Farmers, wholesalers, institutional buyers and technical experts gathered in Puyallup on Friday, Feb. 27, to share strategies and experiences for boosting markets for the local agricultural industry.
About 200 people attended Pierce County's second Farm Forum to learn more about agritourism and direct market sales, as well as to network with potential business partners.
"We have a rich agricultural heritage in this region, and the growing popularity of our Farm Forum shows there's great interest in supporting it," said County Executive Pat McCarthy, the event's host. "We brought farmers and buyers together to assist them in making business connections and discovering new opportunities in various market settings, such as retail, restaurants, hospitals, schools and farmers markets."
The Farm Forum, co-hosted by Cascade Harvest Coalition, featured presentations and lively discussions about marketing and agritourism. Speakers included representatives from the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, Blue Willow Lavender Farm, Wilcox Farms, and the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Participants learned more about the Pierce County Agriculture Program, which offers assistance with permitting, partnerships, promotion and land preservation. One highlight of the county program is the management of a mobile app for Puget Sound Fresh, Cascade Harvest Coalition's statewide directory of farms, farmers markets, products and activities.
Another session focused on opportunities and barriers that local food purchasers have experienced in buying food direct from farmers. Those speakers represented Harborview Medical Center, Whole Food Market, Sumner School District, Charlie's Produce, and Primo Grill.
The afternoon session featured a "speed-dating" format that gave local farmers the opportunity to meet with buyers from such entities as Joint Base Lewis McChord, farmers markets, Tacoma Boys, Marlene's Natural Foods Market & Deli, Harbor Greens Market, St. Martin's University, Pacific Lutheran University, Hotel Murano's Bite Restaurant and more.
Technical experts were available throughout the day to discuss financing, permits, conservation, health regulations and more.
The Farm Forum also received support from the Pierce Conservation District, The Russell Family Foundation, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and the WSU Extension.
More information is available at www.piercecountywa.org/farming. The forum included the release of a new Pierce County TV video about agritourism, which can be found here: http://youtu.be/PWalNEV1wXk.
Hunter George, Pierce County Communications