It’s a cool but sunny morning as I meet Michael Frazier, executive director of Viva Farms, at the farmland deemed Viva 1, located on 33 acres in Skagit Valley. In the height of the growing season here at Viva, they are growing more than just fruit and vegetables. There are three main branches to what they grow — farmers, community and food. Frazier likes to think of it as “three legs on a stool,” creating a viable and sustainable business.
It all began in 2009. Viva Farms is a nonprofit (501-C) charitable organization that saw a need not only for sustainable, organic farming but also an economically viable business here in this rich and diverse land of western Washington. Their driving passion remains twofold: help local family farms earn a living and create access to healthy, nutritious food for everyone — no matter their socio-economic status. Frazier explained their hope is that “aspiring farmers will become part of the solution that nourishes our planet and ourselves for the next generations.” The current average age for farmers in the region is 58, with many of them looking to retire.
Operating two locations in Skagit County and one in King County, Viva Farms create a network for new farmers within their incubator program, helping them get their start and grow their business. As Frazier says, “They are lowering the barrier for beginning farmers to create opportunity for success.”
“Incubating at Viva has allowed me to start my own farm business at a scale I could manage and without huge investments in infrastructure or equipment,” said Eliza Mae Atterberry, owner of Rain Shadow Farms. “I’m looking forward to growing beyond Viva property someday, but the support and community here will be missed.”
Interested in farming? Wondering how the incubator program works?
Each farmer begins with a 1/4 acre of land, acquiring the skills to farm while being surrounded with support and knowledge from fellow farmers and everyone involved at Viva. There are a few essential areas in which this happens: access to farming equipment from tractors to irrigation systems, as well as assistance with infrastructure, marketing, and capital.