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Local Farmers Fuel WTA Trail Work

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Jul 19, 2017 02:00 PM |

It takes a lot of food to power WTA’s Volunteer Vacations. Thanks to the Snoqualmie Valley Farmers Cooperative, we're able to feed our crews sustainably grown produce while reducing our environmental footprint a little in the process.

It takes a lot of food to power WTA’s Volunteer Vacations. From April to September, we prepare enough food to support 30,000 hours of trail work. In July alone, crews will eat 126 pounds of carrots and broccoli. This year, as we were preparing to send out 45 crews over the summer (about 500 volunteers) our staff began to wonder: Would it be possible to get some of our food directly from the Snoqualmie Valley, where we pack up the gear and food for our crews? Just as hikers can support local economies by stopping to buy gas or food in trail towns, we wanted to do our part to support the recreation economy—and reduce our environmental footprint a little in the process.

A volunteer makes a sandwich with lettuce from Snoqualmie Valley Farmers during a volunteer vacation at Moran State Park. Photo by Rick Beckel.

Enter the Snoqualmie Valley Farmers Cooperative (SVFC). By bringing together 21 small farms situated in the fertile Snoqualmie Valley, this agricultural co-op is able to supply sustainably grown produce at aff ordable wholesale prices. The produce carries more than just an organic label. Farmers participating in the co-op pledge to uphold a wide spectrum of socially and environmentally responsible practices, such as recognizing farm workers’ right to association and maintaining salmon habitat in the valley.

Implementing a more sustainable program means paying attention to economic concerns as well as the environmental and social dynamics. Partnering with a co-op that provides produce at wholesale prices and finding efficiencies elsewhere in our food budget means this project won’t be an added cost for WTA. Additionally, the money that WTA spends as a result of this partnership will continue to circulate in our local community.

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The farm co-op provides much of the lettuce our crews will be eating in their sandwiches over the course of the summer.

This partnership brings together two organizations deeply linked to, and intent on preserving, our incredible local geography. SVFC farmers work in the same watershed as many of our trail crews. As mountain snow pack melts and opens up trails for maintenance and hiking, water runs down from the Cascades to irrigate farmers’ fields in the Snoqualmie Valley.

Both SVFC and WTA are committed to responsible land stewardship in Washington. WTA crews use low-impact, Leave No Trace practices so that the land we enjoy is left intact for future generations of hikers and wildlife. Similarly, SVFC farmers use low-impact farming practices so that their land continues to produce food and provide wildlife habitat for generations to come.

Co-op manager Hannah Cavendish Palmer says that, just like WTA trail crew members, farmers at SVFC are diligent environmental stewards.

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Michaele, a farmer with the co-op helps feed our volunteers.

“Like many wilderness areas where trails are located, farms in the Snoqualmie Valley are part of a fragile ecosystem. In addition to providing fertile land for food production, this floodplain provides critical habitat for many fish and wildlife species,” she says.

By thinking about our impact beyond the trail and exploring new partnership opportunities, WTA hopes to continue to improve things for the next generation of hikers.

This article originally appeared in the July+August 2017 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.