Community support for agriculture is one of the four legs of agricultural stability that SPF continuously works on. In order to build community support, the public must be aware of and knowledgeable about agriculture-related issues AND must be able to be a part of the agricultural community. SPF supports many community programs that help to educate and create opportunities for the public to participate in the agricultural community. In addition, SPF operates and maintains the following programs:
Our educational Farm Tours, which are held in the spring and summer and are designed to inform SPF members and guests about the different types of agricultural infrastructure necessary to have a viable agricultural industry in Skagit Valley. Undoubtedly our most popular program, our Farm Tours provide a behind-the-scenes look at Skagit agriculture and the innovation, technology, challenges and successes that farmers deal with on a daily basis. Farm Tour participants to gain a deeper understanding of agricultural infrastructure issues and consequently, publicly support agricultural policy issues related to drainage, irrigation, transportation, farmland preservation, technical and equipment support and economic opportunities.
One of the most unique components of our InFARMation Programs is Talking Fields, an educational agri-tourism program that utilizes a multi-media approach to educate, inform and engage. Talking Fields is a self-guided, driving tour throughout the Skagit Delta. Tourists and locals alike can follow the Talking Fields driving route, stop at a Talking Field site and use their cell phone to listen to recorded content on a variety of informative agricultural topics and historical anecdotes. The technology utilized in this program enables us to capture key analytics and demographic information, giving us the tools to tailor our message and grow the program in the more effective and efficient manner.
Crop Identification Sign Program
Our Crop Identification Signs are posted in thousands of acres of farmland in the delta to inform the public about the diversity of crops grown in the Skagit Valley and to raise awareness of SPF. The Crop Identification Sign Program creates opportunities for community volunteers to engage with the agricultural landscape by helping to manage and maintain the signs. While this program is simple in nature, the scope of its impact is truly immeasurable with thousands upon thousands of motorists who travel through the Skagit Delta throughout the year. They no longer have to be curious about what’s growing, and in turn, will have a great understanding of the complexity of Skagit agriculture. The Crop ID Sign Program currently includes five routes along some of the most heavily traveled roads in the Skagit Delta.
InFARMation Radio Program
The SPF InFARMation Radio program consists of a small remote- controlled highway advisory radio transmitter along I-5 in Skagit County within a stretch of highway that is the only Agricultural Scenic Corridor in Washington State. InFARMation Radio is programmed and updated regularly to inform travelers about what is happening seasonally in Skagit agriculture, the latest crop reports, different agricultural activities in the valley and the importance of Skagit Valley to the region’s food shed, economy and environmental health and well-being. Interested and concerned citizens have to opportunity to actively participate in protecting Skagit Valley’s important agricultural heritage and industry by volunteering to research, write and record information about Skagit agriculture for broadcast on the radio program.
Youth InFARMation Program
Our newest initiative brings Skagit agriculture to our next generation: local students. As part of our overall InFARMation Program – a comprehensive collection of educational activities and programs that promote farming and farmland preservation – this student-centered program highlights STEM principles that are present in Skagit Valley agriculture through youth farm tours. Farm tours introduce students to agriculture as a thriving industry with opportunities to utilize new and ground-breaking innovations in robotics, computers, engineering and science. They are invited to visit farms, hear from farmers, participate in hands-on demonstrations, and gain a deeper appreciation for the daily operations of conventional and organic farms, as well as the necessary infrastructure and support industries that keep agriculture thriving. Our goal is to help students strengthen the linkages between agricultural and vocational training and STEM, as well as introduce the exciting possibilities of a career path within the agricultural industry.
Seattle Culinary Academy Summer Program
For the past nine years, our partnership with the Seattle Culinary Academy (SCA) has evolved into a collaboration that brings Skagit agriculture to an urban audience of young chefs. SCA is one of the first culinary schools in the nation to offer formal coursework in Sustainability, and their talented faculty teach students to become gatekeepers of the food system.
Each summer, students and Chef Instructors from SCA travel weekly to La Conner Flats Farm, where farmland is provided to their program. For seven weeks, the students plant, tend and harvest their produce and hear lectures and presentations from Skagit farmers. The result: the students learn first-hand the critical importance of local food sourcing and sustainable farming, as well as gain a deep respect for the Skagit Valley as the last fully-functioning agricultural valley left in the Puget Sound. SPF’s support of this seven week summer program on sustainability has been as the Transportation Sponsor, making the program accessible to students by underwriting the cost of chartered bus transportation for the students and chef instructors.
At the end of each summer program, SPF holds a dinner in the formal dining room and kitchens of Seattle Culinary Academy during the fall harvest. The dinner is designed to “bring the bounty of the Skagit” to our SPF members from the Seattle metropolitan area as part of our outreach efforts to inform, engage and secure support of Skagit agriculture as the “foodshed” for the Puget Sound region.