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In Walla Walla, Expanding Relationships with Local Farms

19 Jul 2021, by Admin in Blue Mountain Action Council, Harvest Blog

Dani Dolphin currently serves as a Harvest VISTA with Blue Mountain Action Council in Walla Walla, WA. As the Food System Coordinator, Dani works closely with farmers, non-profit partners and community members in the Walla Walla Valley to combine efforts and strengthen the agricultural community. BMAC is a multipurpose nonprofit that aids in meeting the basic needs of low-income people through food, housing and job assistance. The BMAC Food Bank is an integral link in establishing food security for those in need. 

The BMAC Food Bank is engaged with multiple programs that aid in food waste reduction and support local agriculture systems. One such program is the Washington State Farm to Food Pantry Partnership (F2FP). In collaboration with Harvest Against Hunger, BMAC contracts with seven farms in the Walla Walla Valley to buy their produce post-harvest. The program is growing and BMAC has been able to offer two more contracts than last year to farmers. This expansion has made it possible to support more farmers in our fertile valley and receive more produce to distribute to those with limited access to fresh, local food. Next season, F2FP will allow contracts with farmers and ranchers who produce eggs, meat and grain, increasing variety for those receiving F2FP products. 

F2FP has been integral in strengthening relationships between the food bank and farmers. Hayshaker Farm, an eight-acre, horse-powered vegetable operation located just three miles from BMAC, has been donating to the food bank since 2015. Hayshaker has hosted gleans at their farm for years; this season alone they have donated 602 lbs. of gleaned greens providing food to over 1,700 people. F2FP provides a great opportunity to support farmers who have worked with the food bank in the past. In 2019, BMAC was able to offer a F2FP contract to Hayshaker. The partnership with Hayshaker is an example of the multifaceted relationships BMAC maintains with local producers.  

The future of the program is bright, with these established relationships BMAC and other F2FP partner sites can support farmers through the changing food landscape. Local and regional food systems are essential for community resilience in the face of climate change. Investing in local farmers through F2FP will allow businesses to grow and accessibility to local products to flourish.