Work on this project began in Spring 2012. At that time twenty seven (27) contacts were made in the Gasconade County area to introduce the concept of the grant to area grocers and retailers. Thirty (30) contacts were made to area growers to discuss the project and ascertain interest level.
Relationships have been developed with area growers. At the present time we represent twenty four (24) growers. We are now serving as a hub for the distribution of produce grown in or around Gasconade County, Missouri. We are serving growing markets in Columbia and St. Louis. We continue to produce high quality produce at Nolte Hills and our reputation has become widely known.
Standards of quality have been set and carried out.
Other points of the grant which have been accomplished to date:
- We offer locally grown produce through our market stand in Morrison, MO.
- Nolte Hills is providing a means for area growers to sell their produce.
- The Gasconade County region is being represented in Columbia and St. Louis as growers of high quality produce.
- Nolte Hills has developed a Facebook page to alert customers to inventory available for purchase.
We have been very successful in working with area growers. We currently represent thirteen (13) growers, serving as a primary distributor for these producers.
The overall success of the project as intended, to keep food in Gasconade County, is moving forward. Approximately 50% of our buyers are in the Gasconade County region. We are also assisting area growers in finding markets for their produce in other markets. Our name recognition and work in these markets has allowed us to build a customer base and that base places a high value on the food being produced in Gasconade and surrounding counties. We are increasing sales and volume; therefore we are helping our area producers increase their bottom line. Inevitably, this will increase the income of growers in our home county and will increase the available dollars to be spent in our area. Our growers buy fuel, seed, supplies and other goods from area merchants infusing the local economy with income from new and outside sources.
As these relationships have been developed, it is necessary to continue to do business, whether there are grant funds available or not. We have asked growers to produce for us, so we will continue to buy vegetables/fruit on an ongoing basis.
The goal of keeping food within Gasconade County has been less successful. Grocers want to pay the same price for our high quality goods as they do for imported foods. There has been little interest within Gasconade County. Due to the fact we have fostered relationships with growers, we found that taking the food out of Gasconade County was the best way to move produce. A higher level of appreciation, therefore a higher dollar value, is placed on the food outside the county.
Problems or setbacks: We underestimated transportation costs. With the rising cost of fuel, we ran short of funds, underestimating both cost and time. Transportation is a major issue with this type of undertaking. Regardless of the amount of produce delivered, the cost of transport is the same.
Another issue was discovered in dealing with farmers. Many do not have computer access. This is our preferred means of communication and we found it difficult to reach farmers to arrange pickup times, etc. without the use of computers.
- Nolte Hills hosted a field day/open house with approximately 75 people in attendance. This group was composed of growers, buyers, CSA organizers, educators and neighbors.
- As of this writing, Nolte Hills will be featured in two publications offered by Lincoln University’s Innovative Small Farmers’ Outreach Program. The first will be a summary of the project, thus far, distributed throughout the state in “Down to Earth,” the program newsletter. The second will be a feature in a book on the Innovative Small Farmers’ Outreach Program which will be published in 2013.
- We reach numbers upwards of 75 people per week at our markets and inform them of our efforts.
- We will host an additional field day/open house in the Fall of 2013.
- We will continue in our outreach efforts in Gasconade County.
- We have a constant flow of customers to our booth at the Columbia, Missouri Farmers’ Market. We use this opportunity to talk about our project, to connect and share with our customers.