By Sarai Stevens
Yesvember started of with a loud, resounding “Yes!” when a dynamic group of caring, intelligent minds gathered to put dreams on paper regarding Skagit Food For Skagit Community Food Project and apply for federal grant money to set the project in motion.
This project, co-led by WSU Extension and Community Action, is the idealization of all the things my fellow Transitioners and I have been working on for the last five years in regards to creating an inclusive localized food system and greater food security and self-sufficiency in Skagit County. The overarching goal of this project is to create replicable hubs of community food activity that equitably increase Skagitonian’s food security, community resiliency, and health by providing opportunities and training for food self-sufficiency. Flexible and community-specific, these hubs will be both physical and conceptual. A communications/technology professional is working with needs/parameters of the project to help develop a county-wide online communication platforms to aid in food sharing/barter/sale economy.
On the ground, Skagit Food For Skagit People Community Food Project will be initiated at two different sites. The first at La Casita Azul (on school grounds of LaVenture Middle School) and the Kulshan Community Garden in the largely Hispanic Kulshan Neighborhood in East Mount Vernon. The second project will be centered around downtown Concrete and the Concrete Community Garden in the rural, food desert of Eastern Skagit County. At each of these locations, a free, week-end long Transition Training will be hosted in order for community members to gain the skills and confidence to create collaborative groups working towards community resiliency. Also, at each location, a volunteer coordinator will be hired to initiate and coordinate the following activities. At each of these hubs, a mobile, pop-up bulk buying and fresh produce market site will be initiated. Bulk buying will allow folks to cooperatively and conveniently buy bulk staples like beans, flour, and rice at a discounted price. The mobile market site concept should enable small scale farmers, backyard gardeners, and home scale food processors to share, trade and sell food. These mobile market sites will also be places where EBT (foodstamp) cards can be used. To help with education around food self-sufficiency, classes on cooking, food preservation and growing will be taught. Finney Farms, located Up-River, will expand its seed distribution project (in which, every year they give away thousands of seeds and plant starts to people who use local area food banks, as well as community and school gardens) by creating the Finney Backyard Gardens County-wide Program, which will provide free garden site planning and creation for those who qualify. Finally, at the root of every productive landscape and commmunity there must be a healthy ecosystem to support it. The Skagit Conservation District will be initiating community native habitat/edible landscape projects, free classes on being stewards of the land, and co-sponsoring other events that will further the resiliency and sustainability of these emerging community food hubs.
Because of Skagit Food For Skagit People’s success during the planning grant stage, we are in good position to receive this highly competitive grant. However, if the grant gods are crazy, and we do not receive funding, it has been discussed that project implementation will still go forth, just at perhaps a simpler and slower level. During this four year project, those involved will learn how to best nurture and evolve these hubs of community food activity into adaptive plans that can be replicated. Imagine these little community food hubs of learning, sharing, growing peppered every 10 miles or so around our abundant county. Yes!