“The whole purpose of FarmRaiser is to raise money while getting kids and families to think differently about the foods they eat,” Abbott tells Organic Connections.
Using venture capital money as they scale up, FarmRaiser works as a bridge between schools and local artisans and farmers—including cheesemakers, fruit and vegetable growers, bakers and more—via a model that puts at least 90 percent of total sales back into the school.
Unlike traditional fundraising models, which count on the low cost of goods and central warehousing locations, FarmRaiser pays local suppliers a fair price and doesn’t warehouse anything. Instead, farmers pledge to deliver the goods sold directly to the schools on distribution day, cutting down on FarmRaiser’s overhead. “It’s a huge potential nightmare for distribution and delivery,” Abbott admits, “but vendors love the fact that our reservation system keeps track of sales for them. In fact, people love this idea so much that nine out of ten vendors we ask to participate sign up.”
Local Products, National Goals
FarmRaiser, based in Michigan, ran its first pilot campaign in Flint, Michigan, in June 2013 and now has programs in Michigan and Washington. According to Christina Carson, who heads up campaign sales for FarmRaiser, “We’ve coordinated forty campaigns so far, with another ten or so on the books for this winter and spring. We have a unique model that we can recreate just about anywhere by working with connections in the local community.”
FarmRaiser is engaged now in opening the Virginia-Maryland market, where participation of wealthier communities can help offset the costs of working in “food deserts” without access to healthy local food. The goal for the coming year is 220 campaigns, but the company plans to be available in eleven markets within the next four years and to eventually scale up to run 3,000 campaigns annually across the country.
That may seem ambitious, but it’s all about market share. “Eighty-one percent of households purchase something from a school fundraiser each year,” says Carson. “What if 50 percent of those sales were healthy local products? It would have a huge impact on the whole food landscape.”
And FarmRaiser’s model includes ways of supporting schools even if households don’t want to make a personal purchase. Almost 20 percent of funds gathered are in the form of cash donations, simply because people feel moved to support projects in their community. “And there’s one additional way to donate—the community basket,” Carson notes. “People can make a purchase and we’ll deliver it to a local food pantry; so those in need get high-quality local food.”
Scaling Up for the Future
The next step for FarmRaiser is new platform development, which will allow kids to showcase products for sale via an app on their phone or tablet and will give vendors real-time updates on the amount of product sold.
“When we have the technology platform finished, we can combine smart use of technology with principles of community organizing to build a movement that isn’t about just product fundraising but also sustainable agriculture and school-centered communities,” Abbott enthuses.
The app will additionally feature a library of educational facts on each product as well as curriculum for teachers to use in schools. “I love the fact that it gives kids a chance to be ambassadors for eating healthy and eating local,” Abbott says. “Kids can actually get service-learning credit for participating in these fundraisers.”
With multiple bottom lines, a focus on health and sustainability, and a scalable model that costs less to administer and puts more money back into the local community, FarmRaiser is poised to shake up the stale world of school fundraising for good. “We help the schools, the local producers, and the consumer,” Abbott marvels. “It’s a triple win.”
FarmRaiser is working with schools and communities to grow an alternative fundraising paradigm by pairing wholesome, local food products with new technology and old-fashioned fundraising efforts. Instead of sugar laden, unhealthy products like cookies and candy bars, FarmRaiser product offerings include fresh apples, dried cherries, maple syrup, bread, coffee, honey, and more. In turn, students become healthy-eating advocates selling locally grown and produced goods. FarmRaiser also works with schools to help integrate curriculum ideas into the fundraising project. Profits also stay in the community – FarmRaiser pledges that 90 percent of profits stays within the community, which strengthens local economies while supporting local producers. So far, FarmRaiser has worked with 25 schools to run 34 separate fundraising campaigns with even more schools signed up for this year. In addition, 88 percent of schools return for additional campaigns after their first.
Food Tank recently had the opportunity to hear from FarmRaiser’s chief cultivator Christina Carson and learn more about their company and how FarmRaiser is impacting schools and communities. Here is what she had to say about FarmRaiser.
Food Tank (FT): FarmRaiser is an inventive, almost disruptive innovation when it comes to school fundraisers. How did the idea turn into a reality?
Christina Carson (CC): Our tagline is “Reinventing School Fundraisers,” so we definitely agree that this is a somewhat disruptive innovation for the industry of school fundraising. We believe that fundraising has been lost in a sea of sugar and junk food and plan to help schools across the country bring healthy food and their communities back into the tradition of school fundraisers.
