Skagit County has been awarded up to $900,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Economic Opportunity funds by the Washington State Department of Commerce for an innovative on-farm infrastructure project.

This project represents a partnership between Skagit County government and Community Action of Skagit County, which will manage and operate the project in collaboration with a network of local farms and food banks.

Agriculture is typically recognized as a vital element of our local economy. However, many small farms face significant challenges as they lack the infrastructure necessary to increase efficiency and gain profitability. At the same time, approximately one in four Skagit County families rely on local food banks to put food on their table.

The CDBG Economic Opportunity Grant addresses both problems by providing financial support to low- and moderate-income farm business owners for on-farm infrastructure in Skagit and Whatcom counties.

This infrastructure may take many forms, including greenhouses, irrigation and improvements that will help farmers meet new federal Food Safety Modernization Standards.

In turn, farmers will repay this financial assistance with cash and/or produce in lieu of cash repayments. Community Action’s Skagit Food Distribution Center will coordinate and distribute this produce to area food banks and hot meal programs, yielding more food for families in need.

If a farmer chooses to repay assistance by cash, the funds will be used through the Skagit Food Distribution Center to help expand the amount of local food in Skagit’s food bank network. This project is intended to strengthen farmers, families, and the overall community.

For more information, contact Bob Hicks, Operations Manager, Skagit County Public Health and Community Services at (360) 336-9379 or bobhicks@skagit.co.wa.us or Cole Bitzenburg, Skagit Food Distribution Center Coordinator, Community Action of Skagit County, (360) 416-7585, ext 1189.