Building Local Food - Local Communities in Western Oklahoma

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2006: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $10,000.00
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Darryl Birkenfield
Ogallala Commons


Not commodity specific


  • Sustainable Communities: community development, community planning, leadership development, local and regional food systems

    Proposal abstract:

    In rural communities, a conventional response to survival is to seek industrial recruitment or extraction of our natural resources. Over the long-term, these industrial recruitment and extraction economies trap small communities in cycles of decline rather than prosperity. Instead, our home towns need a ground-up approach to community development that is holistic and sustainable…a set of strategies that link business development, educational institutions, and agricultural assets with practices that enhance and increase a community’s basic assets…in a way that the community itself can learn and empower its own citizens to maintain. Rather than just surviving, Ogallala Commons and its partners believe that communities in Western Oklahoma can thrive through developing entrepreneurial regional food systems, along with a framework for sustainable community development. Towards this end, we propose our "Building Local Food & Local Communities in Western Oklahoma" Project. In this project, Ogallala Commons and its partners, Oklahoma Food Cooperative, the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Oklahoma Land Stewardship Alliance, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, and local county leaders will collaborate to recruit and train community development teams from three Western Oklahoma counties: Woods, Major, and Roger Mills. In addition, the project will identify aspiring entrepreneurs interested in local and regional food production. Both community development teams and entrepreneurs will be trained through the HomeTown Competitiveness (HTC) framework and Ogallala Commons Commonwealth Communities model as sustainable development tools. The HTC framework has achieve remarkable success in small rural communities of Nebraska (visit: for more information), particularly in the area of entrepreneurship and small business incubation. In addition, Ogallala Commons, as a multi-state community resource network (, has coordinated the creation of several Regional Clusters to assist communities interested in implementing the HTC framework in five Great Plains states. Most importantly, Ogallala Commons will serve as a catalyst for building partnerships within and between communities that participate in this project, linking existing resources and agencies with innovators and new partners. In this Regional Cluster of western Oklahoma communities, Ogallala Commons and its partners will provide technical support, training, and mentoring for communities to develop capacities in community asset mapping, entrepreneurship, building local leadership, and youth engagement & retention of young adults. For their part, Oklahoma Food Cooperative and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture will offer both food production training and marketing options for entrepreneurs seeking more sustainable agricultural enterprises. It is the firm belief of the partners in this project that the burgeoning field of direct marketing and community food security in central and eastern Oklahoma (see Closer to Home: Healthier Food, Farms & Families in Oklahoma) can be melded with the needs of more isolated communities in western Oklahoma to re-energize sustainable community development through investment in leadership training, sustainable land management training, small business incubation, and youth entrepreneurship.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1)Four communities in western Oklahoma will be re-energized by increased civic engagement through the work of 20 Community Core Team members, trained in community capacity building, entrepreneurship, leadership development, and support mechanisms for long-term planning and strategic action. 2) Twenty adult leaders, plus thirty high school and junior high students from the three counties will have opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship, as well as options for “coming back” to their hometowns to build viable careers and businesses, through training and a youth entrepreneurship fair. 3) Fifty farmers and ranchers will be trained in sustainable farming and grazing practices that will improve soil and water conservation, as well as the natural resource base in the three counties. 4) Five new producers and twenty customer-subscribers will join the Oklahoma Food Cooperative from the three target counties. 5) 10 faculty members will be trained to conduct their own Community Leadership Training Program for each of the three target counties, based on Ogallala Commons L.I.F.T. (Leaders Involved in Formation & Training) program, starting in fall 2007. 6) Three additional communities will be recruited by Ogallala Commons to join the Western Oklahoma Regional Cluster in 2008, and build new capacity in additional commonwealths for communities who continue in the Cluster.

    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.