Our founder, Mark Abbott, felt too passionate about the idea of bringing fresh, local food to school fundraising to let it fall by the wayside, so he committed himself to making it a reality! We’ve spent the past year testing our approach, and are now in the middle of building a technology platform that will help us to keep track of all the schools and vendors we partner with while making it easier for students to sell healthy, local products to their friends, family, and neighbors. Once we’re live on the platform, we’ll be ready to expand much more quickly – soon to be bringing healthy, local fundraising to communities from coast to coast!
FT: On the website it looks like there are programs in Michigan and Washington state. Are FarmRaiser programs available in other states yet?
CC: FarmRaiser is currently only available in Michigan and Washington, with plans to be active in the metro DC area to kick off in January 2015. In 2015, we’ll be working to add new markets as quickly as we possibly can! We encourage folks who are interested in FarmRaiser to sign up on our website even if they don’t live in Michigan, Washington State, or DC. A lot of interest from any given region could encourage us to start working in that area sooner rather than later!
FT: What do you look for when choosing farmers or artisan food producers to participate with you?
CC: We look for a number of things when searching for the perfect farmers and artisans to work with, and have found that those characteristics change slightly depending on the community where we’re working. A list of characteristics includes:
– I always ask the schools and organizations that are raising funds if they have farms or businesses they are interested in working with. Sometimes this comes in the form of asking the person coordinating the campaign and sometimes it involves having a brainstorming session with the students who will be selling the products. We love the sense of ownership over the campaign that comes from the students/school having input on the product list.
– We always look for businesses that are tied into their community and interested in participating with FarmRaiser not just to sell their products but as a way to support their community.
– While we don’t limit our selections to organic items only, we work to support farms and businesses that have some dedication to the sustainability of their efforts. We’re also happy to put together 100 percent organic fundraisers if the schools prefer to do that.
– Size isn’t a big player in looking for businesses, as we try to bring on a slew of businesses of all different sizes in each community where we work. We love working with smaller businesses as FarmRaiser provides a great outlet for them to gain exposure. Larger businesses are great to fill out our sales and help us have enough product for really large campaigns.
FT: What has the feedback been like from farmers and food artisans participating in FarmRaiser? Have they seen increases in their business as a result of increased publicity?
CC: Just about every vendor we reach out to is excited about what we’re up to, and most of them are interested in selling their products with us so long as the pricing structure makes sense for their business. For smaller businesses, we can be a great way for folks to boost their wholesale sales. We don’t yet have any hard data on the boosting of our vendor’s sales (and we could never take credit for all sales increases!), but we have had a number of great responses from vendors who have had folks come purchase from them at the farmers market after having first tried their products through FarmRaiser.
FT: What has the feedback been from schools and children participating in FarmRaiser campaigns? Can you share any of your favorite success stories with our Food Tank readers?
CC: There is nothing quite like getting kids excited to sell fresh local produce and other local products to their friends and family – it really makes me believe that there is hope for our food system to turn things around! Sometimes we’ll bring in samples of some of the products for students to taste and the excitement it creates is contagious. We frequently engage students in the process of sorting all the products to be delivered. This often includes at least one or two produce items that were purchased in bulk and need to be weighed and divided out into individual portions. Students learn valuable life experiences weighing the produce and keeping everything organized. I recently went to a school to help with their delivery of mostly fresh produce. It was the third campaign the school has conducted and we had a few repeat helpers from previous campaigns. They were so eager to help and all really wanted to be the ones working on the scales. I love when students express that excitement about a task that is totally educational! While not specifically a success story, one of my favorite aspects of FarmRaiser’s work with schools is how happy folks are to have a better alternative for their fundraising. Last school year we conducted 30 campaigns, and all but two schools have returned to host campaigns with us again this school year!
That suggestion resonated with Abbott, so he had an idea. Instead of candy and chips from national suppliers, why not make it possible for students to sell healthy food from local farmers, beekeepers, and food artisans? He started a pilot program in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. And the following year, in 2013, FarmRaiser ran 30 fundraising campaigns for schools in Michigan and Washington State.
Fundraising is a necessary evil for our nation’s schools. Budget cuts from federal and state sources have left most schools financially needy. In a 2007 survey conducted by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, 94 percent of principals–representing a wide range of school districts across the country–reported that they had held fundraisers.
