According to the USDA there are approximately 39,000 farms in the state of Washington. Although this includes a few large, corporate farms, the vast majority are small, part-time operations. In between are approximately 6,000 full-time family farms (in a state with the population approaching 6.1 million). In his essay, The Future of Agrarianism, Fred Kirschenmann says that full-time farms "are at the heart of the agrarian ideal," and it is these farms that are most threatened with extinction. They're what Kirschenmann calls "the disappearing middle."

In the article "A Place at the Table," WSU researcher David Granatstein notes that in 1910 farmers got 40 percent of every dollar spent on food, but that-by 1990-the farmers' share dropped to less than 10 percent. Primarily the difference "is going to the marketers-the brokers, distributors, and supermarkets." The article goes on to provide an encouraging overview of Washington farmers who're breaking the mold and finding ways to sell directly to consumers so that they can compete in today's marketplace. Below are links to several organizations and agencies that are helping facilitate that process.

Food Alliance (
Food Alliance is dedicated to promoting expanded use of sustainable agriculture practices using market-based incentives. To date the Alliance has certified more than 60 farms in the Pacific Northwest that meet their strict environmental and social criteria, including soil and water conservation, pesticide reduction and elimination, wildlife habitat preservation and enhancement, humane treatment of animals, and fair and safe labor conditions. For participating farms the organization provides an extensive marketing program, including commitments from major retailers and food service companies to source and promote Food Alliance certified products.

From the Heart of Washington (
From the Heart of Washington is a marketing campaign designed to increase consumer demand for the state's farm products and demonstrate the value of agriculture to our economy. The campaign's partners represent a broad cross section of businesses, non-profit organizations and public agencies all working together to promote the produce of Washington's farms, orchards and ranches.

Pike Place Market Basket CSA (
The Market Basket CSA is a cooperative form of Community Supported Agriculture. For people living in or near Seattle it offers a great opportunity to get an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farms located throughout Washington state. In addition to serving more than 700 regular subscribers, in 2003 the Market Basket CSA delivered fresh fruits and vegetables to 500 homebound seniors via Meals-on-Wheels as part of the Senior Market Basket Program.

Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance (
The Alliance created and manages five of Seattle's most popular farmers markets, located in the Columbia City, Lake City, Magnolia, University District, and West Seattle neighborhoods. A total of more than 140 farmers sell at these markets, attracting thousands of shoppers each week.

Puget Sound Fresh (
Initiated by the King County Agriculture Commission, Puget Sound Fresh has grown into a program serving farmers, retailers, chefs, and the general public throughout Western Washington. Through extensive marketing programs and the Puget Sound Fresh logo, consumers are encouraged to purchase locally grown produce. Their website includes a wealth of information, including an interactive farm map with access to dozens of family farms in the Puget Sound region.

WSDA Small Farm & Direct Marketing Program (
Established in 2001, the Washington State Dept of Agriculture (WSDA) Small Farm & Direct Marketing Program is active in aiding farmers to market directly to consumers. They publish the Green Book, a guide to direct marketing regulations in Washington state, and promote linkages between farms and institutions such as schools, nursing homes and prisons.

Washington State Farmers Market Association (
According to the USDA, farmers markets are becoming a force across the country. In 2002 there were an estimated 31,000 markets across the country, providing 19,000 farmers with opportunities to sell directly to the public. The Washington Farmers Market Association's website includes a directory listing 85 member markets in this state. Each week during the summer an estimated 67,000 people shopped at Washington farmers markets, with 2003 farmer sales of $21.5 million, three times the sales of five years earlier. Through WSU's Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, 7,000 low-income seniors are provided with assistance to purchase fresh produce from local farmers.