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A Day on The Farm Learning About Local Food

Staircase at the side of a large building with a sign in front that says "Welcome to 21 Acres" and additional information about a farm tour and lunch.

21 Acres Farm is a regenerative organic farm located nearby in Woodinville. As a “living laboratory focused on climate solutions,” 21 Acres emphasizes sustainable agriculture education through a range of workshops, farm tours, special events, an on-site local foods market, a U-pick sunflower garden, volunteer programs, and more. The main building hub at the farm is LEED platinum certified. Several other partner farmers grow on adjacent or nearby land.

In September, 21 Acres hosted a group of local farmers, food distributors, and government partners for an afternoon farm tour and conversation. The event included an overview of 21 Acres’ agroecological approach to farming, a walking tour of the farm and its sustainable growing practices, and question-and-answer with 21 Acres staff.

Later, guests shared a meal of delicious farm-grown food and participated in a guided conversation about food and farming. Each guest reflected on a personal vision for a vibrant local food system that strengthens the local economy as well as the environment, while providing enough nutritious and culturally specific food for neighbors in our region.

Group of people seated at a table listening intently to a speakers

Guests also discussed how essential local farms are to our food system, noting the scarcity of affordable land (and competition for that land from developers). According to Robin Crowder, co-director of 21 Acres, “We’re interested in helping provide a forum for those who are newer to food systems work to gain a deeper understanding of the issues and connect with those who have been immersed in food and agriculture work for a long time. Our hope is to bring more attention to the complexity of the issues by fostering connections that can leverage relationships for greater food systems benefits.”

Many of the farmers who attended the event work closely with the Human Services Department’s (HSD) Farm to Preschool program, which provides nutrition education and fresh local produce to Seattle Preschool students. 21 Acres engaged with this successful program in its early years. The Farm to Preschool program was recognized earlier this year by The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement as one of the “top wellness and nutrition initiatives in the country that are examples of organizations able to make a large impact through effective policy, system, and environmental change.”

A group of people standing in a circle on a farm path listening to a tour guide

Programs like Farm to Preschool reap the benefits of local, sustainably grown food: Children receive free nutritious, culturally relevant vegetables and fruits; producers use farming practices that minimize impacts to soil health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and owners of local farms (including BIPOC, women, and immigrant-owned farms) receive income for their livelihoods.

HSD’s Child Care Nutrition Program, Afterschool Meals Program and Summer Food Service Program—as well as its contracted food bank and meal program partners—increasingly seek out local food as a way of supporting local farmers and reducing climate impacts. The Office of Sustainability and Environment’s Healthy Food in Schools programming also centers local food, and local food and climate resilience are key features in the City of Seattle’s forthcoming Food Action Plan update, set to be released in early 2024.

HSD is grateful for the invitation to tour 21 Acres and engage in thoughtful dialogue about the future of local farming. 21 Acres also hosts public farm tours and has several opportunities for further involvement in education and action.

Seán Walsh currently works as the Food & Nutrition Strategic Advisor in HSD’s Youth and Family Empowerment Division.