Often run by parent volunteers, these fundraisers generate money to pay for everything from field trips, to playground equipment, school supplies, and new technology. Schools in both low-income and high-income areas report the need to fundraise. At least 35 states provided less funding per student for the 2013-14 school year than they did before the recession hit. Fourteen of these states have cut the amount they give for each student by more than 10 percent.
Fundraising is big business. Student salesmen generate $1.4 billion a year peddling packaged food, magazines, and gifts, according to the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers. But as schools are challenged to create a healthier environment for their students, parents and teachers alike question sending kids out into the community to hawk high-fat, high-salt cookie dough and candy bars. “I want to support the schools, but I don’t want to buy the stuff full of high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils,” says Therese Povolo of Champion Hill Farm in Beulah, Michigan. She and her husband are beekeepers who have sold honey through FarmRaiser since last fall. The first school that used their products was only half a mile away from their home.
Fundraising is also one more way to fill students’ lives with candy and processed food. Children are especially vulnerable to big food marketing and having schools train them to be salespeople for high-calorie, low-nutrient foods seems counterintuitive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diet related illnesses such type 2 diabetes are on the rise. Their research shows that childhood obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past three decades.
Similar to traditional catalogue-based fundraising programs, FarmRaiser customers order products from a set list of vendors. But FarmRaiser campaigns avoid cookies and desserts, opting instead for local fruits and vegetables and locally sourced honey, pasta, granola, spice mixes, artisan breads, jam, etc. Schools can also collect money from cash donations made online.
Most of FarmRaiser’s vendors are within 30 miles of the school and if the school has a personal connection to a farm or food artisan, FarmRaiser will add them to their product list. “We love to sell products that directly connect back to the students at the school,” says says FarmRaiser’s campaign manager Christina Carson. For example Leelanau Montessori in Suttons Bay, Michigan, includes dried cherries in their fundraiser from Cherry Bay Orchards, one student’s family farm.
FarmRaiser vendors also use the campaigns as marketing tools. It provides a chance to reach new customers at a time of the year when farmers’ market crowds in Michigan are dwindling. “We have a big tourist market in the summer and when that falls off, it’s nice to get other people aware of our product,” says Povolo.
Carson says that FarmRaiser’s financial model is competitive with other types of food-based fundraising, which offer schools anywhere from 20-50 percent of the profit. In this case, the school ends up with a flat 45 percent of the amount sold, FarmRaiser takes a 10 percent fee, and the rest goes to local businesses.
FarmRaiser also helps schools raise money through a program they call The Community Basket. Here’s how it works: The school accepts cash donations in the name of a local food bank. The school keeps 50 percent and the rest of the money is used to buy local food for the food bank. Typically the students choose the charity and then have a chance to deliver the donation. “[It’s] a great way for people to share the bounty of the fundraiser with people who are in need,” says Carson.
As the need for fundraising grows, so does the need for fundraising companies working for more than just their own bottom line. FarmRaiser plans to increase their campaigns throughout Michigan and the Seattle area and to move into other states in the coming years.
“Eighty percent of households purchase something from a fundraiser every year,” says Carson. If they were selling, say, local apples instead of candy, she adds, “you’d have 80 percent of people purchasing local food.” The impact on the local farm economy could be huge.
Food for Thought was started in 1995 as a way for founder, Timothy Young, to put into a jar his philosophy on making the world abetter place to live for all of us. These impeccably high quality, organic, and fair trade products could therefore convince anyone of our collective need to create and raise awareness around just and sustainable food.
Most of the Food for Thought products feature difficult-to-find organic fruits from northern Michigan farms. In preserves, you’ll find these fruits paired with herbs and other flavors to create extremely unique products such as Blueberry Lavender, Strawberry Basil, and Apricot Chardonnay. Salsas perfectly pair your more typical flavors with organic blueberries or cherries. You’ll also find a number of products featuring foraged wild plants such as Pickled Wild Leeks.
Timothy and his family founded Esch Road Foods in 2012 as a new line of products intended to showcase all that is great about the Great Lakes. The brand is aptly named for what locals refer to as Esch Road Beach, where Esch Road dead ends at a perfect Lake Michigan sandy shoreline. A creek meandering out of the forest and through the sand before meeting with the big lake.
Esch Road products feature a line of goods that celebrates the richness of the Great Lakes region, particularly the incredible fruits grown along the west coast of Michigan. While they’ve dropped the organic standards, you can rest assured that these products are still produced in small batches with plenty of natural ingredients, attention, and love. They’re also certified Kosher & Non-GMO, and feature some organic ingredients grown on the Food for Thought Farm! Plus, these products are made more affordable than their Food for Thought counterparts.
