WSDA helps farmers with direct-sales businesses

The Bellingham Business Journal

Farmers who sell their agricultural and food products directly to consumers now have a new tool to help launch a business or expand into new products: the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Small Farm & Direct Marketing Handbook.

Announced at the annual meeting of the Washington State Farmers Market Association in January, the handbook provides practical information about the resources available to farmers, how to operate a farm business, marketing strategies and regulations on specific products.

WSDA Director Dan Newhouse said the information in the handbook makes it easier for businesses to navigate local, state and federal rules to sell their goods, as well as capture a higher percentage of the retail food dollar.

“Helping farmers sell their products and increase the economic viability of small farms is the core mission for our Small Farm and Direct Marketing Program,” Newhouse said in press release. “A lot of farm wisdom went into this handbook and we paid special attention to summarizing pertinent rules and regulations in plain language.”

Direct marketing has increased as more consumers purchase food locally. The vast majority of Washington’s 39,000 farms are classified as small farms. Sales at 140 farmers markets exceeded $55 million in 2008, the latest figures available. There also are about 200 Community Supported Agriculture operations and some 500 farm stands.

The 125-page handbook can be downloaded here in its entirety, by chapter or by topic. Printed copies may be obtained by e-mailing your address to smallfarms@agr.wa.gov or by calling Leisa Schumaker at (360) 902-1926.

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