Former Peace Corp volunteer and Duvall farmer supports local growers as a project manager at the Northwest Agriculture Business Center.

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FARM AMBASSADOR
Luke Woodward

What do you do? I am a project manager for the Northwest Agriculture Business Center. Farmers wear many hats: grower, mechanic, personnel manager, accountant, marketer, business person, to name a few. The business side of any farm operation is often the most difficult to manage. With NABC, I help farmers by facilitating the formation of agricultural cooperative marketing associations; connecting them with buyers; assisting with access to financing and grant funding; providing business planning and financial modeling services; and helping to develop value-added products that create more revenue than selling their raw crop.

How did you get started in that field? My interest in farming began when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal and lived within a subsistence farming community. I was moved by the people I lived with, and that led me on my path to becoming an organic farmer for 17 years, growing mixed crops amongst the farming community I now work with.

What’s a typical day like? Like many dynamic jobs, there’s no typical day. But most days begin from my home office at my Duvall farm. On an any given day, I could be out in the field with a farmer, at my kitchen table helping a co-op with a crop plan, talking to wholesale purchasers or meeting with farming advocacy groups.

What’s the best part of the job? Being in a position where I am part of the local food economy. Helping to further farmers’ hard work is extremely rewarding to me. These farmers are an amazing group of people. They provide a valuable service to society.

What surprises people about what you do? My job often takes a lot of explanation because most people don’t know how hard it is to be a family farmer in the U.S. They see produce in a store but are unaware that our food distribution system favors big enterprises over local, family farms. When I explain that background and that my job at NABC is to help these farmers and farming cooperatives with the business and technical assistance they need to become successful in the long term, I see a lot of head nodding. People get really excited about the work we are doing.

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