- Agronomic: corn, potatoes, rye, sunflower, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Fruits: melons, berries (other), figs, grapes, peaches, berries (strawberries)
- Vegetables: sweet potatoes, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), onions, peas (culinary), peppers, rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
- Additional Plants: tobacco, herbs
- Animals: bovine, poultry, goats, swine, sheep
- Animal Products: dairy
- Miscellaneous: mushrooms
- Animal Production: feed/forage, housing, animal protection and health, feed formulation, free-range, herbal medicines, manure management, grazing - multispecies, pasture fertility, preventive practices, range improvement, grazing - rotational, watering systems
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, workshop, technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, marketing management, value added
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, hedges - grass, habitat enhancement, riverbank protection, soil stabilization, hedges - woody
- Pest Management: allelopathy, biological control, compost extracts, cultural control, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, mulches - killed, mulches - living, mating disruption, physical control, mulching - plastic, prevention, row covers (for pests), trap crops, mulching - vegetative, weather monitoring, weed ecology
- Production Systems: holistic management, permaculture
- Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, employment opportunities, social networks, sustainability measures
The formation of the Clean Food Network is underway. Ten farms are currently in the early stages of forming a marketing cooperative in north Alabama. The cooperative will specialize in sustainably-grown fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, and other products, all now being grown by the prospective members. The group plans to utilize the current marketing outlets of the participating farms, allowing them to combine their energies and sell a wider variety to more outlets with less hours spent marketing per farm. They will also be able to pool their resources and surpluses to create frozen and canned products in certified kitchens, which can be sold through the network as well for a longer period at a higher price.
This collaboration will help the many small and beginning farmers in north Alabama capture a larger market. New opportunities will encourage more production and new and transitioning sustainable farms. As production increases, more on-farm jobs will be available and more money will be spent in the area by these local businesses. As local foods become more available and consumers learn where they can be found, the network will be able to expand its offerings and encourage not only more farms but more bakers, processors, and chefs.
The group will utilize the experience and resources of its members and many partner organizations. The Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN) will serve as the lead institution, and staff from organizations such as the Farmers Fresh Network, Heifer International, Tuskegee's Small Farm Outreach and Technical Assistance Program and others will lend their support and expertise to the project.
This grant will assist the formation of the cooperative by covering significant staff costs and processing equipment and supplies for the first three years. Money is also being requested for the expenses of establishing a corporation as well as outreach such as brochures and a website. The first three years will be the most challenging for the network, and this funding will help cover initial costs and allow the group to build up its market, membership, and capital.
Project objectives from proposal:
1. Create a farmer-owned cooperative, The Clean Food Network, Inc., in north Alabama and Tennessee to serve as a local marketing outlet for sustainably-grown fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, and processed foods. This network will work to increase sales for farmers in the area, expand markets for a longer part of the season, and improve community access to local food.
2. Increase the number of participating farms, including transitioning and beginning farms. As the network increases its sales, new farmers can ease into production with less concern about production highs and lows, and farmers interested in transitioning to more sustainable methods will have an outlet for their new products.
3. Create an outlet for value-added businesses such as food processors and bakers. The network will encourage production of value-added products, from processed meats to jams and jellies to honey to frozen vegetables. The cooperative will be able to provide a broader selection to its customers, storable products can be sold over a longer period of time, and surplus can be transformed into higher-value products.
4. Streamline distribution to lower-income communities. While this is not an automatic result of the creation of the network, the group will make a concerted effort to ensure that their products are accessible to lower-income community members.
5. Educate youth on farm opportunities and business options. Whether the youth involved in the network remain in agriculture or not, future entrepreneurs can learn from the efforts of the cooperative.