A joint fundraising event on Wednesday raised $254,000 to fund farmland preservation along with land access and training for beginning farmers.
The second annual virtual “Love the Land Benefit Concert” was hosted by Skagit County nonprofit Viva Farms and the Seattle-based Washington Farmland Trust. The event included performances by five musical artists and presentations from three farmers.
The $254,000 was raised by 560 donors, according to Washington Farmland Trust.
The funds will be split between the two organizations to support their work. Washington Farmland Trust focuses on farmland conservation, while Viva Farms provides bilingual training to beginning farmers and access to land, infrastructure, capital and markets.
Michael Frazier, executive director of Viva Farms, said the nonprofit has a record number of participants in its programs. Fifty are participating in the Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture course and another 50 are renting land through the farmer incubator program.
Viva Farms recently added another 30 acres of farmland and the land is fully leased, he said.
Three farmers, including two from Skagit County, spoke at Wednesday’s event.
Francisco Farias of Farias Farm said he came to the U.S. to work at an organic farm and always dreamed of owning his own farm.
“The Viva Farms incubator program really has a big impact,” he said. “Because we wouldn’t be able to start a farming business because everything is too expensive.”
Farias said the nonprofit provides equipment to rent at low-cost as well as sales outlets. The farm grows strawberries, broccoli, beets and other vegetables.
Boldly Grown Farm, run by Amy Frye and Jacob Slosberg, is in its seventh season farming with Viva Farms. The farm specializes in growing fall and winter crops.
“I don’t think we would be where we are today without their support,” Frye said. “It’s really allowed us to get our feet under us and build our business before having our own property and mortgage to pay.”
She said “the land search process can be pretty grueling” but organizations like Viva Farms and Washington Farmland Trust can help support farmers.