Sustainable FARM Fund

Sustainable Food, Agriculture, Relationships and Markets 

The FARM Fund was dreamed up in the Spring of 2015 as a way for the Orcas Food Co-op community to support innovative projects that strengthen and develop sustainable agriculture in San Juan County. Currently FARM Fund grants are funded by a combination of 0.5% of all Produce Department Sales, funds raised as part of our Coins for Community program, Round-up at the Register donations, and other community donations. CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE FARM FUND

Grant Status: The next application period will be announced on November 1, 2018 for funding in the spring of 2019.

Project proposals should meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Build the market and/or strengthen infrastructure for local farms
  • Encourage ecologically and socially responsible stewardship of our farmland
  • Directly advance the local farming community
  • Increase community access to, and awareness of, healthy, organic food grown by local producers

Since the fund's inception we have distributed over $5,000 to six projects.

2017 Recipients

  • Rainbow Chicken Ranch - Water tanks for chickens
  • Olga Strawberry Council - Marshall Strawberry Restoration Project
  • Squirrel Song Farm - Fencing infrastructure

2016 Recipients

  • Alala Farm - Water catchment system
  • North Beach Mushrooms - Greenhouse infrastructure
  • Coffelt Farm Stewards - New chicken coop

If you have any questions please contact Learner Limbach at learner@orcasfood.coop

More About Past FARM Fund Recipients


Alala Farm

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A fundamental priority to any growing operation large or small must be to secure a adequate supply of water. Or better yet, several sources of water because when it comes to irrigating there is very little margin for error, even a couple days without water at the height of summer will destroy many crops and all of the hard work and resources that you've invested into your farm or garden. The real key to water security is redundancy-- no matter how solid your plan is something is always going to go wrong and when a critical system fails you need to have a back-up in place. 

We learned (the hard way) that while there is plenty of rainfall on Orcas to support a lush and verdant ecosystem it mostly falls in the half of the year when it is nearly impossible to farm outdoors. As we began to put the first pieces in place to expand our small garden into a slightly larger farm the idea of rain catchment and storage came into focus as a clear and obvious goal. While the cost of set up is not insignificant, once built and with a minimum of maintenance a catchment system really runs itself. And consider that if you have 1000 square feet of roof, a single inch of rainfall will put about 600 gallons of water into your storage tanks. It doesn't take long in the winter rains to cache a considerable reservoir.

With the help of a FARM Fund Grant in 2016 we improved and expanded our catchment system and added 5000 gallons to our storage capacity. This is water that at the height of summer is crucial to our row crops and the 50 trees in our orchard. And importantly, it's a supply of water that is perfectly suited for irrigation and is not being pumped from our local aquifers or our home well. We are very grateful to the FARM Fund for the financial help to see the project through.

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Squirrel Song Farm - James Most and Sara Joy Palmer

"The FARM Fund grant helped us build a great 1 acre deer fence at June Farm. Now, we are expanding our fruit and vegetable production at our new site. Thank you so much Orcas Food Co-op!"

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Olga Strawberry Council - Marshall Strawberry Restoration

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In the early part of 2017 the Olga Strawberry Council (OSC), the non-profit owner of what is popularly known as the Artworks Building, launched a project to restore the almost extinct Marshall Strawberries to Orcas Island. Marshall Strawberries were lauded to be the sweetest strawberry in the world. In the late 1930s, Orcas Island was a major grower and exporter of Marshall Strawberries in the Northwest which lasted until the mid to late 1940s. The historic building that now houses the Artworks and Catkin Cafe was the barreling plant that processed the berries from the surrounding fields. The industry's demise was a result of the lack of workers who left to fight in WWII and the berries also contracted a disease which was believed to have been brought to the US from the orient. 

OSC was looking to raise a total of $6,900 to purchase and distribute 220 baby Certified Marshall Strawberry plants to Orcas Island farmers and gardens for them to raise and, hopefully, revive the growing and selling of berries and plants to the Orcas Island community as well as other nearby islands and perhaps the larger Skagit County. A total of 11 farms and growers opted in to be a part of this program. The project was also blessed with a private contribution of approximately 70 Certified Marshalls from Annette Mazzarella, a resident on Orcas Island, that were distributed to several of the participating farms last September. This will make a total of 300+ plants distributed by the end of 2018.

OSC received a $1,200 Orcas Food Co-op FARM Fund Grant in May of 2017. The purchase and distribution of plants began in September of 2017 and will continue through the summer of 2018. Since it takes approximately 3 years before the plants begin to produce berries, we are hoping to begin to see them in the local stores and restaurants by 2019 and thereafter. 

The FARM Fund grant was the first we received for this project and it gave us so much encouragement that this project was a worthy one. We sincerely hope the Co-op will be a major seller of the berries and plants once they become mature and marketable to our community!

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Coffelt Farm - Mobile Chicken Coop

Pictured Below: Casey, Emmett and James during construction of Coffelt Farm's new mobile chicken coop, funded in part by a grant from the FARM Fund. Coffelt Farm is now supplying the Orcas Food Co-op with eggs for the first time in 2018 helping to meet the robust demand for local eggs from healthy pasture-raised chickens.

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