Sarita Role Schaffer

Former Director, Viva Farms

Mount Vernon, WA

Regenerate Soil & Nature  |  Community Economic Development, Food and Agriculture, Incubator / Accelerator, Rural Community Development

Sarita supported beginning and immigrant farmers in becoming farm owners and connected new farmers to opportunities and education.

Sarita served as regional director of Washington State University’s Latino Farming Program and directed Viva Farms, a farm incubator and food hub project of GrowFood that helps beginning and immigrant farmers become farm owners. Sarita co-founded GrowFood, a nonprofit that connects new farmers to internships, apprenticeships, and hands-on education on more than 2,600 sustainable farms and food projects in the U.S. and 56 other countries. Sarita has advanced organic farming and agricultural education in New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, and Cuba.

Sarita is now a user experience & visual designer who draws on her decade of entrepreneurship and leadership experience to craft authentic brand identities and positive user experiences.


  • Brokered a three-way public-private partnership between GrowFood, Washington State University, and the Port of Skagit to launch Viva Farms, Washington State’s first bilingual farm incubator, making land, equipment, infrastructure, capital and new market channels available to new and Latino farmers throughout the region. Ten farm start-ups currently operate on site, all on track to become organic certified.
  • In 2012 alone, catalyzed sales of over $1.2 million of local food.
  • Expanded a thriving food hub, establishing a new 7,400 sq. ft.+ facility to process, pack and distribute agricultural products grown by Viva Farmers, Growing Washington, and other small farmers throughout the region.
  • Worked with community investors to establish Slow Money NW, which has inspired over $4 million in regional investments in local food systems; partnered with North Coast Credit Union to develop the Farmer Reserve Fund, a microloan program for new producers and with Cascade Harvest Coalition to develop Seeds of Success, an individual development fund for new farmers.
  • Collaborated on a successful $900,000 National Science Foundation grant proposal to develop and implement a regional Sustainable Farming and Food Systems program, establishing cutting edge curriculum and workforce training at Skagit Valley College, Edmonds Community College, and Seattle Central Community College.