About Founder, Timothy Young
Timothy is a pioneer of local products in the northern Michigan region, and likely one of the area’s most passionate citizens. He stands behind his passion for building a more just and sustainable food system worldwide, not only by running a food business that meets these ideals, but by working on projects and with organizations who are also committed to these goals. Here are just a few of those things.
Timothy (along with Chris Treter of another FarmRaiser partner business, Higher Grounds) is a founding board member of the non-profit, On The Ground. On The Ground supports sustainable community development in farming regions across the world. They raise awareness and funds for those projects by orchestrating incredible runs in the regions where they’re working. For example, in 2012 a group ran across the West Bank planting olive trees along the way to raise awareness about the struggles of Palestinian olive farmers.
At home, Food for Thought sponsors an annual free event called Green Cuisine at their farm and business location. The event helps to raise awareness about just and sustainable food systems within the northern Michigan community, while also being Michigan’s very fist zero waste event. Up to 1,000 visitors have attended each year to sample some of the region’s best local food and drink. Taking place every year in mid-July, we highly recommend you attend if you’re in the area!
Sixth grader Nicholas Plamondon said it was fun selling products like Brownwood Farms jams, Higher Grounds coffee, and salsas from Esch Road Foods to his aunts, uncles and grandparents.
He also had fun tasting the fare.
“The peach salsa was really good,” Plamondon said.
About $1,700 from the food drive will go to the 134-student school. The rest is destined for the local businesses and farms that produced the products, minus a 10-percent cut for FarmRaiser, the Flint-based company that coordinated the drive.
FarmRaiser helps schools in Michigan raise money and teach students about their local economies, said Christina Carson, the group’s campaign coordinator.
Connie Lauferskey, Leelanau Montessori’s head of school, said those are two things that spark passion in her students’ families.
“The opportunity for families to support our school and local business and farms was perfect for us,” she said.
Carson said FarmRaiser also beefs up business for local farms and food producers, and unlike a lot of other school fundraisers, educates students about healthy-eating habits.
“A lot of the fundraisers that are accessible to schools are selling cookie dough,” Carson said.
Carson said she brought a slew of local foods to Leelanau Montessori at the start of the fundraiser for students to sample. Roasted root vegetables were among the offerings. Carson said they were a hit with the students, but they weren’t the most popular local food.
That distinction went to dessert.
“The kids, of course, particularly enjoyed the chocolate,” Lauferskey said.
Teresa Villacorta and her husband John Cherry started the Flint Coffee Company to bring Teresa’s family’s coffee directly to the Flint community. Humberto Villacorta and his wife Juliana are coffee farmers in the village of Los Patos, Peru where their family has been farming coffee for over 45 years. Coffee farming can be an unpredictable business due to the potential of disease on the plants and constantly fluctuating prices. By sourcing beans from their family farm, the Flint Coffee Company can make sure the family has a constant buyer for their crop and that they receive a livable price for their work.
About the Coffee
By purchasing coffee beans from their own family, the Flint Coffee Company can ensure that the beans are of the highest quality. All of the coffee is shade grown in a traditional manner under a variety of trees, including fruit such as banana and papaya, and other native trees. Growing coffee in this manner mimics the natural habitat of coffee, protecting the biodiversity of the region and eliminating the need for pesticides or fungicides.
All of the coffee is harvested by hand, ensuring that only the ripest cherries (what the coffee fruit is called) are picked. During the harvest, the entire village of Los Patos comes together with all hands working together to harvest the coffee. Once harvested, the coffee cherries are depulped, leaving just the fresh green coffee beans. The are then fermented, washed, and dried in the sun. Once dry, they can be sent to Flint for roasting. Then of course, to make you a delicious cup of coffee!
Where to find Flint Coffee Company
Of course you can purchase their coffee from FarmRaiser campaigns in the Flint area, but it is also available in plenty of locations throughout the community. You can purchase a cup of freshly made coffee at Bankok Peppers, Hoffman’s Deco Deli, Local Grocer in the Flint Farmers Market, and The Lunch Studio. If you’re looking for some freshly roasted beans to make coffee at home, stop by the Local Grocer in the Flint Farmers Market, Good Beans Cafe, or Trim Pines Farm in Holly.
