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Washington’s Full of Would-Be Farmers

July 28, 2008

Seattle, WA - More people in Washington want to get "back to the land," by choosing farming as a profession. One program that made it through the U.S. Farm Bill funding battle in Congress this year encourages "Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development." The State of Washington also gives low-interest loans to first-time farmers through the state Housing and Finance Commission.

Mary Embleton, executive director of Seattle's Cascade Harvest Coalition, runs a "Farm Link" program that pairs would-be farmers with others who want to sell or lease their land.

"We have about 300 people looking for farms, and around 45 people with land, enrolled in the program. I'm constantly trying to locate landowners who would like to see their land remain in agriculture for the next generation."

Farmers say theirs is a tough way to make a living, and Embleton agrees. However, she says, there's more support and training available today, and the trends toward locally-grown foods and organics have opened up some new avenues for profit.

"That translates into this huge surge in the growth of farmers markets and other direct market outlets, as well as new opportunities like the farm-to-school and farm-to-institution efforts. I think there are many additional market opportunities now, compared with the past."

Next week is "Farmers Market Week" in Washington, which Embleton describes as a great opportunity to ask growers firsthand what it takes to get started - and sample the results, as well. There are more than 125 farmers markets around the state. Locate them online, at www.wafarmersmarkets.com.

More information on the "Farm Link" program is also available online, at www.cascadeharvest.org; and Washington's "Beginning Farmer/Rancher" loan program website is www.www.wshfc.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA