Sustainable Farming: wedding regional agriculture and community development in Coastal Georgia

Final Report for CS06-042

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2006: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
John Littles, Sr
McIntosh SEED
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Project Information

Abstract:

The project “Sustainable Farming: Wedding Agriculture and Community Development in McIntosh County, Georgia” is founded on the principles of linking sustainable agriculture and community development. Specifically this project will utilize results gleaned from a food system survey that will be developed and distributed by McIntosh SEED and its partners. This project will then solicit public participation to develop a Food System Plan for McIntosh County, conduct a Search Conference and organize a search committee to develop a strategic action plan regarding sustainable farming for McIntosh County, have the completed Food System Plan reviewed by McIntosh County local government officials, form an Advisory Council to implement the Food System Plan, and increase public awareness and knowledge of the benefits of sustainable farming on the farmer, consumer, community, and environment.

The project will build capacity through its partnerships with local government, state government, federal government, non-profit and community agencies and organizations. It will promote entrepreneurial opportunities that will benefit the agricultural sector as well as the community while having the potential to influence local government policy through ordinance development. By its very nature, the project will promote a long-term strategy that will be more productive and profitable to local farmers while integrating natural resource protection, cultural preservation and civic engagement.

Introduction

With the coastal area becoming more diverse, there has been an increasing demand for alternative food products. For example, in adjacent Glynn County, retailers have opened an organic food market and expanded an organic café. Mainstream supermarkets, such as Wal-mart, have started selling organic products and overall awareness has been raised regarding the benefits of organic farming practices through newspaper articles and advertisements.

The purpose of this project is to build a stronger connection between sustainable agriculture and sustainable rural community development by promoting farming as a viable, sustainable initiative in McIntosh County, Georgia.

Project Objectives:

The overall goal of the proposed project is to build a stronger connection between sustainable agriculture and sustainable rural community development by promoting sustainable farming as a viable initiative in McIntosh County, Georgia and creating a Food System Plan. The following objectives will enable the goal to be met.

1. Solicit public participation to develop a Food System Plan for McIntosh County
2. Conduct a Search Conference and organize a search committee to develop a strategic action plan regarding sustainable farming for McIntosh County
3. Complete the Food System Plan and have it reviewed by local government officials in McIntosh County
4. Form an advisory Council to implement the Food System Plan
5. Increase public awareness of the benefits of sustainable farming on the environment

Research

Materials and methods:

1. Solicit public participation to develop a Food System Plan for McIntosh County

2. Conduct a Search Conference and organize an Advisory Committee to develop a strategic action plan regarding economic development through agriculture for McIntosh County

3. Complete the Food System Plan and have it reviewed by local government officials in McIntosh County

4. Form an Advisory Council to implement the Food System Plan

5. Increase public awareness of the benefits of sustainable farming on the environment

Research results and discussion:

Some of the outcomes and impacts of this project are listed below:

-With the help of Heifer International we have increased awareness of organic growing techniques, methods, and practices through the development of a community garden.

-We have been able to distribute locally grown produce to five (5) local restaurants.

-We have been able to construct an on-site farmers market

-We have increased food access with the addition of mobile markets

-We have provided an additional source of income generation for local growers

-We have provided access to locally grown, fresh produce, at an economic price for low-wealth residents

-We have developed a plan to promote, market, and distribute locally-grown and sustainable foods

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

The outreach for this project has included the promotion of the concepts of sustainable farming, locally grown produce, and healthy eating. Outreach has been conducted in the following methods through the oversight and involvement of Heifer International:

-distribution materials
-food system survey
-informational displays, signs, and pamphlets
-newspaper article published in the local newspaper
-workshops

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:
  • -We hosted local and regional community forums to engage input from food systems stakeholders, such as: school system, local health department, local grocery store chain, city manager, church leaders, local and regional farmers to assess and analyze the local food system and farming practices in McIntosh County and within the region. (The purpose of the meetings was to start a regional discussion on the needs and opportunities related to basic food security, health, and the production of locally grown fruits and vegetables.)

    -As a result of the meetings, we are working with a regional co-op of growers to market and distribute their produce to local restaurants.

    -We have five (5) restaurant participating in our “buy local” campaign.

    -We distributed “buy local” brochures through the farmers market, mobile markets, churches, and membership roster.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Not applicable

Future Recommendations

-The group will continue to collectively discuss what is going on economically with marketing and distributing locally grown produce
-Continue planning for the infrastructure of food distribution locally and regionally
-Continue to address environmental issues around sustainable farming and growing techniques, methods, and practices
-Continue to use ecological approaches to growing techniques, methods, and practices
-Continue to increase public awareness around the benefits of sustainable farming on the environment
-Continue to discuss and advocate for local and regional food policies
-Continue to advocate for the creation of more local community and individual sustainable gardens

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.