Since the first of July of this year, those restrictions were extended beyond mealtimes into all areas of the school day. Any food that’s intended for students to consume at school must meet the sugar and fats specifications outlined in the bill, including food sold during on-site bake sales. Many have dubbed this new aspect of the bill “The War on Cupcakes,” a humorous nickname that undermines the important implications of the program. By ensuring that children eat better at school, they are being exposed to healthy eating alternatives and learning how to have a more complete diet. That said, the bill only covers snack foods intended to be consumed during the school day, and not a majority of junk-food based fundraising items such as frozen cookie dough, candy or pizza kits where the products are intended to be taken home (these remain exempt from the regulation).
FarmRaiser’s Two Cents
As a company that offers healthy alternatives to the sea of sugar and preservative-filled foods that are the norm for fundraising campaigns, many of our supporters and friends have assumed we’d be in favor of extending regulations to cover all food sold in fundraisers. In fact, the new rules set up a strange situation where schools are banning certain products on campus only to have students take home fundraising brochures filled with every imaginable variation of these same products no longer available for consumption at school–a mixed message that could undermine the effectiveness of the “Let’s Move” campaign in truly changing food selection and eating habits.
But is the answer more regulation? FarmRaiser could probably benefit from expanding the regulation. However, I believe the true power in our model is that we offer a healthy alternative. We want families to join the growing movement around eating healthy and eating local. In my experience, no one joins a group or a cause because they are forced to do so. So I think schools should be able to sell whatever they want to raise money for their critical supplies. Of course, any school that sees how well our campaigns align with the values and practices of their school wellness plans, not to mention the amazing local products (and profits) available through our campaigns, will jump at the chance to join our movement.
Want to support your local farmers? Like the idea of having direct access to fresh, high quality, locally grown produce? Interested to do a little more experimenting in your kitchen? If so, we recommend looking into joining the rapidly growing movement called Community Supported Agriculture, also known as CSA.
What is a CSA?
More than anything, CSAs are about community. It involves community members committing to a partnership with a local farmer (or group of farmers). In this partnership, the community members each purchase a share of the farm in advance to cover the farmer’s operating costs and salary. In return, they receive shares of produce throughout the growing season. These shares are often delivered weekly. CSA shares vary greatly in their cost and what they include. A share could cost you anywhere from $200 to $700 and include veggies, fruit, eggs, meat, cheese, bread, or some combination of these things. If you’re concerned about eating all the produce – consider asking if your farmer offers half-shares or find a friend to share your weekly box of goodies with!
Many CSA farms also offer the option of including produce from other local farms, which can enhance variety. The structure of different CSA farms may vary greatly in terms of who coordinates the shares and how they work – but all United States CSAs share the aforementioned characteristics. Some programs even have high-tech online systems where one can choose the produce they’ll receive, skip weeks they’ll be out of town, and add additional goods to round out the offerings.
For the past 50 or so years, corporate agribusinesses have dominated agriculture in the U.S. The industrial farming methods used by these enormous corporations have supplanted small family farms and created a rift between the consumer and his or her food. Community Supported Agriculture started popping up in the U.S. in the 1980’s, and we now have over 13,000 CSA farms throughout the nation. Community Supported Agriculture offers us a chance to build a strong, sustainable food system and to become more invested (literally) in our food.
How does your CSA help local farmers?
Helps small farms afford their spring planting costs.
Relieves the burden of having to independently finance farm operations, which often includes relying on bank loans.
Ensures a core collection of customers, guaranteeing initial sales for the season.
Lessens the impact of a single unfruitful harvest or external crisis, as the community members or “shareholders” share the risk.
Cuts out the middleman, lowering cost.
How does your CSA benefit you and your community?
You gain direct access to regular deliveries of fresh, healthy produce.
You know where your food comes from, and often are offered frequent opportunities to visit or help on the farm.
Connects people back to the earth and the food they eat.
Strengthens the local economy.
Often CSAs end up being less expensive in the long run than purchasing the same vegetables at market weekly.
Looking for a CSA in your area?
There are plenty of ways find a CSA in your area or find out more about the different options. Of course we always suggest stopping by your local farmers market and asking the farmers who has a CSA – there’s nothing like choosing your CSA in person instead of online! There are plenty of online resources for finding a CSA as well. Do a search for local resources in your area, or check out some of these more national options: Local Harvest, Rural Bounty, USDA, Real Time Farms.
What to do with your CSA veggies?
Lots of folks sign up for CSA shares as an early step in getting more local food into their homes, and quickly get a little overwhelmed by all the veggies. Don’t fear though – there are plenty of things to do with excess! Increasing your daily vegetable intake is a great way to improve your overall health. Plus, with a little creativity many CSA items can be preserved for eating in the winter when less is available locally.
