SEATTLE -- The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farm-to-florist cooperative of flower growers in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, has received a $138,000 USDA specialty crop grant.
Administered in partnership with the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the grant will fund several new programs at the market, which opened in 2011.
A major initiative will train key industry stakeholders in methods for achieving high-quality cut flower production with emphasis on season extension, marketing techniques and sustainable growing practices.
Funding will also assist the cooperative in providing Washington and Oregon floricultural producers with reliable volume sales opportunities to Puget Sound area supermarkets and chain stores.
Diane Szukovathy, president of the co-op, said in a news release that Washington is the second-largest cut-flower growing state in the nation; Oregon is the fourth-largest.
The 18 members -- independent flower producers and small family flower farms -- have funded the cooperative to date without government support.
"Now the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program grants will provide much-needed seed money to help improve our distribution and marketing efficiencies and meet the growing demand for locally and sustainably grown floral products," she said.
"This project supports Northwest flower growers' sustainability and provides consumers with opportunities to buy local, high-quality cut flowers," Rianne Perry, grant program administrator at WSDA, said. "We are pleased to include this as one of the 25 projects we were able to fund to support Washington's diverse agriculture, including floriculture."
A total of $3.3 million in grants for Washington projects was approved. Commodity commissions, agricultural associations, Washington State University and WSDA programs will receive funds. Examples include projects to encourage consumers to purchase commodities ranging from apples to nursery plants, improve irrigation practices and support small-scale growers' efforts to sell at farmers' markets.
-- Steve Brown