually they have no choice but to just till it back into the ground, or leave it there until it is inedible. "How", she asked a group of friends, "can we make a direct connection between farmers like me and people in dire need of fresh produce?" Farms for Life was born out of that conversation. This group created a nonprofit organization to make a direct link between small sustainable farms and those who need our food.
Other local farmers were contacted and asked for their input. One of the farms donated office space, use of equipment, and a location for a cooler. United Way provided funds in the way of a grant to build the cooler, and a private donor gave funds to purchase a used cargo van so Farms for Life could deliver produce from farms to agencies that serve people who need the food. We were off and running!
Farms For Life acts as the bridge for local farmers to distribute this fresh produce where it is needed in the community. Working within the local community shows a strong value to local agriculture. This sustainable model keeps costs down while minimizing the 'carbon footprint'. With funds from fundraising efforts, Farms for Life can pay farmers a reduced price for their produce, which at least will pay their production costs and allow them to harvest the surplus crops. Farms for Life now has 5 farms who are able to provide fresh produce weekly for delivery to those who need the food.
We started in the growing season of 2010, delivering $11,285 in fresh produce to our recipient agencies, which is equivalent to 27,000 servings of vegetables. In 2015, Farms for Life purchased more than $30,000 of local produce from our farm partners in King and Snohomish Counties, to provide more than 120,000 servings of fresh vegetables to members of our community with little or no access to high-quality produce.