The Madison-Morgan Conservancy’s Farm to Market Alliance (F2MA) was created to support the marketing and transportation of local food fresh from farm to table through providing education and marketing materials. This SARE grant funded the creation of FARMeander, a map-based educational and promotional piece designed to locate and promote the farms and farm-related activities in and around Morgan County. FARMeander was successful in promoting agritourism, local farms, and local agricultural businesses and is the first step in branding this area of Georgia as the hub of the local food movement.
The Madison-Morgan Conservancy was inspired and assisted by a local group of sustainable farmers to create FARMeander in order to market the area’s farms, festivals, and inns that celebrate Morgan County’s agrarian heritage.
As stated in our grant application:
1 – Educational Forums and Materials: The Conservancy will provide two forums designed to bring important information to farmers, residents, the markets (restaurants, foodies, grocers), and local elected officials that will be helpful in the marketing and transportation of local food fresh from farm to table. Two educational forums could consist of "Who can sell what to whom, when and where"; and "Farmland Preservation and Conservation Easements". Additional informational sessions could include meeting with Morgan County Board of Commissioners and Planning Staff to create agricultural zoning ordinances and/or overlays (already involved per their request in this activity, but need to be able to sustain our involvement). Partners in this effort would include Morgan County Board of Commissioners and Planning Staff, The Center for Preservation and Planning (Covington), Smart Growth Newton County, Friends of Walton County, UGA Ag Economics, GA Organics, the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce, the Farm Bureau, the NRCS, the GA Land Conservation Program, and the USDA, in addition to residents, restaurant owners, farmers, landowners, etc.
2 – Agritourism Map and Web Presence: The Conservancy has mobilized a group of sustainable farmers to compile a map and tour guide of farms, farm-stays, and farm events in Morgan County in order to promote agritourism in an effort to “Keep Farmers Farming.” Additionally, this group is working to create a web presence in a variety of forms (Chamber of Commerce website, Conservancy website, individual farm websites) for the many farms in Morgan County to promote and sustain that critical mass of agriculture that is needed for any individual farm to be successful. This project will require: coordinating farmers, collecting information about each farm, scheduling farm events, drafting text, creating graphics and map, printing maps and brochures, and marketing through other means the map and agritourism available in Morgan County. Partners involved in this project could include farmers, grocers, restaurateurs, GA Organics, local agribusinesses, Morgan County Board of Commissioners, Chambers of Commerce, Ga Department of Economic Development, as well as residents and the local community.
The following steps were taken to complete FARMeander:
1- small group of farmers and Conservancy meet to discuss options for marketing local farm products.
2- this group held a series of meetings with other farmers, festival operators, and lodging operators to describe project goals and outcomes and to assess interest of other entities.
3- Conservancy compiled information, hired designer and printer, and created distribution plan
4- Chamber of Commerce assisted in creating distribution plan, and hosted all the information about the entities as well as FARMeander on its website with live links (paid for by the Conservancy).
5- Conservancy was a partner at Taste of Madison to launch FARMeander
6- Conservancy distributed 9,000 pieces across the state through various outlets.
7- Conservancy continues to distribute and conduct outreach weekly, if not daily.
The publication of FARMeander has exponentially increased awareness of the local farms and farm-related festivals and inns in and around Morgan County. FARMeander has also sparked conversations about developing farm infrastructure to facilitate the production of these local farms. The printed piece has functioned as a marketing piece for each of the entities listed. The on-line version has functioned similarly. Many entities listed on FARMeander have experienced increased visitation and consumer relations.
65 people from Morgan, Newton, and Walton counties attended the 7th Annual Land Talks. Discussion about Newton County’s Leadership Collaborative, the Newton 2050 Plan, and tools available to protect farmland and grow communities was followed by a screening of the movie “GROW!”
Educational & Outreach Activities
FARMeander is a published map-based information resource created to promote Morgan County’s agricultural-based assets. 10,000 copies were printed and distributed, and the digital copy is available through a number of websites, including but not limited to the Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, the Madison-Morgan Conservancy, and many of the FARMeander entities. Outreach was conducted through two formal educational forums (Land Talks and the Membership Supper) and through a variety of informal educational opportunities (presentations to civic clubs, distribution at agritourism events, media coverage).
The public’s reaction to FARMeander has been very encouraging. A quick look at the map reveals the number and variety of farm and farm-related activities occurring in and around Morgan County, bringing awareness and education to FARMeander readers.
Entities from surrounding counties have expressed interest in becoming involved in FARMeander (from as far away as Carroll County). We have already embarked on FARMeander 2012 which is expanding and will include entities from Morgan, Newton, Walton counties and potentially from Oconee County.
FARMeander can potentially be a tool to attract capital and management for the development of a processing center in this region. This is one of the potential contributions FARMeander may make to agriculture in general.