Here are some great resources for learning to eat with a CSA share:
The Kitchn provides some great tips on how to approach cooking with a CSA share as opposed to a weekly trip to the market or store.
The Cascade Harvest Coalition is an incredible Seattle-based organization that is working to re-localize the food system, and they’re working with FarmRaiser as a result! The coalition is made up of a diverse group of individuals and organizations that are all committed to fostering a healthy food and farm industry throughout the state of Washington.
Their goals are to:
Increase public awareness, appreciation and support for the economic, environmental, and cultural benefits of agriculture in the region.
Promote preservation and protection of agricultural lands and resources.
Enhance community food security and health by improving access to and consumption of locally-produced food.
Promote coordinated action and dialogue among the broad diversity of agricultural interests on issues affecting the region’s farmers, agricultural resources and quality of life.
They meet these goals by connecting consumers more directly with farmers and providing resources to farmers to aid them in making their operations more sustainable.
How it Started
Their unified endeavor began in 1997 when the lack of awareness about local and sustainable food options called for a collective voice to advocate better options to the public. A series of gatherings ensued that brought together all types of people involved in different aspects of the local food industry, from land use managers and economists, to chefs and state government representatives, and of course farmers. The result of the many discussions that took place was the birth of the idea for the coalition.
Puget Sound Fresh App
Since that time, the coalition has worked tirelessly to change the food system for the better. Along the way, they have adapted to the changes in how people talk and think about food and have invested time and energy to make their wealth of information more available to the public. Recently, they released a free application called Puget Sound Fresh that provides a quick and easy way for you to search the product you want to buy and see where it is available locally. It was also allows you to find farmers markets, provides information about each farm, and discover new recipes. Imagine how convenient it is to have all of that information contained in one app!
Cascade Harvest Coalition and FarmRaiser
The Coalition has been a flagship partner for FarmRaiser in the Seattle area since we started working there. Their wealth of knowledge about the local agriculture scene and time-honored connections with farmers and food artisans alike has proved to be an invaluable resource in jump-starting vendor relationships in the area. We couldn’t be happier to have them on board!
Coalitions like the Cascade Harvest Coalition are making strides to make shopping sustainably a more convenient and doable option for families all over the country. If you don’t live in Washington, do some searching to see if you have a similar organization in your area!
The Bow Hill Blueberry Farm (Bow, WA) has been a staple partner for FarmRaiser in Washington since we started working there. The farm sits on the original property of the Anderson Blueberry Farm, in the fertile lands of the Skagit Valley. They’ve been an established farm since 1947, making them the oldest family-run blueberry farm in the Skagit Valley. The land is beautiful, rolling, and bountiful and the berries are delicious!
Bow Hill has been producing scrumptious blueberries for over 65 years, and has become a staple in their community. They draw on the strengths of their whole family to make their farm welcoming, beautiful, and productive. Harley, a former photojournalist for the Seattle Times takes beautiful photos of the farm, as can be seen on their website. Susan works as a freelance commercial director to keep the farm running smoothly. Amelia, their daughter, used her graphic design talents to design the logo for the farm and decorate their store. Wylie, their son, is about to start the 8th grade.
The farm has over 4500 high bush blueberries, a combination of Blue Crop, Jersey, Rubel, and Stanley. Each variety has distinct characteristics and flavor, if you have a sensitive taste for blueberries. The growing season in Washington is from June-September, so right now is the peak of the season.
They strive to create an environment that is conducive to family engagement and agricultural education. Their farm is a favorite local destination for “You-Pick” blueberries every summer, where folks can roam the fields, pick their own blueberries, and learn about the process of growing this prized berry.
Bow Hill also distributes “We-Pick” berries and blueberry products to locations around the area through their involvement in the Puget Sound Food Hub. The farm serves as a distribution point for the food hub – where area farmers bring together products to fulfill orders for restaurants, hospitals, preschools, grocery stores, and more in larger metropolitan areas such as Seattle. One truck then leaves from Bow Hill with everyone’s goods. Having a centralized delivery system for small and medium sized farms saves time and money for farmers and makes it easier for businesses to source local goods direct from the farm.
If you live in an area where blueberries are grown locally, try going to a farm and picking them yourself for a great family activity. Bow Hill Blueberries has a few awesome recipes for you to try should you get your hands on some local berries!