WSDA supports expansion of Eat Local First and Washington Food & Farm Finder
OLYMPIA – With support from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the Eat Local First Collaborative has expanded the Washington Food & Farm Finder, an online tool to connect consumers with food that is grown, caught, raised, and made by Washington growers and producers, and which now includes a wholesale food finder.
The tool first went live in November 2020, offering a searchable statewide map that helps farmers, food businesses, and food resources of all sizes — including producers of agricultural products such as wool and flowers, farmers markets, food hubs, and others — by connecting them with Washington consumers. Consumers, including school districts and other institutions, can, in turn, use the tool to find locally grown and produced products in 37 counties throughout Washington state.
In late October, the Washington Food & Farm Finder added the “Find a Wholesale Vendor” tab to better assist school districts and other institutions trying to source locally grown produce.
Washington is one of just five states without a state-endorsed branding program to promote local foods. WSDA and the Eat Local First Collaborative are working to address that gap, making it easier for farms and food businesses to market their products to public institutions and consumers by creating a listing.
Using the tool is free for farms, food businesses, and others to list themselves on the simple-to-use platform. Already, more than 1,700 farms, food businesses, and other listings are featured, and the number is growing rapidly.
The launch of the web tool capped a 10-year journey to make it simpler for Washington consumers to access local food. Sustainable Connections, a nonprofit headquartered in Bellingham, began the Eat Local First campaign in 2011 and the first version of the online tool in 2017.
Last year, several organizations formed the Eat Local First Collaborative to create a connection between buyers and local producers by combining individual maps, guides, and other resources into one comprehensive, single tool. The Collaborative includes Sustainable Connections, Tilth Alliance, Pierce County Fresh, The Local Food Trust, Washington State University Food Systems Program, Washington State University Extension Regional Small Farms Program serving Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap counties, and a growing number of other partners across the state.