We have some exciting news! The Southwest Washington Growers Cooperative is moving from the Port of Olympia to the Chehalis Industrial & Business Park! This new location will serve both as a warehouse and distribution point for the Southwest Washington Food Hub program and will provide some space for the Southwest Washington Grain Project, too.

The Southwest Washington Growers Cooperative is an ongoing effort to provide produce distribution services to local farmers and growers in our area. Currently, there are about 40 agricultural members in the cooperative between Lewis, Grays, Thurston, Pierce counties. With a central distribution location for the cooperative, local farmers around the region are able to focus solely on growing and producing, while the co-op focuses on distribution to local institutions and others through their Multi-Farm Box program.

The Multi-Farm Box program provides farm-fresh produce boxes with items sourced from multiple farms as opposed to community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs from individual farms.

The Food Hub Program, which previously operated in a warehouse space in Tumwater distributes farm boxes for workplace wellness programs, sells produce and meat through the US Department of Agriculture, and is also able to sell farm fresh produce to school districts around the region, too.

Jake Fay of the Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC) tells us that the warehouse and distribution space was made possible by grant funding awarded by the US Department of Agriculture, for which the NABC partnered to help gain the necessary support for the project.

With the NABC dedicated to supporting value-added opportunities in the agricultural sector for producers and processors, that means the NABC is able to help local and regional projects with grant writing, feasibility studies, and act as a liaison between government entities to help projects like the Southwest Washington Growers Cooperative become established.

With the Southwest Washington Growers Cooperative — and the new location here in Chehalis — the hope is that the cooperative should be self-sufficient and able to hire their own staff within the next 3-5 years. In the meantime, the NABC will act as the interim director for the ongoing project.

“As the cooperative is becoming more established, we’re able to move into something bigger,” says Jake Fay of the NABC, speaking of the new McBride Court location in Chehalis.

Fay tells us that the new space will have a walk-in cooler and space where produce will be boxed up before being distributed to pick-up points in the area.

Fay also explained that moving to the Chehalis Business & Industrial Park will allow the Southwest Washington Growers Cooperative to attempt to expand its Food Hub program into more of southwest Washington, specifically the Longview and Kelso areas.

“The Port of Chehalis is a wonderful location for so many things,” said Fay of the new space.

As far as the Southwest Washington Grain Project goes, about ten of the 40 total grower cooperative producers grow barley and wheat. With the decline in agriculture seen in Lewis County over the past 30 years, the NABC is continuing to support the conversion of available agricultural land over to wheat and barley. This year, the NABC will pay out more than $1,000,000 in producer payments to their grain-producing members. The additional space at the new warehouse location will provide additional storage for the growing Southwest Washington Grain Project.

While the Southwest Washington Food Hub program primarily focuses on bulk distribution, residents and consumers can sign up for the Multi-Farm Box program, which provides a CSA-style box of produce from multiple members of the Southwest Washington Growers Cooperative, by visiting the program website here: https://swwafoodhub.com/multi-farm-box/

Pickup points include the Doty Store, Nature Nurture Farmacy and Schona’s in downtown Chehalis, among other locations in Thurston County. Consumers choose a local pickup point when they sign up for the 10-week program for $350 or $35 / week.

Learn more about the Southwest Washington Growers Cooperative here: https://swwafoodhub.com/sw-wa-growers-co-op/

Jake Fay of the NABC said that he would like to thank the Port of Chehalis, the Washington State Farm Bureau, Washington State University, and the Economic Alliance of Lewis County for their continued partnership in these and other projects around the Lewis County area.