Aerial view of Chimacum’s rich agricultural valley. In the foreground is Finnriver Farm & Cidery, formerly Chimacum Dairy, which the Land Trust protected forever with a conservation easement. Photo by Casey Scalf.
In addition to being one of our volunteer board members, Kellie Henwood is Regional Small Farms Coordinator for WSU Extension in Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap counties.
Like countless others in our community, Kellie Henwood’s work has suddenly shifted in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. In addition to being a member of Jefferson Land Trust’s board of directors and working as coordinator for Jefferson LandWorks Collaborative, Kellie is the Regional Small Farms Coordinator for Washington State University (WSU) Extension in Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap counties.
Usually, her role involves assisting farmers with technical support, resources, and education. However, the farm visits, events, and workshops she normally coordinates are all on hold.
Instead, while working from home and keeping her two young stepchildren entertained, learning, and safe, Kellie is focusing her time and energy helping to ensure food access and food security, while also supporting farmers on the Olympic Peninsula.
In response to challenges related to the COVID-19 virus, a working group of local organizations, including the WSU Extension Small Farms Program, quickly formed to create a one-stop clearinghouse of information regarding community food access and food security resources, as well as local farm, farmstand, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) directories for Jefferson County.
The COVID-19 Food Services Locator Map can be used to find food banks, restaurants, grocery stores, and farmstands.
Kellie, along with employees and volunteers from partner organizations of the working group (see list of partners below) published information on emergency food access and security resources to combat immediate hunger. This includes food banks, free meal locations, school food pick-up/drop-off locations, soup kitchens, grocery delivery, and curbside pickup options, and relevant restaurant pick-up information.
The information is available and being updated on the Local 20/20 website. “Local 20/20 is a nonprofit dedicated to community resilience,” said Kellie. “I can’t think of a better place for the information.” One of the links is an interactive map. On the COVID-19 Food Resources Locator map, people can type in their address or drop a pin and find meal programs, food banks, restaurants, grocery stores, farmstands, and farmer’s markets within a set radius of their addresses.
Kellie and her small farms team are also managing similar food access, food security and local food directory information for Clallam and Kitsap counties on the WSU Extension Regional Small Farms website.
Red Dog Farm was protected by Jefferson Land trust in 2011 with a conservation easement. The farm’s fertile land is forever available for agriculture. Photo by Kellie Henwood.
In addition to serving as an information clearinghouse, the working group is widely promoting local food resources, including farms, farmstands, CSA memberships, custom orders, and pick up options. As one way of doing so, they’ve partnered with the Port Townsend Leader. The Leader is providing space for a column and publishing food access and resource information provided by the working group each week. “We’re working to get the word out by every means available and we appreciate the Leader partnering with us in this way,” said Kellie.
Many farmers have experienced immediate income loss from the closure of restaurants and regional farmers’ markets, so they have goods for sale. “Jefferson County’s local food network will be extremely vital now and in the coming months,” said Kellie. “We’re encouraging community members to sign up for CSA memberships and buy from local farm stands and grocers carrying local food on their shelves as well as from the Port Townsend Farmers Market, which is now scheduled to open April 25th as a retail space.”
“It’s a really interesting time to be involved with agriculture. We’re leaning on farmers to get healthy food into households. The situation is showcasing the true value of farmers and how essential local farms are to our economy and community.”
Not all local farms will have a presence at the Farmers Market, however. “Some farmers don’t want to give up a day in the field to attend the market,” explained Kellie. “Instead, they’re opting to keep working the land, creating and harvesting food for their farm stands, CSA programs, and local grocers.”
Open all year, Red Dog Farm offers a wide variety of fresh produce at its farmstand. Photo by Kellie Henwood.
With a robust set of contacts in her listserv, Kellie is also getting out a weekly update with Covid-19-specific resources for farmers, such as food safety webinars and information on ways farmers can directly market produce and products. She’s also keeping tabs on economic support for farmers, such as business grants, small business loans, and the American Farmland Trust relief fund that’s just been launched to award farmers with cash grants of up to $1,000 each to help them weather the current storm of market disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis.
“I’m so glad to see a national land trust stepping up like this for farmers, especially since I’m on the board of Jefferson Land Trust and have such a personal connection to this work,” said Kellie. “It’s a really interesting time to be involved with agriculture. We’re leaning on farmers to get healthy food into households. The situation is showcasing the true value of farmers and how essential local farms are to our economy and community.”
Working alongside members of the working group from Jefferson County Dept. of Emergency Management, Kellie is looking at the big picture. “Personally, what I’m seeing is that we have a real treasure of a local food system, which is especially important in a geographically isolated region like ours.”