In late 1997, over concerns about the lack of awareness and understanding of local food and farm issues and the need for a more unified voice for local agriculture, a series of gatherings commenced. Participants included farmers, chefs, fishers, land use managers, economists, educators, planners, members of the faith-based community, and local and state government representatives. Key points of discussion included: what a healthy local food and farm system would look like; what programs to support that vision were in place and how effective they were; what groups had access to programs and who wasn’t represented; and what a comprehensive approach to realizing the vision of a vibrant, local food system would include. There was consensus among the participants that an initiative to support local agriculture was needed.
After the meetings, Mary volunteered to babysit the box full of handouts and notes. From that box and a shared vision and determination to change the local food system, sprung Cascade Harvest Coalition: an organization that would become a “go-to” voice, clearinghouse for information, and staunch advocate for local agriculture.
The Coalition incorporated as a non-profit in 1999. Since then, CHC has built programs and services that support farmers, consumers and communities; built effective working relationships with a wide variety of people and organizations throughout the food system; and worked determinedly to change the food system for the better. Now, as issues surrounding our food system and local food gain more public attention and more organizations rise to join the movement, CHC continues to bring people together - from farmers to corporations, from local community groups to the state legislature - to realize the vision of a vibrant, local food system.